When it comes to memory and mood boosting supplements, some of the most potent and effective belong to the racetam family of nootropics. While structurally similar, each of these drugs provides different benefits and risks.
What is a Racetam?
Racetams are a category of synthetic drugs commonly used for their nootropic purposes. Benefits of these drugs include improved memory, learning, focus, creativity, mood, anxiety, and brain health.
They are commonly used for those suffering from neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Back in 1964 Dr. Corneliu Giurgea synthesized the first racetam drug, Piracetam, and ever since numerous other racetam drugs have been created. (5) These drugs all have a similar chemical structure, with each of them containing a pyrrolidine nucleus, but each differs slightly from the others. While they are all known for their effects on the brain, their exact biological effects differ as well.
What racetam is best for you depends on what benefits you are looking for and the potency or strength that you prefer - while some racetams provide very subtle benefits, others are much stronger.
While some of these drugs give a powerful boost in mental and physical energy, they work in a different way from the typical stimulants, like coffee and Adderall. This makes the energy much cleaner, without the jittery feeling that often accompanies traditional stimulants.
How Do Racetams Work?
Racetams impact cognition largely through their influence on the cholinergic system. This system is responsible for the production and utilization of acetylcholine (ACh), a neurotransmitter critical for learning, attention, and memory.
While every racetam impacts the cholinergic system, how they do so differs. Their impacts include improving the functioning of ACh receptors, increasing the production of ACh, and reducing the degradation of ACh.
It is important to remember that ACh is synthesized from choline, which we get from our diets. Racetams increase the choline demand, making it important to supplement with choline.
Other mechanisms exist as well, including:
- Increasing cerebral blood flow, leading to more oxygen and glucose in the brain
- Improving communication between the left and right brain hemispheres
- Boosting glutamatergic activity
- Enhancing brain metabolism
Are Racetams Safe?
Overall racetam drugs are considered to be safe and well-tolerated. They have extremely low toxicity in humans, however there are limited studies when it comes to human clinical trials and long-term safety. (6) This is particularly true for newer racetams.
The majority of users that experience side effects report them ending with lower dosages, addition of other supplements, or cessation of supplementation with the nootropic compound.
The Racetam Family of Nootropic Supplements
There are a total of 19 racetams that have graduated beyond animal testing, however not all of them provide nootropic benefits. Of these, there are eight that are commonly used for their benefits on cognitive health and function.
Aniracetam was the second racetam created. It is about five times as powerful as Piracetam, and is fat soluble, leading to higher bioavailability.
Benefits include enhanced memory, learning, concentration ability, and overall improved cognitive function. It also acts as a mild stimulant, increases creativity, and acts as an anxiolytic.
This racetam is a favorite among students, as the effects for focus and concentration are among the best for nootropic compounds, without providing excessive stimulation.
Nootropic Dosage: 750-3,000 mg/day, divided into three doses
Coluracetam is particularly powerful when it comes to helping those who suffer from depression or anxiety. It is also known to enhance vision and is used to help those with Alzheimer’s disease. As with the other racetams, it is linked to improvements in learning and memory.
Nootropic Dosage: 3-35 mg/day, divided into three doses
Fasoracetam is unique in that it provides great improvements in concentration and focus abilities without acting as a stimulant. Users report that it helps to boost comprehension of new materials while improving memory acquisition.
Dosage: 20-100 mg, divided into two doses
Nefiracetam is one of the less commonly used racetam nootropics, however it has benefits for mood that are very similar to Aniracetam, with some users who have taken both reporting preference for Nefiracetam when it comes to mood. Mood benefits include antidepressant actions, reduction of apathy, and increasing overall feelings of wellbeing.
It is also great for helping to form long-term memories and enhance motivation. You will feel the effect of Nefiracetam best following one week of supplementation.
Nootropic Dosage: 100-900 mg/day, divided into two doses
Oxiracetam is optimal when you are looking for one drug to promote cognition and focus while also acting as a mild stimulant. Users report that it is best to take this racetam approximately one hour before you want to experience peak effects, such as before an exam.
This nootropic is used by those who are looking for a boost in mental energy combined with improvements in logical thinking and problem solving. It has been shown in studies to boost long-term potentiation, which helps with memory formation. (8)
Nootropic Dosage: 800 - 1,400 mg/day, split into two or three doses. Do not take within 6 hours of going to bed to avoid insomnia
Phenylpiracetam is known to kick in quickly and last for longer than the other members of the racetam family. It is incredibly powerful when it comes to both physical and mental stimulation, and is thus popular with athletes and students. It is so powerful that it has been banned by the Olympic World Anti-Doping Agency. (7)
Outside of energy, benefits include reduced anxiety and depression and improvements in short-term memory and learning abilities.
This is one of the stronger members of the racetam family, and some users report the effects to be too extreme. Be sure to start low and work your way up to find the ideal dosage for you.
Dosage: 100 mg/day to begin, not to exceed 600 mg/day
Piracetam is the weakest yet most thoroughly studied nootropic. It is an inexpensive option and one that is good for beginning neurohackers. As a water-soluble racetam, it is not as bioavailable as the others, leading to a need to take more of it to feel an effect.
As a nootropic, it is mainly used for improving neuroplasticity, and with it memory retention and ability to focus for long periods of time. Do not expect to feel the benefits of this drug immediately - it takes about one to two weeks before users tend to begin noticing the cognitive effects.
Dosage: 1,600-4,800 mg/day, divided into three doses
Pramiracetam is the strongest member of the nootropic racetam family. It is incredibly powerful when it comes to increasing energy levels, and leads to improvement in focus and productivity. This ability to concentrate is accompanied by improved learning and memory abilities.
