Noopept (N-phenylacetyl-L-prolylglycine ethyl ester) is a synthetic peptide manufactured in Russia by JSC LEKKO Pharmaceuticals. Chemically, noopept is a hydrophilic proline with a dipeptide structure consisting of a phenylacetyl subunit bound to a small peptide chain of proline and glycine. Although it isn’t technically classified as a “racetam” (due to its lacking of a 2-oxo-pyrrolidine skeleton), it is considered a dipeptide analogue of piracetam and by comparison, is thought to exhibit nearly 1000-fold greater potency.
Furthermore, noopept is unique in that it functions as a prodrug of the endogenous peptide cycloprolylglycine. When ingested, noopept doesn’t appear in the serum, rather it elevates concentrations of cycloprolylglycine. Though the pharmacodynamics of noopept aren’t fully elucidated, it is believed to act as a modulator of acetylcholine transmission and AMPA receptor function.
It is marketed as a cognitive enhancer (nootropic) and neuroprotective agent, but its efficacy is considered questionable. That said, since it is unregulated in the United States, many individuals purchase noopept online, willing to test its effects on their neurochemistry without medical supervision. Though some users may report favorable experiences, others may experience deleterious side effects and adverse reactions.
Noopept Side Effects & Adverse Reactions (List)
When taking noopept, it is important to consider that you may experience side effects and/or adverse reactions. Below is a compilation of side effects that have been reported by noopept users. Keep in mind that the severity and total number of side effects that you experience from noopept is subject to significant individual variation. The most common side effects associated with noopept include: headaches, irritability, and mood swings.
Anxiety: Despite the fact that noopept elicits an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect in most users, some may report subjective increases in anxiety. In the subset of noopept users that note increased anxiety, it is necessary to consider that it may be a form of “relaxation-induced anxiety.” In other words, the excess neurophysiologic relaxation may be uncomfortable and may interfere with cognitive performance.
Should noopept induce brain fog and/or cloud your cognition, you may feel anxious over the fact that your cognitive performance is compromised. If you experience high anxiety, consider that concomitantly administered supplements (e.g. choline) and the dosage of noopept may need adjustment. That said, if you experience anxiety regardless of your noopept dosage (and/or choline intake), discontinuation may be necessary.
Appetite changes: It is common to experience a reduction and/or increase in appetite after taking noopept. Certain individuals may report that noopept subdues their appetite, making them less likely to seek out food and/or derive significant pleasure from eating. However, another smaller subset of noopept users report an increased appetite, ultimately leading to greater intake of food.
Whether noopept is likely to increase or decrease appetite in the majority of users hasn’t been scientifically researched. That said, it is necessary to understand that nearly any agent capable of manipulating neurotransmission may also mediate appetite. Appetite changes associated with noopept may be more pronounced at higher dosages, and for most, appetite reduction is more likely than an increase.
Brain fog: If your mental clarity plummets substantially while taking noopept, you’re certainly not alone. Many users subjectively report feeling “spaced out” and observe that their thinking becomes disorganized in the haze referred to as “brain fog.” This disorganized thinking may lead to transient feelings of depersonalization, dissociation, and extreme frustration.
Poorer clarity of thought as a result of noopept may detrimentally affect your ability to write, read, comprehend, and process complex information. Furthermore, the brain fog may spur additional anxiety (as a result of your disorganized thinking), which in turn may exacerbate the original fog; it becomes a vicious circle. The exact mechanisms responsible for this brain fog aren’t fully elucidated, but it may be a combination of neurophysiologic alterations in: monoaminergic transmission, neuroelectrical activity, interregional/interhemispheric communication, and oxidative stress.
Cognitive impairment: Many individuals take noopept with the intention of enhancing cognitive performance, only to realize that after taking it, their cognitive performance actually declines. Noopept-induced cognitive impairment may be a direct consequence of similar mechanisms that induced “brain fog” (or “cog fog”), but may also be spurred by different neural modifications. If you’re experiencing cognitive impairment or a decline in your ability to perform cognitively-demanding tasks, it is necessary to consider that noopept may be a poor fit for your neurochemistry.
