Nootropics are compounds that aim to enhance cognitive function and mental performance or act as mood boosters while benefiting overall brain health.
Students and professionals often take nootropics to enhance concentration, memory, focus, and even physical performance. Because of that, many people wonder if nootropics show on a drug test.
In this blog post, we will explore the possible causes of a false-positive result on a drug test and whether or not nootropics could be one of them.
- Common Substances That Will Fail A Drug Test
- Do Nootropics Show Up On Drug Tests?
- Reasons For Nootropics Drug Tests
- Types Of Drug Tests
Common Substances That Will Fail A Drug Test
Conversely, many legal substances, such as alcohol, may result in a drug test failure. However, drug screening is more commonly required to uncover illegal drugs and banned substances.
On the other hand, natural nootropics and brain boosters aiming to improve cognitive functions should not contain any illegal substances. Instead, a nootropic stack may include amino acids, herbs, mushrooms, or stimulants such as caffeine that will not show on a test.
To make the overview more straightforward, these are some of the most common drugs and compounds that will result in a positive test:
THC is the most common cause of failed drug testing, as traces remain in the body for up to 28-days after being taken.
Although derivatives of marijuana are legal in more than half of US states, the drug is classified under federal law as under Schedule 1 controlled substances (1).
Mixing THC with some nootropics can often boost mood, although some of the brain-boosting impacts of taking nootropics may be canceled out.
Although the nootropics will not show up on a test, marijuana will produce a fail result.
Prescription drugs are often included in the list of banned substances. For example, Adderall, Ritalin, or Modafinil, used to treat cognitive function impairment conditions such as ADHD, will appear on a standard drug test.
Many companies will ask employees to register any prescription medication to undertake a full risk assessment about their suitability to operate heavy machinery and manage feelings in stressful environments while under prescription, as drugs can affect their brain function.
Doing this will also cover employees should drug testing occur at the workplace. However, anyone abusing these nootropic drugs for obtaining a performance enhancement of memory, focus, or mood-boosting effects will not be covered.
Opioids will show up during drug screening and instantly lead to a positive result, whether from the individual taking prescribed drugs that contain opioids or through illegal substance use.
Anyone taking opioids is at risk of gaining dependence on the drugs, leading to the abuse of dangerous drugs such as heroin (2).
Do Nootropics Show Up On Drug Tests?
People take nootropics and smart drugs for several different reasons.
For example, people in the tech industry widely take smart drugs with stronger effects, often combining natural nootropics with legal or illegal stimulants to create peak overall cognitive performance and improve memory and focus.
Many may take a mood-boosting nootropic supplement to simultaneously reduce stress and enhance mental performance. In contrast, others use nootropics to boost physical performance, which can gain a competitive edge in sports.
A drug test will look for metabolites, which is the product that remains after a substance is absorbed by the body. Some foods and unrelated drugs break down into similar metabolites, which can cause a false positive.
For example, poppy seeds could cause a false positive for opiate use, like heroin, while hemp can create a false positive for marijuana use.
Prescribed medication, such as Modafinil or Adderall, appears as amphetamine in drug screening. Other drugs that can cause a false positive include:
- Antibiotics (e.g., Amoxicillin)
- Antidepressants / Anti-anxiety medicines
- Blood pressure medication
- Prescription diet supplements
On the other hand, nootropic stacks containing only natural ingredients will not show up on a drug test as the body will absorb what it needs and leave pure metabolites.
However, it is essential to purchase only nootropics manufactured by reputable brands to ensure that quality ingredients are used, which won’t cause a false positive during drug screening and enhance mental performance at the same time.
Reasons For Nootropics Drug Tests
You may have to undergo drug screening for several reasons.
For example, your employer may request a drug screen as part of their terms of employment, while random tests are a regular part of competing in sports.
Also, if you’re in the legal system or military, you may be asked to undergo a screen to check for any banned substance.
Many employers have a drugs and alcohol policy that employees must sign up to. Some of these will be a legal requirement due to the industry or for a company policy.
Drugs and alcohol abuse is one of the most common reasons for health and safety breaches in the workplace, and companies face financial losses due to lost productivity, turnover of employees, healthcare, and accident claims.
Reasons employers would require drug testing include:
- Safety – Many employers that work in manual labor where employees operate heavy machinery or in the transportation industry rely on sobriety. Using drugs and alcohol affects people’s ability to function, often with severe consequences.
- Productivity – Employees addicted to substances are less productive at work than those that do not abuse substances. This loss of productivity often manifests itself as absenteeism among drug abusers.
- Compensation claims – Substance abuse among employees increases the risk of the company being hit with compensation claims.
- Healthcare – Drugs and alcohol-related accidents and injuries substantially increase the employer’s medical costs.
- Employee turnover – The cost of replacing a worker is $7000 on average.
With the potential cost implications of substance addiction among employees extremely high, employers will ask for a drug test in several different situations. If your contract agrees to random drug screening, they can test at any time, particularly in the following circumstances:
- Pre-employment – Candidates for safety-critical roles will be required to undergo a drug test before employment.
- Workplace accidents – Anyone involved in a workplace accident may have a drug test to ensure they were not influenced.
- Probably cause – An employer can request an employee suspected of drug use on-site or under the influence of drugs be tested without explanation. A failed drug test could result in the termination of their employment.
