Legal and Illegal Smart Drugs—A Brief Guide on International Laws

July 23, 2021

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Buying legal nootropics (also called smart drugs or cognitive enhancers) can be simple and easy, or it can be a long wait in the doctor’s office, depending on where you live. This is why we want to provide you with an overview of the legal and illegal smart drugs around the world.

Since our customers often ask about the legality of such items in general and the legality of MAXIMUM MIND, I figured I could give you a short overview to shed some light and dispel some commonly held misbeliefs about legal and illegal smart drugs around the world.

Some of the most frequently asked questions we get at Marco’s Grounds is: “is MAXIMUM MIND legal”? Well, it shouldn’t be. But it’s legal all over the world with a few religiously and politically motivated exceptions. Other frequent questions regarding nootropics in general include:

Are they legal to own, buy, and consume?
Do they require a prescription?
Is it legal to import nootropics?
And, most importantly:
How can I get some legally?

Despite their impressive rise in popularity, nootropic education remains a contentious topic across the world. Also, no single government holds an identical definition of what constitutes a legal and illegal smart drug, according to research published in Neuron [1]. Most governments don’t even regulate or recognize nootropics. This leaves naturally free room for manufacturers and consumers alike to figure out what’s what.

This situation has its pros and its cons. Also, by no means do I intend to provide a comprehensive review on nootropic law within this guide covering every single aspect of detailed legislation. This is merely a brief overview.

Here’s a quick rule of thumb: most natural nootropics are legal everywhere, like MAXIMUM MIND. They are classified as dietary supplements. This means they are regulated as foods. For foods, the regulator assumes they are safe until proven otherwise, so to speak. This is the opposite of synthetics, which requires their legal safety to be established first. 

Once reading this post, you should know what a natural and synthetic nootropic is, what a legal and illegal nootropic is and how to get nootropics for both recreational and professional use.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

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“The only difference between the master and the novice is that the master has failed more times than the novice has tried.”
―Stephen McCranie

First things first, what are nootropics? Corneliu Giurgea, a Romanian neuroscientist, coined the term nootropic (pronounced new-tropic) in 1972. He believed that smart drugs should be invented and made widely available for the purpose of enhancing the general population’s brain health and increasing human intelligence.

According to Dr Giurgea’s findings, nootropics enhance cognition, memory, alertness, concentration, creativity, and attention. They became known as cognitive enhancers, substances that amplify the way the brain’s many cognitive functions operate and how we process information.

Simply put, cognitive enhancers (or nootropics or smart drugs) are prescription or off-the-counter drugs or supplements that enhance cognition. Some nootropics contribute to brain health while others can be quite dangerous.

Since Marco’s Grounds only works with safe and natural compounds in their purest forms, for most of our discussions we will restrain ourselves to natural nootropics that increase cognition safely.

Who Regulates Nootropics?

“The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It’s what you’re made of. Not the circumstances.”
– Unknown

What is a legal and illegal smart drugs? To answer, we must first account for all of their differences. Drug or dietary Supplement? This is ultimately the question.

Most governments look at nootropics dietary supplements, which are less strictly regulated than drugs made to treat or cure a disease. The nootropic users themselves – you and I – are “regulating” proper nootropic usage by allocating support to certain products while ignoring others.

Forum sites like Bluelight or Reddit have become great resources when it comes to nootropic sourcing, safety, and usage concerns related to dosing, combining, cycling, as well as questions and answers. 

As previously stated, a quick rule of thumb is: most natural nootropics are legal everywhere. They are classified as dietary supplements. This means they are regulated as foods. For foods, the regulator assumes they are safe until proven otherwise, so to speak. This is the opposite of synthetics, which requires their legal safety to be established first. 

This is in line with the vision of Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, the founder of nootropics: To develop a series of cognitive enhancers devoid of the “usual pharmacological effects of psychotropic drugs” [2].

Adherence to this criterion theoretically removes the need for law and regulation, as by definition you’ll know right away what are legal and illegal smart drugs. They merely need to fulfill the definition of Dr. Giurgea. However, should a nootropic overstep this limit, there are legal and policy measures in place to regulate its usage.


Scheduling and Controlling Nootropics

You can either experience the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.”
–Jim Rohn

Am I dealing with legal and illegal smart drugs? To answer, you’d need to know: 

  • Is the nootropic controlled?
  • Is the nootropic scheduled?
  • And then if any of the previous answers with a “yes”: How much control and which schedule?

Using the U.S. model as a convenient proxy for a global discussion—world regulative agencies often orient themselves following the United States regarding dietary supplements. The U.S. model gives us the following definitions:

  • Controlled nootropics – require age verification or prescription to acquire.
  • Scheduled nootropics – scheduled or ranked, by their perceived risk of abuse: Schedule I being the highest perceived risk category, Schedule V being the lowest perceived risk [3].
    Typically, the schedule of a nootropic stipulates its control type—strict access checkpoints bar high-risk substances.