Since noopept is believed to act similarly to piracetam, but with greater potency, it is plausible to consider that the summation of induced neural modulations (AMPA, acetylcholine, monoamines, brain waves, etc.) could be detrimental to learning, memory, and psychomotor vigilance – in any particular user. For example, simply increasing alpha waves may lead to greater interhemispheric connectivity, however, excess alpha wave activity may diminish important beta activity and efficient region-specific processes necessary for optimized cognition. That said, it’s difficult to generalize the exact cause of noopept-induced cognitive impairment because the causative factors may be subject to the specific user.
For example, one user may not realize that noopept is interacting with another supplement that he/she is taking to elicit the cognitive impairment. Furthermore, the dosage ingested may directly affect whether cognitive impairment as a result of noopept is likely. Some users may report cognitive enhancement at a low dose and impairment at a higher one, while others report the exact opposite; for certain users, it may be a matter of tweaking the dosage to find the specific quantity of noopept that is conducive to cognitive function.
Depression: There’s a chance that taking noopept could make you feel more depressed than usual. If you’ve never had any prior issues with mood shifts prior to taking noopept, and you notice that your emotions feel “blunted” or are trending towards a melancholic state, it is likely a result of the noopept. The way in which noopept alters neurotransmission in the brain isn’t fully elucidated, however, it may affect acetylcholine, monoamines (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine), and region-specific activity – each of which could induce depression.
If you have been diagnosed major depressive disorder (MDD), beware that noopept may exacerbate certain depressive symptoms. That said, it is important to consider that concomitant choline administration (e.g. too much choline) could cause depression. Conversely, inadequate choline levels or depletion (from noopept) may also induce a depressive mood.
Fatigue: Many users note that noopept decreases their overall arousal, making them feel sleepy, tired, fatigued, and drowsy. If your level of physiologic arousal decreases on noopept to the extent that you’re feeling physically and/or mentally fatigued, it could be related to the dosage taken. It may also be related to whether you’re taking it along with another supplement (e.g. choline) – and the dosages of the co-ingested supplements.
Since fatigue usually impairs cognitive performance, most will discontinue noopept if it makes them feel tired. Additionally, until you know exactly how noopept affects your arousal, consider that it may compromise your ability to operate a motor vehicle and/or heavy machinery. Fatigue and somnolence may be dose-dependent, but could also be a result of downregulated acetylcholine.
Headaches: A common side effect associated with noopept is mild to moderate headaches. Realize that headaches can be induced by spikes in acetylcholine, but may also be related from continued noopept usage without adequate acetylcholine. High acetylcholine leads to vasoconstriction, a possible mechanism responsible for headaches.
Perhaps a simple way to avoid vasoconstriction as induced by noopept is to reduce the dosage ingested and simultaneously reduce concomitant choline. Insufficient acetylcholine (as ay occur with continued noopept usage) may cause vasodilation, leading to a different type of headache. Therefore, ensuring that your choline intake is properly calibrated relative to your noopept dosage may prove efficacious in offsetting mild/moderate headaches from noopept.
Insomnia: Noopept has been reported to cause insomnia in a small percentage of users. Since noopept can be slightly stimulating for certain users, afternoon and/or nighttime administration may be most likely to promote insomnia. To decrease likelihood of insomnia, be sure to administer noopept in the morning.
Also consider that insomnia may be a result of a high noopept dosage. Therefore, it may be wise to decrease your noopept dosage if insomnia becomes overwhelming. Moreover, realize that insomnia may be detrimental to cognitive function and that it may be smart to discontinue noopept altogether if it impairs your ability to sleep.
Irritability: Irritability is among the most common side effects associated with noopept. If after taking noopept, every “little” thing seems to get on your nerves and/or prompt a stress response, it could be a result of the noopept. The exact mechanisms responsible for irritability as induced by noopept are unclear, however, many users report feeling irritable and angry, especially after long-term noopept usage.
