Piracetam: The Oldest Synthetic Nootropic and First of the Racetam Family

What is Piracetam?

Piracetam is the oldest synthetic nootropic supplement and the first of the racetam family of nootropics. It was synthesized as a GABA derivative by Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea more than 50 years ago, and has since spurred the nootropic revolution.

Piracetam is also known under the name Nootropil, Geratam, or chemically as 2-oxo-1-pyrrolidine acetamide.

As one of the most well-studied nootropics, many beginners to the racetam family will start with Piracetam for the purpose of enhancing cognition, creativity, concentration, and boosting overall brain health. It is also commonly used for certain conditions, including depression, autism, ADD, Schizophrenia, and social anxiety.

It is used across the world as a prescription medication to treat conditions such as myoclonus, a disorder characterized by involuntary muscle jerks, which often accompanies other disorders, such as epilepsy. Long term efficacy and safety have been confirmed in human studies. (1)

Other medicinal uses include prevention of blood clotting and reduction in cognitive decline in the elderly.

As a nootropic compound, there are countless anecdotal reports and some limited human studies to suggest its efficacy, safety profile, and limitations.

How Does Piracetam Work?

Neurotransmitter Effects

Studies have found that this drug leads to changes in the following systems (2):

  • Cholinergic system: influences acetylcholine
  • Serotonergic system: influences serotonin
  • Glutamatergic system: influences glutamate
  • Noradrenergic system: influences norepinephrine 

It is largely thanks to the impact of this drug on acetylcholine (ACh) and glutamate that lead to its improvements in cognitive function and protection against age-related cognitive decline.

As we age, the functionality of our cholinergic and glutamatergic systems declines, and both of these have been implicated in numerous cognitive disorders associated with aging.

Piracetam likely impacts these systems through its effects on membrane fluidity, not direct agonism or antagonism of receptors.

Through modifying this fluidity, the function and number of these receptors increases, allowing increased neurotransmitter action.

Studies have found that supplementation with this drug in rats or mice has led to increased NMDA receptor density (involved in glutamate function) in the forebrain, ACh utilization in the brain, and increased cholinergic receptors in the frontal cortex. (2)

Neuroplasticity and Neuroprotective Effects

Animals studies have found that this drug acts to protect neurons through boosting the health of cell membranes. (2) This is thought to be the mechanism by which Piracetam protects from drug overdose and chronic alcohol use.

It is through these neuroprotective mechanisms that this compound decreases lipofuscin, an “age pigment” linked to cognitive decline with age and Alzheimer’s disease. Lipofuscin is seen as a consequence of damage to brain cells, known as neurons.

Animal studies have found that supplementing with this nootropic can lead to improved neuroplasticity, which is critical for learning and memory abilities. (2) Neuroplasticity is how the brain adapts and changes through the reorganization of connections between neurons and synapses.

Cerebral Blood Flow

There is also evidence to suggest that this drug increases blood flow to the brain, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to reach the brain. It also has been shown to increase communication between the two sides, or hemispheres, of the brain.

Benefits: What is Piracetam Used For?

Memory and Cognitive Enhancement

When it comes to human studies, there are many demonstrating the benefits of this nootropic on the memory and cognitive function of the elderly, particularly those with age-related cognitive decline and related disorders.

But what about in healthy, young humans?

The support for this benefit comes largely through user reviews rather than laboratory studies, however there was one study conducted on healthy volunteers way back in 1976 that found improved verbal learning after 14 days of supplementing with 400 mg/day Piracetam split into three doses throughout the day. (3) No difference was found after 7 days of supplementation, suggesting that users may not see any difference in cognition unless they are taking this drug continuously for longer periods of time.

Depression and Social Anxiety

When reviewing user reports you will find some reports of improved depression symptoms and others stating that they felt a slight depression effect from taking the supplement.

One meta-analysis of racetam drugs published in 2010 found that Piracetam lowered both depression and anxiety symptoms in humans. (4)

Anecdotal reports support the use of this nootropic for social anxiety, however more severe anxiety and depression are likely to be better treated with nootropics that have shown more influence on these conditions.

Autism

In one study on autistic children, it was found that Piracetam added to Risperidone treatment led to greater improvements in behavior at 10 weeks when compared to Risperidone plus placebo. (5)

ADHD and ADD

Anecdotal evidence supports the use of this nootropic for boosting attention and focus, and this may be especially true for those suffering from ADD or ADHD.

In one study on 80 children with ADHD it was found that supplementation with 70 mg/kg daily Piracetam led to improvements in many symptoms, including continuous, divided, and selective attention, as well as behavior and motor coordination when compared to placebo. (7) 40 mg/kg/day was found to produce benefits, but not to the same degree as for those who took the higher dosage.

Schizophrenia

One study found that Schizophrenic patients who added 4.8 g/day of this nootropic to their existing antipsychotic medications found an improvement in global symptoms and a reduction of Tardive Dyskinesia, a condition caused by long-term use of psychiatric drugs that leads to involuntary movements. (6)

Age-Related Cognitive Decline and Related Neurological Disorders

While some decline in memory and cognition is expected as we age, many people will experience enough of a decline that it impacts the quality of their lives. Many of these patients will experience related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

It is thought that this decline in cognition and brain health is thanks to numerous changes, including changes in neuronal membrane function and structure and disruption of properly functioning glutamatergic and cholinergic systems.

As Piracetam has an impact on all of these factors, it would follow that supplementation with this drug may help to slow age-related cognitive decline, and possibly help to avoid or even slow the progression of these diseases.