Some are just entirely illegal to use or purchase. On the other hand, low-risk items can be acquitted over the counter.

Due to their inherent safety, most nootropics are low-risk, and therefore, legal.


Loading Factor: Classification

If something is important enough, even if the odds are stacked against you, you should still do it.”
– Elon Musk

When it comes to legal and illegal smart drugs, there is no one-size-fits-all legal definition of nootropics because there is no one-size-fits-all nootropic. Here’s even another turn of the screw: the particular legal status of a specific nootropic may not uniformly apply to other nation’s regulatory frameworks.

For example, a single nootropic might be:

  • an over-the-counter, legal nootropic in Canada
  • prescription-based nootropic in the U.K
  • a banned illegal nootropic in Australia
  • a dietary supplement in Russia

This is primarily the case with synthetic (e.g., racetams) and semi-synthetic (e.g., vinpocetine) nootropics.

If you wonder what it all means? What’s synthetic? What’s semi-synthetic and what’s natural. Well, natural is something like MAXIMUM MIND that contains only compounds naturally occurring in nature. These compounds can be extracted from plants or animals or produced in a lab. For instance, taurine used to be extracted from bull’s semen. Now it’s synthesized in a lab using a series of two chemical reactions. Since the taurine molecule exists naturally, the natural classification applies to both lab-made Taurine and bull “produced” Taurine… cough cough.

Synthetic means the compounds are purely lab-made (see Marco’s Grounds Ultimate Nootropics Guide for examples of such compounds). When talking about nootropics, these are typically racetams.

Semi-synthetic refers to a compound that still doesn’t exist in nature but for which the starting point was an actual existing molecule. The end product is still going to be a non-naturally occurring molecule like vinpocetine.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll provide a brief review on the standard legal status of nootropics by their general types, including:

  • Herbal Extracts
  • Dietary Nootropic Nutrients
  • Synthetics and Semi-Synthetics

While keeping in mind that your local jurisdiction may differ from the global law standard, rest confident that the first two categories on the list are virtually 100% legal across the world (where MAXIMUM MIND belongs).


Herbs and Herbal Extracts as Legal Nootropics

Many herbs, like bacopa monnieri, are considered legal nootropics with long histories of effectiveness.

Bacopa monnieri, rhodiola rosea, camellia sinensis, ashwagandha, etc. – such cognitive-enhancing botanicals backed by centuries of safe and effective human use have generally received the “green light” by the world’s top regulatory bodies. You don’t need to ask yourself what are legal and illegal smart drugs, when it comes to these.

The same applies to their extracts – although not all, most notably ephedra. Ephedra is a potent natural stimulant with legal restrictions due to its well-documented side effects, as documented in an article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry [4]. St. John’s Wort – essentially free serotonergic mood booster, often warned against its negative interactions with prescription synthetics as researched also demonstrated in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry [5].

Aside from a few extremely rare examples, nootropic herbs and herbal extracts are entirely legal to consume, buy, and own, even without the caveat that they are sold as research compounds (a technique often used to sell more advanced compounds to expert users).

Ultimate nootropic enthusiasts may even grow their herbal cognitive enhancers if they are so inclined. I would argue that homemade extraction methods might be suboptimal, but I’ve seen some quite advanced DIY extractors.

The legal accessibility of natural nootropics is due to their legal and literal status as foods. On the other hand, herbal extracts don’t quite literally qualify as foods, so some user discretion may be advised in supplementing extracts.

For example, since the legal downfall of ephedra, certain ephedra-like extracts (e.g., synephrine) have infiltrated the stimulant market. Despite their popularity as fat-burners, natural, risky stimulants frequently dip into the nootropic scene as well due to their wakefulness-increasing properties.


Dietary Nootropic Nutrients

Dietary compounds, such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, are generally uninhibited by government regulation. To completely prohibit access to vitamins and minerals would require fatalistic and overwhelmingly zealous restrictions on virtually all solid foods, which would be a counter-productive endeavor by health-focused regulatory bodies for obvious reasons.

As such, food-related nootropic dietary supplements require no regulation on the customer end of the transactional relationship, yet there are purity, safety, and labeling codes that manufacturers must abide by to ensure the quality of their products—notably the FDA in the USA and the ETSA in Europe do regulate these quite strictly.

Representing an annual expenditure of over $35 billion in the United States alone, dietary supplements undergo extensive quality assurance procedures before reaching the shelves. For the general customer, the legal concerns over nootropic vitamins and minerals are just that: piece of mind.