Modifications in physiologic arousal and neurochemical processes as a result of noopept may provoke irritability. For example, if noopept manipulates activity (e.g. monoaminergic turnover) in a region involved in emotional regulation, the user may become more irritable than usual. Moreover, irritability as a result of noopept may be an indirect byproduct of another side effect (e.g. brain fog), which in turn impairs your ability to function, ultimately causing irritability.
Mood swings: You may notice that after taking noopept, your mood becomes unpredictable and/or predictably negative. A variety of noopept users have documented changes in their emotional state, many of which were unexpected. If you feel calm for several hours (or days) after taking noopept, but then notice swings of extreme anger, depression, and irritability – you are not alone in your experience.
Swings in emotion throughout the day after taking noopept could be related to its pharmacokinetics (absorption, distribution, and elimination), but may also stem from alterations in neurotransmission. If mood swings don’t occur until noopept has been taken consistently for an extended term, it is necessary to consider that downregulation of certain neurotransmitters (e.g. acetylcholine) may be the culprit. Cholinergic downregulation may be especially apparent among those who disregard concomitant choline supplementation, thereby setting themselves up for a potential deficiency.
Obviously if you notice that your moods are changing like crazy after taking noopept, and you weren’t diagnosed with a neuropsychiatric condition (e.g. bipolar disorder), it’s likely the noopept causing these changes. In some cases, the mood swings may result from a transient adjustment phase in which neurophysiology needs to adapt to noopept. For some users, the mood swings may therefore eventually diminish with continued noopept usage.
Memory impairment: Theoretically, noopept should be conducive to memory processes via its AMPA receptor modulation. This modulation is speculated to increase glutamate transmission, allowing users to better encode memory and ultimately learn with greater efficiency. Whether memory encoding actually improves among noopept users is up for debate; claims of memory enhancement from noopept haven’t been validated by large-scale human trials.
Some users have reported that their memory worsened after taking noopept. It is unclear as to whether the worsening of their memory was due to an improperly calibrated dosage, low choline levels, and/or other factors. That said, if you notice that your ability to encode memories and recall information diminishes while taking noopept, it may be wise to discontinue usage.
Motivational deficits: A side effect that has been reported among long-term noopept users is a decline in motivation. Users may report increased motivation when they initially begin taking noopept, but after several months (or longer terms), motivational capacity may plummet below homeostatic (pre-noopept) baseline. It is unclear as to whether motivational deficits are spurred by a downregulation in receptor sites and/or certain neurotransmitters, but many speculate that this is the case.
Understand that if the noopept is using up choline stores, and your choline levels are low, supplementation with a choline source may ameliorate deficits in motivation. Some individuals may notice a decrease in motivation throughout their entire term of noopept administration. If your motivation decreases significantly while taking noopept (e.g. you exhibit avolition), discontinuing noopept sooner than later may be helpful to quickly restore baseline motivation.
Muscle aches: An increase in muscle aches or pains while taking noopept has been reported. These muscle aches may be a byproduct of increased acetylcholine levels throughout the brain and nervous system. Too much acetylcholine can trigger unwanted muscle tension/contraction, which in turn may yield feelings of aches and pains. To reduce the likelihood of muscle aches associated with noopept, a dosage decrease may prove beneficial.
Physical weakness: A common side effect of piracetam is “asthenia” (weakness), affecting between 1 in 10-100 users. Since noopept is considered similar to piracetam and of greater potency, a similar resulting side effect may be physical weakness. If you feel too weak to complete a previously normal workout routine and/or feel as if you’re losing strength, the noopept may be a cause.
Consider that acetylcholine alterations may be the direct cause of asthenia in some individuals. Low acetylcholine may impair musculature contraction, leading to the feeling of physical weakness. Supplementation with adequate choline could offset the side effect of weakness in certain users. That said, if the weakness is persistent, dosage reduction and/or cessation of noopept may be useful.
Rapid thinking: Some individuals may perceive that their thought-speed dramatically accelerates while taking noopept. Accelerated thought-speed may be a result of increased acetylcholine concentrations and/or neurotransmitter turnover in specific regions. The degree to which your thought-speed is likely to increase after taking noopept is likely contingent upon your baseline (pre-noopept) neurochemistry.