- Random tests – Employers use random testing to discourage the use of drugs that may affect performance at work.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) has federal guidelines that require companies that employ commercial drivers to adhere to a testing program for five specific substance categories. They are:
- Cannabinoids – e.g., marijuana
- Opiates – e.g., heroin, codeine, morphine
- Phencyclidine – e.g., PCP
All active members of the US military are required to undergo drug screening at least once a year, with members of the Reserve and Guard being screened bi-annually.
The Department of Defence (DoD) tests everyone for evidence of illegal substances such as MDMA (ecstasy) and marijuana as part of their annual check. At the same time, random samples undergo checks for LSD, PCP, barbiturates, and opiates.
Circumstances that can lead to members undergoing a drug test include:
- Recruit screening – All recruits must undergo a drug test as part of their medical screening.
- Random testing – Commanders can order random testing of groups or units without probable cause. However, they cannot request random screening for specific groups or individuals.
- Probable cause – Commanders can request a “military search warrant” from the Base Commander if they suspect an individual of illicit drug use. In these cases, members of the Services cannot refuse a urine test.
- Consent – A member can be asked for permission for a drug test in cases where a commander does not have evidence to support probable cause. The member can refuse this.
Performance enhancement has been an issue in the sport ever since ancient Greek and Roman times when athletes took performance-enhancing potions to boost their energy.
Nowadays, athletes continue to take nootropic supplements and other drugs to improve athletic performance, such as reaction time, reduced muscle stress, and even better mental clarity.
Some nootropics have been approved for use, while others are declared illegal (3).
For example, Phenylpiracetam is a potent smart drug of the racetam family that enhances cognitive function, such as wakefulness, and boosts athletes’ physical strength. Consequently, the Olympic Anti-Doping committee has banned this nootropic supplement.
Athletes can be tested without any advance notification for substances that breach stringent regulations, whether competing, training, or off-season.
Athletes contending in the competition will usually find themselves tested if they finish in the top three of any event.
However, they can also be chosen at random before the competition according to finishing place. For example, athletes who finish 3rd, 7th, and 9th in an event might be screened.
All sporting drug screens test for unregulated substances on the banned substance list including, but not limited to:
- Anabolic steroid agents
- Beta-2 agonist
- Masking agents
- Peptide hormones
Tell the administering agency immediately if you are a sports competitor and take prescription drugs or nootropics that may contain substances prohibited by the rules, which may cause a false positive.
Anyone facing prosecution, under investigation for criminal investigation, on probation, or involved in a custody case can be ordered to undergo a drug screen by a judge without explanation.
In addition, police officers can test drivers where they have been pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Common drugs screens undertaken for legal reasons will look for the following substances:
Medical professionals can order drug tests if they suspect patients have a drug or drink alcohol excessively. However, these can only be undertaken with the patient’s consent.
They can demand screening for minors with parental consent, however.
Any patients entering a substance rehabilitation program must agree to undergo extensive drug testing as part of their treatment.
Types Of Drug Tests
There are several main types of drug screens in the US, each of which can be ascribed to looking for evidence of different substances. They are:
A Urine test is the most common drug test method used in employment, military, legal, and sports settings.
Although some substances can quickly show in a urinary test, accurate results require laboratory verification.
Substances taken within the past week can be detected using a urinary test. However, THC use in the previous four weeks can be seen.
Hair follicle drug testing is a newer drug screening method that has become popular with employers and legal systems as they are more difficult to cheat than other methods.
The method is less invasive than other methods, such as urine testing, which involves an observer present while the sample is produced. A minimum hair length of 1.5 inches is required for the test.
The benefits of hair testing are that it can identify drug use further back than other methods, at least 90 days previously, and produces reliable results backed up by a follow-up test in the event of a fail result.
Taking blood for screening is the least common and most expensive drug test and intrusive method.
However, there are significant benefits to blood tests when suspected of drug use in the previous few hours.
Blood tests can detect the parent drug rather than just the metabolites, which are detectable in urine. This means that the likelihood of other substances causing false positives is much lower than through different testing methods.
Blood tests have a short detection window, and drugs may not be detectable more than six hours after use.
Sweat testing is one of the least invasive methods of drug testing. However, it is also one of the least commonly used.
A patch is affixed to a person’s skin for 10 to 14 days to gather sweat which is then tested both for the metabolite and drugs directly.
Test results are usually obtained within minutes of the patch’s removal. However, there is a limit to the number of substances they can detect.
Most commonly used by parole departments since the patches will show any attempt to tamper with them. Regardless, test samples can be open to contamination and be variable depending on how much sweat a person produces.
It is possible to enjoy most nootropics’ mood and cognitive enhancement, reduce stress and support overall brain health without worrying about having a failed drug test or experiencing any adverse side effects.
While certain synthetic nootropics may create positive test results due to their effects on cognitive performance, using nootropics should not cause any false positives when they are based only on natural herbs and mushrooms.
Furthermore, if you have been prescribed certain medicines, such as Modafinil for behavior disorders, always inform your employer or administering agency since you may experience side effects that affect your ability to perform tasks.
Similarly, if you are being tested as part of the legal system, tell the authorities, as you will return positive during drug screening in most cases.