However, nootropic users will need to stack more than OTC vitamins and minerals in their supplements to achieve brain-boosting performance. Only the B vitamins, when methylated like those in MAXIMUM MIND, possess substantial cognitive-enhancing potential.

Synthetics and Semi-Synthetics

This category is where you’re most likely to encounter legal and illegal smart drugs.

A vital example of a synthetic nootropic – the first synthesized nootropic – is piracetam, the original nootropic compound in a long series of cholinergic racetams (look at Marco’s Grounds Ultimate Nootropics Guide for more on those) as first published in Psychopharmacology. [6] To shed light on the complexity of synthetic nootropic legality: piracetam is legal to order and consume in Canada and the USA. Still, it is barred by prescription in the U.K. and Switzerland and scheduled in Australia – however, U.K. habitants may unrestrictedly purchase similar racetam variants, such as aniracetam.

Semi-synthetic Nootropics: such as vinpocetine, greatly vary in their legality from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. This is mainly because some countries view them as natural dietary supplements, others as controlled substances.

Nootropic Synthetics that flirt with illegality: Nearly every synthetic and semi-synthetic nootropic flirts with illegal status in the world. Be sure to inspect local laws to clarify the legality of purchasing synthetic nootropics in your jurisdiction.


Are Nootropics Legal Where I Live?

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”
– John D. Rockefeller

Here’s a brief overview of legal and illegal smart drugs classed by geography.

Australia:  For the most part, nootropic supplements are legal to purchase, own, and consume. Racetams are not OTC legal nootropics. Piracetam ranks as Schedule IV. MAXIMUM MIND ships there.

Canada: In Canada, nootropics regulation is relatively light. Canada imposes Drug Identification Numbers (DIN) on regulated substances. Currently, there are no registered DINs for any popular nootropic supplements. MAXIMUM MIND ships there.

China: China houses the largest nootropic dispensary globally and subjects its manufactured nootropics to high-quality controls. Most nootropics are legal. However, Hong Kong has stricter substance limits. MAXIMUM MIND ships there.

France: Most nootropics are legal in France. French nootropic regulation is light. Piracetam is a regulated substance, Ordonnance-Liste II. MAXIMUM MIND ships there.

Germany: Germany is quite strict when it comes to importing restricted nootropic substances from other countries, although most popular nootropics are unrestricted. MAXIMUM MIND ships there.

Japan: Japan limits importation of restricted nootropic substances, which is an added frustration to Japan’s limited over-the-counter options. MAXIMUM MIND ships there.

Russia: Russian nootropic legality is complex. Many legal nootropics, including memory products, maybe bought over-the-counter, except for specific brand names which are inexplicably barred by prescription. Noopept is also legally available in Russia. Perhaps because it originated from Russia to give Russian astronauts an edge? MAXIMUM MIND ships there.

Switzerland: Switzerland is relatively strict in importing restricted nootropic substances from other countries, although most popular nootropics are unrestricted. Importing illegal substances not classified as narcotics results in a mild warning the first two times and a penal procedure the third time. This only applies if the quantity is greater than a standard monthly supply. Certain racetams are even legal. MAXIMUM MIND ships there, obviously.

United Kingdom: Generally speaking, nootropics are legal to purchase, own, and consume. MAXIMUM MIND ships there.

United States: Finally, in the USA, it is legal to own, purchase, and consume all the popular nootropic supplements. Most nootropics are not scheduled or controlled in the U.S. The general public can also purchase some synthetics under the “research compounds” classification caveat. MAXIMUM MIND ships there. 

USA, Switzerland-EU-at-legal-and-illegal-smart-drugs-at-MARCO'S-GROUNDS-web

Important Note for USA, E.U., and Switzerland

Customers in the USA, E.U., and Switzerland enjoy custom and duty-free shipping since Marco’s Grounds warehouses MAXIMUM MIND within those countries/economic areas.

MAXIMUM MIND is a 100% legal nootropic formulation. A bottle of MAXIMUM MIND supplies the planet’s safest, most research-backed nootropics. As a result, all 16 ingredients support brain health. And even more on point to this post: all are legal nootropics in virtually every country in the world:

Methylated Vitamins B5, B6, B9, and B12
Citicoline (as Cognizin®)
Organic Bacopa Monnieri Extract (full spectrum extract std. for min. 50% bacosides)
Organic Lion’s Mane Mushroom Extract (fruiting bodies only and std. for min. 40% beta-glucans)
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine
Organic Huperzia Serrata Leaf Extract (full spectrum extract std. for min 50% Huperzine A)
Organic Gingko Biloba Leaf Extract (full spectrum extract std. for min. 24% glycosides)
Organic Ashwagandha Leaf Extract (full spectrum extract std. for min. 5% withanolides)
Vitamin D

Generally speaking, Marco’s Grounds nootropics qualify as safe and legal, free of banned substances and illegal or banned performance enhancers. As such, Marco’s Grounds MAXIMUM MIND may be taken as a legal performance enhancer by students, professionals, amateurs, athletes, and gamers. 