Although “fast thinking” may be perceived as a favorable side effect if accelerated thoughts are conducive to cognitive performance, they may be perceived as detrimental if the thoughts are meaningless, random, and/or interfere with ability to focus. If your thinking speed increases too much from noopept, you could simply test a lower dosage. You may also want to consider that thought-acceleration may be a transient side effect, eventually subsiding as your brain adjusts to noopept.
Restlessness: Some users have noticed an increase in restlessness (perhaps related to agitation) after taking noopept. Restlessness may manifest as a side effect stemming from elevated concentrations of acetylcholine, which in turn may increase one’s inclination towards physical movement and/or decrease ability to sit still. This restlessness in itself could impair cognitive function due to the fact that it’s often difficult to focus when you feel prompted to move.
Sleep disturbances: When taking any drug, including noopept, it is possible to experience sleep disturbances. Disturbed sleep could be a result of noopept-induced neurotransmitter modifications, but may also stem from a circadian rhythm disruption. Many drugs alter homeostatic processes within the body, which in turn can affect circadian rhythms.
The degree to which noopept may alter your circadian rhythm and impair sleep may be related to the dosage taken, as well as the time of day that you take it. Many recommend taking it first-thing in the morning to decrease likelihood of disturbed sleep. Individuals taking noopept at night may experience racing thoughts and/or struggle in reducing arousal enough to induce sleep.
Temperature changes: It is possible to perceive changes in bodily temperature after ingesting noopept. These temperature changes cause users to feel “feverish” and/or note hot flashes (brief, unexpected warmth throughout certain regions of the body). Temperature changes may stem from adjustments in neurotransmission (e.g. increases/decreases in monoamines). Despite reports of temperature increases, it is unclear as to whether noopept users actually exhibit a high fever.
Tingling sensations: It is possible to experience physical tingling sensations throughout your body after taking noopept. These sensations may be a result of increased transmission of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter associated with muscle/nerve function. The tingling is usually considered akin to a physical “body high” derived from relaxants, but to a less significant extent.
Whether you experience physical tingling from noopept may be related to your acetylcholine levels and the dosage of noopept you ingest. In some cases, the tingling may be perceived as painful. In other cases, the tingling sensations may be perceived as neither pleasant nor unpleasant, but may be regarded as annoying or distracting.
Visual changes: Noopept is well-known to alter visual perception, especially when taken at high dosages. In fact, some individuals report experiencing visual “hallucinations” after ingesting supratherapeutic dosages of noopept. These hallucinations may stem from altered activity in the visual cortex (occipital lobe) of the brain and are likely unrelated to those exhibited in psychotic states (stemming from dopaminergic dysfunction).
Although you may not experience visual hallucinations while taking noopept, you may notice that your visual perception has changed. For example, colors and objects may appear more vibrant and/or vivid in your visual field. You may mistakenly believe that noopept is actually changing your eyes, when in reality, it’s most likely modulating activation and transmission in the visual cortex.
At extremely high doses, some users have reported observing: flashes of light, pixelated visuals, and the appearance of shapes (e.g. a helix) within the visual field. Realize that some of these visual changes, especially the appearance of shapes, may provoke anxiety and/or impair ability to concentrate. If visual changes are persistent, interfering with your focus, and/or are disconcerting, discontinuation of noopept may be a logical option.
Weight changes: Another side effect that noopept users report is that of weight change. Most users seem to lose a modest amount of weight, while others may experience weight gain. Animal studies suggest that noopept can induce weight loss as opposed to gain; whether similar effects occur in humans isn’t documented. Whether you end up losing weight on noopept may be contingent upon several factors including: how it affects your appetite, self-control, and neurophysiologic arousal.
If you find that your appetite drops while taking noopept and you feel stimulated – you may end up losing weight. However, if you feel hungrier than usual while taking noopept, and also notice that your arousal plummets, you may end up eating more and exercising less – leading to marginal weight gain. Due to a lack of research, it is unclear as to whether any noopept-induced weight alterations are likely to be of clinical significance.