If you are looking for an alternative to Adderall in the racetam family, this would be the best choice.
Do not take this nootropic later in the day as stimulatory effects can last upwards of 8 hours.
Dosage: 600-1,200 mg, divided into two doses early in the day
Best Racetams Comparison
You may be asking yourself, what racetam is the best? There is no one answer to that question as each racetam offers unique benefits. Here we have compiled our favorite racetams when it comes to specific nootropic functions: motivation, mood, anxiety, and memory.
Best Racetam For Motivation
If you are looking for maximum motivation and energy, Phenylpiracetam is one of the best nootropics available.
You will find increased motivation, energy, and focus, similar to taking Adderall but without the jittery feelings. It can help to motivate you not just mentally, but physically as well, making it a potent all-around motivation and energy booster.
While there have not been human studies conducted to confirm this benefit, you will find countless user experiences online:
One Reddit user wrote that “Phenylpiracetam is the real deal..giving me more concentration and ESPECIALLY motivation.” Another wrote that “Phenylpiracetam is a godsend...Yesterday I read for 6.5 hours straight, a whole 200 pages in my book. This stuff is crazy.”
Best Racetam For Mood
While it is one of the lesser known racetam nootropics, Nefiracetam has an incredible ability to regulate mood. Users report feeling calm focus, fewer mood swings, and experiencing a clarity of mind that can help to promote an overall positive mood and outlook.
One human study has even shown the efficacy of this drug in enhancing blood flow and improving mood in depressed patients following stroke. (2)
Best Racetam For Anxiety
Whether you suffer from social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, or just bouts of anxiety when work or school become challenging, you are likely to find relief with the addition of Aniracetam.
In a study on mice it was found that Aniracetam led to improvements in three different mouse models of anxiety, suggesting that this drugs anxiolytic effects are wide reaching and may help those suffering from a variety of different anxiety-related disorders, and may even help with overall social ability. (1)
This study found that Aniracetam fought anxiety through impacting cholinergic, serotonergic, and dopaminergic systems.
Aniracetam is a great choice if you are looking for anxiety and depression relief. Through its multiple mechanisms of action you will find yourself less anxious, more motivated, and even in a better overall mood throughout the day.
Best Racetam For Memory
Pramiracetam is the most potent racetam when it comes to focus and memory. When it comes to memory, many users are looking for a racetam that will help them to quickly and successfully learn new things and store that knowledge effectively for use in the future.
Multiple studies have found benefits of Pramiracetam on memory in both human and rat studies. In one human study on healthy elderly individuals with memory impairment it was found that it helped to increase memory formation. (3) Similar results were found in both memory and cognition boosting abilities in young men with brain injuries.(4)
If you are looking for a nootropic that can help you to focus while also enhancing memory storage and retrieval, Pramiracetam is a great option. It is a powerful stimulant, which can help to keep you focused on difficult-to-process information for long periods of time.
Common Racetam Side Effects
The most common reason for side effects from the racetam family of nootropics is insufficient choline in the body. This is because racetam nootropics work largely through their impact on the cholinergic system, increasing the action of acetylcholine. In order for sufficient synthesis of ACh you need to have plenty of choline for your brain to draw from.
The side effects associated with choline deficiency include:
Other side effects do exist for specific racetams, but overall these drugs are considered to be well-tolerated and safe when taken within the dosage guidelines.
Best Racetam Stacks
Choline and Racetam Stack
When it comes to stacking racetams, the first thing that any neurohacker should stack is a quality choline source. The best three based on bioavailability, ability to cross over the blood-brain barrier, and unique nootropic benefits of their own include:
- Alpha GPC - 150-300 mg, twice per day
- Citicoline (CDP Choline) - 250-500 mg, twice per day
- Centrophenoxine - 150-500 mg, twice per day
These sources of choline can be combined with any of the racetams to help provide further cognitive benefits while warding off negative side effects, such as headache.
Many users will stack multiple racetams together to experience synergistic benefits between them.
One user favorite racetam stack is known as the PAO stack. This stack is made up of three of the most popular racetams: Piracetam, Aniracetam, and Oxiracetam.
With this combination you get the memory and cognitive effects of Piracetam, the antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of Aniracetam, and the enhanced logical thinking that comes from Oxiracetam, leaving you with what feels like cognitive superpowers.
- 1,600 mg Piracetam
- 400 mg Aniracetam
- 400 mg Oxiracetam
- 500 mg Alpha GPC
What is the Best Racetam?
The strongest, most effective, powerful and potent racetam is phenylpiracetam. While some racetams have to be taken for longer periods of time before you can begin to feel their effects, this is not the case in the least with this nootropic drug.
The stimulating effect is enough to help reduce caffeine intake. It is so powerful that it is best to take here and there when you are in need of extreme energy and focus for one or two days per week maximum. If you take more, you are likely to build a tolerance.
- Anxiolytic effect of aniracetam in three different mouse models of anxiety and the underlying mechanism https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11412837
- Double-blind randomized treatment of poststroke depression using nefiracetam https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18451188
- Memory training and rug therapy act differently on memory and metamemory functioning: evidence from a pilot study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18653001
- Placebo-controlled study of pramiracetam in young males with memory and cognitive problems resulting from head injury and anoxia https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1786500
- Piracetam and piracetam-like drugs: from basic science to novel clinical applications to CNS disorders https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20166767
- The clinical safety of high-dose piracetam - its use in the treatment of acute stroke https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10338106
- What is Prohibited https://www.wada-ama.org/en/content/what-is-prohibited#/
- Effect of the nootropic drug oxiracetam on field potentials of rat hippocampal slices https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1476-5381.1990.tb14676.x