Where in the world is MAXIMUM MIND legal, or In other words, does MAXIMUM MIND ship to your country? Chances are: Yes, MAXIMUM MIND ships to many places. However, if you are still not sure, here is a partial list of where MAXIMUM MIND delivers to:

United States, E.U., Japan, United Kingdom, Brazil, India, Russian Federation, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Nigeria, Argentina, Norway, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Israel, Egypt, Hong Kong, Philippines, Chile, Pakistan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Qatar, Peru, New Zealand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Macedonia, Angola, Hungary, Ukraine, Morocco, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Sudan, Myanmar, Dominican Republic, Uzbekistan, Kenya, Guatemala, Uruguay, Croatia, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Tunisia, Tanzania, Turkmenistan, Panama, Lebanon, Serbia, Paraguay, Jamaica, Bahamas, and many other countries.

To learn more about MAXIMUM MIND safety and legality, read the MAXIMUM MIND FAQ page.


Internationally Banned Nootropics – Nootropic Legality in Sport

“Impossible is just an opinion.”
– Paulo Coelho

Besides asking yourself what a legal and illegal smart drugs is, you might be wondering if a legal smart drug still qualifies as a performance enhancing drug as defined by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) 2021 List of Prohibited Substances and Methods contains a few banned nootropics for competitive endeavors. WADA’s illegal nootropics list includes the most effective and most potent of productivity boosters such as adrafinil, modafinil, phenylpiracetam, and selegiline. All of these are synthetic and mostly illegal.

For athletes competing in the more traditional sports, this is old news. But for professional eSports gamers, chess players, or poker players, legal, mental enhancing substances concerns are new. Therefore, it is wise to check with WADA and local league standards to confirm the eSport PED ethics code. Because you never know.


 “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”
― Thomas Edison

In conclusion, most natural nootropics and semi-synthetic are legal and freely accessible to buy, possess, and consume in most places in the world where most synthetic nootropics are illegal. Further, competitors might have doping concerns that are mitigated by using natural smart drugs.

Boosting brain health and performance is quite complex. To be totally honest with you, synthetic nootropics are typically more powerful than the natural ones. This power comes at a health cost typically. Yet, we can achieve quite similar results by using natural and safe compounds provided expert use of synergetic effects

To experience your brain firing on all cylinders, the 16 clinically proven ingredients from MAXIMUM MIND target all major bio-pathways in the brain.

Further, buying a premade manufactured nootropic formulation is the ultimate way to never ask yourself what are legal and illegal smart drugs and ensure effectiveness, especially with MAXIMUM MIND as every possible synergie and adverse reaction have been already taken into consideration in the formulation.


Clinically Studied

Pharmaceutical Grade Cognitive and Mind Enhancing Complex
Made in Switzerland


  1. Hyman SE. Cognitive enhancement: promises and perils. Neuron. 2011 Feb 24; 69(4): 595-8.
  2. Giurgea C, Salama M. Nootropic drugs. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology. 1977; 1(3-4): 235-247.
  3. Gabay M, PharmD, J.D., BCPS. The Federal Controlled Substances Act: Schedules and Pharmacy Registration. Hosp Pharm. 2013 Jun; 48(6) 473-474.
  4. Kim TJ, LeBourgeois III HW. Banned, but Not Forgotten: A Case of Ephedrine-Induced Psychosis. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004; 6(3): 136-7.
  5. L Henderson et al. St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum): drug interactions and clinical outcomes. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2002 Oct; 54(4): 349-356.
  6. Pilch H, Müller WE. Piracetam elevates muscarinic cholinergic receptor density in the frontal cortex of aged but not of young mice. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1988; 94(1): 74-8.

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The materials and information provided in this post, document and/or any other communication (“Communication”) from Marco’s Grounds LLC. or any related entity or person (collectively “Marco’s Grounds”) are strictly for informational purposes only and are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a health problem or as a substitute for consulting a qualified medical professional. Some of the concepts presented herein may be theoretical.

References to any non-Marco’s Grounds entity, product, service, person or source of information in this or any other Communication should not be considered an endorsement, either direct or implied, by the host, presenter or distributor of the Communication. The host(s), presenter(s) and/or distributor(s) of this Communication are not responsible for the content of any non-Marco’s Grounds internet pages referenced in the Communication. Marco’s Grounds is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information or services you chose to follow without consulting a qualified medical professional. Before starting any new diet and/or exercise program, always be sure to check with your qualified medical professional.

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