Note: The aforestated side effects refer to unwanted and/or bizarre experiences associated with noopept, not general effects (e.g. improved learning) which may be of therapeutic benefit. Also understand that noopept users are unlikely to experience every single side effect listed above; certain users may experience no side effects at all.
Factors that influence Noopept side effects
If you’re taking noopept and experiencing side effects, it is necessary to consider potential contributing factors. Various factors that may influence the number and/or severity of side effects that you experience from noopept include: your dosage, co-ingested supplements, term of administration, and noopept source.
Dosage (High vs. Low)
Most side effects from noopept are likely to emerge at high doses (especially visual distortions). Experiencing a greater number of and/or more severe side effects at high doses is likely due to the fact that a larger quantity of ingested noopept alters neurophysiology to a greater extent. Anytime you ingest a large amount of an exogenous substance that alters neurochemistry, the effect will be more pronounced.
For this reason, high dose (e.g. 30 mg/day) users should expect to experience bizarre, severe, and/or more numerous side effects. If you’re taking an extremely low dose (e.g. under 10 mg/day) of noopept, realize that it may not be enough to induce noticeable adverse physiologic reactions. Logically, the lower the dosage of noopept taken, the lower the likelihood of unwanted side effects.
If you’re taking other supplements, consider that they may interact with noopept to cause side effects. Since noopept isn’t well-researched in humans and its pharmacokinetics aren’t fully known, it may interact with other drugs/supplements. For this reason, co-ingestion of supplements may dramatically increase likelihood of certain side effects and/or adverse reactions.
Noopept is hypothesized to undergo modest metabolism via CYP3A4 isoenzymes in the liver. Assuming this CYP3A4 metabolism is legitimate, any concomitantly administered agent that serves to inhibit/induce function of CYP3A4 may increase and/or decrease the potency of noopept. If you’re taking a CYP3A4 inhibitor, noopept’s potency may increase, whereas an inducer may decrease its effect.
Additionally, consider whether you’re taking choline along with noopept. Some believe that noopept could deplete choline stores, resulting in a deficiency accompanied by its own set of side effects. That said, too much choline may also cause deleterious effects and is to be avoided. Realize that it may take you awhile to calibrate your choline dosage to determine the optimal amount necessary to decrease side effects.
Term of administration
The total term over which you’ve been taking noopept may affect how many side effects you experience. Some individuals report an increase in side effects when they first start taking noopept. Should you experience initial side effects, realize that they could be related to the short-term of administration.
A short-term of administration may mean that your body hasn’t fully adapted to noopept’s effects. These short-term side effects may subside as your body adjusts itself to the noopept administered over a period of days/weeks. However, other users may notice that side effects emerge after a long-term of administration.
If side effects from noopept emerge over the long-term, they could stem from the fact that you’ve built up a tolerance (which lead to a dosage increase) or that certain neurotransmitters (e.g. acetylcholine) may have been downregulated. For this reason, it may be wise to cycle off of noopept after months of administration to give your neurophysiology a break from its habituated, side effect-provoking response to noopept.
Noopept Source (Quality)
The specific source of your noopept may play influence the side effects you experience. A major risk noopept buyers face is purchasing a contaminated, impure product. If you bought noopept from a sketchy vendor on the internet, there’s a chance that it may not even be noopept or that it could be laced with other chemicals; some of which could provoke an allergic reaction.
Since most users are unable to confirm whether they’re truly getting 100% pure noopept, another chemical (blend), or a form of noopept with impurities – the degree to which a particular manufacturer influences side effects is unknown. To decrease the likelihood that you’ll experience side effects, only purchase noopept from a trustworthy, reliable vendor. Any suboptimal noopept formulation may not only provoke side effects, but may be hazardous to health.
Noopept: Do the benefits outweigh the side effects?
