Dangerous ingredients in nootropics

Supplements that claim to improve mental focus and memory may contain unapproved pharmaceutical drugs and in potentially dangerous combinations and doses, according to a new study published in Neurology Clinical Practice.

Researchers found five such drugs not approved in the United States in the supplements they examined. The supplements are sometimes called “nootropics,” “smart drugs” or “cognitive enhancers.”

In the 10 supplements they examined, researchers detected five unapproved drugs. Two were analogs of piracetam called omberacetam and aniracetam. The others were the unapproved drugs vinpocetine, phenibut and picamilon. The FDA has issued a warning that vinpocetine should not be consumed by women of childbearing age. While all of the risks of these drugs are not known, side effects include increased and decreased blood pressure, agitation, sedation and hospitalization.

All 10 supplements contained omberacetam, which is prescribed in Russia for traumatic brain injury and mood disorders. A typical pharmaceutical dose would be 10 milligrams (mg). The doses in a recommended supplement serving size were as high as 40 mg, four times greater than in pharmaceutical dosages.

Some supplements contained more than one unapproved drug. One product combined four of the unapproved drugs.

Supplements aren’t regulated in the US, so you can’t really be sure what is in them. See also this discussion.