Are Nootropics Legal in the UK?

We really don’t blame you if you feel that legislators in the UK have an exceptionally narrow opinion of what drugs are used for. This statement is particularly true if you are looking at treatment with nootropics supplements.

Drugs and the Law

In most countries, laws will prevent citizens from being able to get high legally. Some drugs that are used for getting high are also used for treating individuals with health problems. Legislators agree with doctors in this respect – drugs should be used only as indicated, and just for specific purposes.

It is not productive to use drugs only to get high. No medical problem is solved. Doing so can also potentially cause debilitating and severe side effects and frequently can result in severe addiction. That is the common sense part that a majority of people agree on.

However, using drugs has another side to it: enhancement. This is the intention of the nootropics community – how natural drugs can be used safely not to get high, but to enable you to think better, faster, and clearer.

It is all about safe and sustainable performance improvement. It’s certainly not about becoming addicted to a drug or supplement that can ruin your life, put yourself at risk for severe side effects, or attempt to escape from reality.

However, the smart usage of drugs within the UK is not viewed as something that is much different from using other kinds of illegal drugs. Or at least this is the impression given by UK legislators when the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act was being adopted.

Effectively the bill bundled some nootropics along with other, much more dangerous drugs and called it a day. This can make certain supplements somewhat tricky to both buy and sell. It’s also viewed by many as an incorrect approach. From a safety point of view, there’s a night and day difference between nootropics and stimulants, yet the bill treats them as one and the same.

The 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act

In the United Kingdom, the Psychoactive Substance Act was designed as a blanket ban on the sales of all psychoactive substances within the country’s borders. The significant concern with the Bill was that it had to deal with going beyond hard drugs and other psychoactive substances that have been traditionally banned. The Act’s impact was severe.

Like many other countries, the UK has been having problems with designer drugs. In fact, that problem has been so severe that at one point the United Kingdom was commonly referred to as Europe’s designer drug capital.

Why is this? The drug agency of the European Union has reported that over one-third of Internet designer drug retailers are based within the UK. All these retailers have interests that go beyond merely exporting designer drugs.

The United Kingdom has its own designer drugs dilemma. BZP, an amphetamine alternative, and Spice, a synthetic cannabinoid, were two of the most severe designer drug problems health-wise and legally. Several stimulants, such as modafinil and armodafinil (often sold under the brand name Provigil and Nuvigil respectively), have also become an issue as of late.

After they were banned in 2009 due to the numerous side effects they were causing, including acute psychosis and seizures, alternative legal highs soon replaced them. Those alternatives may not have been safer.

Getting dangerous drugs banned ended up being a legal whack-a-mole game. Seven years after the banning of Spice, the UK went with a blanket ban as the method for dealing with the designer drug problem.

One of the victims of this ban were nootropics. Before the Act came into effect, they were sold in the UK legally. As the Act came out, nootropics got roped in with designer drugs.

Nootropics and the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act

The major problem with the 2016 Act was it effectively banned all substances where a psychoactive effect is produced in the user. Unless, of course, the substance is on the exemption list.

Substances exempted from the 2016 Act included food, caffeine and tobacco products such as nicotine. Alcohol, medicinal products, and controlled drugs also made the cut. Clearly, any law which has to specify that it isn’t attempting to outlaw food explicitly is pretty wide-reaching.

Many different sides were critical of this broad ban. Some have questioned how the government is planning on enforcing it. Others have referred to the banning of practically all substances affecting the brain as being unscientific.

Some say it has a setback for drug reform and is unnecessarily harmful to UK nootropics consumers. There were some who called for nootropics to be added to the exempt classes list. Those calls were able to get the attention of some Parliament members. However, it was too little too late. Nootropics in the United Kingdom, as of 2016, have remained in a state of limbo. They’re in a legally grey area somewhere between illegal substances and medicinal products.

The Current Status of Nootropics in the UK

Many within the nootropics community initially reacted by stockpiling on products before the ban going into effect. Not wanting to risk potential consequences, many nootropic vendors pulled products from their shelves. Particularly hard hit was the racetam family of nootropics.

Under the legislation, possession of smarts drugs isn’t illegal unless they’re owned with the intent to supply to others. Nootropics which previously required a doctor’s subscription still do.

It is still possible for some nootropics to be obtained over the counter. For the most part, minerals and vitamins are not affected by the ban. You can continue to get Sulbutiamine (which is basically vitamin B1) over the counter. The same is true when it comes to herbal supplements, antioxidants, and amino acids.

The more powerful supplements, however, can be quite tricky to get. As nootropics are studied further, hopefully, their status in the United Kingdom will change. However, there needs to be a significant push for this. Merely proving they aren’t harmful clearly isn’t sufficient. If harm was a deciding factor, tobacco certainly would not have made the exemption list.