Regardless of how long you’ve been taking noopept, it is smart to reflect upon your experience by asking yourself whether its perceived benefits outweigh its side effects. Someone taking noopept who experiences no benefits nor side effects should have an easy time justifying discontinuation. In this case it makes no sense to spend money on a substance that elicits a neutral reaction without any cognitive gain.
Someone taking noopept who experiences nothing but severe side effects without any benefits and/or a worsening of cognitive function should have the easiest time justifying discontinuation. However, in the event where someone experiences a mix of benefits and side effects, it may be tougher to decide whether continued noopept usage would be helpful. For example, if learning and memory performance are enhanced by noopept, but insomnia and muscle aches are side effects – it may be difficult to decide whether to continue usage.
If side effects are severe, discontinuation should be advised regardless of any perceived benefits. However, if side effects are mild and cognitive benefits are moderate/significant – continuation of noopept may be the logical choice. Ultimately it is up to you to weigh the benefits with the side effects and decide whether your body is signaling that it is able/unable to tolerate noopept.
Possible ways to reduce Noopept side effects
If you are taking noopept and experiencing unwanted side effects, below are some strategies to mitigate adverse reactions. Keep in mind that these strategies are not guaranteed to work for everyone, and that efficacy of each may be subject to interindividual variation. That said, most side effect reduction strategies are common sense.
- Dosage reduction: The easiest way to ameliorate side effects from noopept is to decrease its dosage. Many people start taking a moderate and/or high dosage without considering the potential deleterious implications associated with high introductory doses. Reduce your dosage to an extremely low (subtherapeutic) level and titrate upwards gradually (over a period of days/weeks). Your goal should be to take the minimal effective dose or lowest amount necessary for therapeutic benefit; this will decrease likelihood of side effects.
- Choline supplementation: Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether you should concomitantly administer choline with noopept. Some noopept users swear by taking a choline source, whereas others consider it unnecessary. Whether you should supplement with choline, as well as the quantity you should take, may be dependent upon dietary intake. Understand that excess choline can yield side effects on its own, but deficiency (as could be induced by noopept) may be equally as disastrous; the goal should be to determine the optimal amount for yourself.
- Eliminate excess supplements: Many people take noopept as part of a nootropic “stack.” This means they may be shoveling down 5-10 other supplements along with noopept without considering that there may be an interaction. If you’re experiencing unwanted side effects while taking noopept, consider that it may be interacting with another supplement. It may be necessary to eliminate intake of all other supplements to determine whether noopept is really the principal culprit for your adverse reactions. Consider that other supplements and/or interactions may be the direct cause of your side effects.
- Continued usage: In some cases, it may be beneficial to give noopept a legitimate “test run” for several weeks. Sometimes individuals go through an adaptation phase in which it takes time for their neurochemistry to adjust to noopept. During the adaptation phase, side effects may be prominent, but as the user adjusts, side effects may subside.
- Discontinuation: If side effects are severe and you hate how you feel while taking noopept, realize that nobody is forcing you to continue taking it. If you’re getting no major benefit from taking noopept, have tweaked the dosage, and or feel like it’s probably not a good fit for your particular neurochemistry – trust yourself and discontinue usage.
Have you experienced Noopept side effects?
If you’ve experienced side effects from taking noopept, share when you first noticed them after starting noopept. Did they emerge within the first day or two of noopept usage, or did you first notice adverse effects after several months of consistent noopept administration? To help others understand your situation, discuss the most severe side effects you experienced and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10.
Also feel free to mention any side effects that may not have been listed in this article. Before listing your side effects, ask yourself whether you can really be sure that they were from noopept. If you were taking an “stack” of supplements and/or experienced major lifestyle stress, etc. – be sure to consider that reactions you perceived to be from noopept may have been a result of an unrelated source.
For more specifics, share: the brand of noopept (e.g. manufacturer), dosage, duration of usage, and other supplements/drugs that you were taking. Understand that just because noopept is unregulated in the United States, does not mean that it is devoid of risk. (Read: “Potential Dangers of Nootropics“). Also consider that no drug/supplement should be considered utopian, humans didn’t evolve popping noopept, and as a result, reports of adverse effects aren’t surprising.