Human studies have found improved memory in those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive impairment when taking this drug. (2)

Neuroprotecant

Studies on alcoholism, stroke, and coronary bypass surgery have found that this drug may help to protect the brain.

While injection with this drug prior to surgery has been found to help protect cognition of those undergoing coronary bypass surgery, the same benefits were not found in one study on open heart surgery. (8)

In one study examining the effects of treating stroke patients with this drug or placebo following stroke found that those who supplemented with Piracetam experienced greater improvements in verbal functions when compared to the placebo group.

In another study examining the effects of this nootropic on alcoholics, it was found that the alcoholic patients in the treatment group performed better when it came to abstract reasoning, perceptual organization, and visual motor control when compared to the placebo group.

Dyslexia

Studies have found that long-term supplementation with this compound may help those suffering from dyslexia. (2) In one study, 225 children ages 7-12 were given 3.3 g/day Piracetam or placebo for 36 weeks. At the end of this treatment period, the children in the treatment group were found to have significantly improved reading speed and accuracy when compared to the placebo group.

Vertigo

Studies on elderly patients with vertigo have found an improvement when taking this drug. (2) In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 143 elderly participants, it was found that taking this drug at 2.4 g/day for eight weeks led to nine fewer attacks in the two weeks after treatment when compared to the two weeks prior to treatment. This benefit was not found in the placebo group. Overall measures of malaise and imbalance were also improved.

Negative Side Effects of Piracetam

This drug is very well tolerated. In a review of 91 placebo-controlled, double-blind studies, combined with user reviews, the most common side effects are (2):

  • Headache
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Nervousness
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Muscle spasms
  • Lack of energy
  • Brain fog
  • Feelings of weakness
  • Increased libido, or sex drive

Anyone with kidney problems should be cautious when using Piracetam. Additionally, little is known about how this nootropic could influence cancer. With a lack of studies examining long term use, more research needs to be done to confirm whether or not this drug has an impact on cancer, whether promoting or fighting this illness.

Possible Interactions

The risk of interactions with this nootropic are low thanks to it not being metabolized by the liver. This makes this compound safe to take with the majority of medications.

Piracetam and Alcohol

Some users online will tout that taking this supplement before drinking alcohol can help to reduce the neuronal death that occurs thanks to alcohol consumption. As many studies have found that this nootropic can help to prevent or even reverse damage caused by alcoholism, this is a logical jump to make.

But is it true? Will Piracetam help protect your brain from the damage caused by a night of heavy drinking?

Science does not support the concept of taking this drug right before you go out drinking. With the increase in cerebral blood flow, this drug has been found to increase the intoxicating effects from alcohol, and may even lead to more damage.

Piracetam and Weed

As the legality of weed is only beginning to take off, there have not been studies conducted to elucidate how racetams and Cannabis sativa interact. However, there are user reports that can help clue you in as to what you would be able to expect if you mix these two drugs.

Users tend to agree that supplementing with Piracetam prior to smoking weed may help to lessen some of the negative side effects some experience with marijuana, such as anxiety and memory impairment.

One Bluelight user reported a more controlled high, however also said that the feeling tended to last longer than without the nootropic added in.

Piracetam and LSD

When looking at the anecdotal reports, experiences taking this nootropic with acid are mixed.

Many users report experiencing a more intense trip when combined with this racetam - some report this as a good thing, and others not so much. As there are no studies looking into this interaction, it is best to proceed with caution.

Dosage

Ideal dosage can vary from person to person. Dosages tend to start at about 40 mg/kg body weight per day, up to 100 mg/kg body weight. This comes out to be about 1,600 to 4,800 mg/day, generally split into two or three doses.

This drug is water soluble, so you do not need to take it with food for it to be absorbed. It is best taken orally, as either a powder or a pill.

Thus far there have been no overdoses reported with this supplement, and studies have found it to be quite non-toxic in humans. That does not mean that taking large quantities may not be dangerous when combined with other drugs.

This drug has also been given as injection by doctors for conditions such as stroke.

How Long Does Piracetam Stay in Your System?

Following oral supplementation, plasma concentrations peak in roughly 30-90 minutes, although this can vary person to person. (2) If you take it with food, it will take longer to feel effects of the drug versus if you are in a fasted state. Some people will feel this drug working the same day that they take it, but many users report not feeling the benefits until days or weeks after beginning supplementation.

The half-life of this drug is about 5 hours in the blood and 8 hours in the brain. Most people will take it about every 8 hours as it will not stay in your system in high quantities past that point.

Taking Piracetam Without Choline

Taking Piracetam without choline is thought to lead to the majority of side effects experienced by neurohackers, particularly headache.

If you take this nootropic and experience any side effects, it is wise to add in a quality choline source.

Stacks

Piracetam and L-Theanine

Combining these two compounds is helpful when it comes to improving memory, focus, and mood. The L-Theanine is known to impact GABA, dopamine, and serotonin, leading to an increase in mood and focus. Combine this with the memory-boosting benefits of Piracetam and you will find yourself calm, happy, and focused, with a better memory.

Many users will add caffeine to this stack to give some added energy and productivity.

Recommended Dosage (split into two doses):

  • 2,400 mg/day Piracetam
  • 200 mg/day L-Theanine
  • 100 mg/day Caffeine

Noopept and Piracetam

Noopept and Piracetam are two of the most popular nootropics when it comes to enhancing memory, cognition, and focus, and they stack very well together. Many of the benefits that you experience with Piracetam you will find with Noopept.

They do target different pathways, with Noopept working through its stimulation of the AMPA receptor and Piracetam mainly affecting the cholinergic system.

Because of these different pathways, you are likely to find even greater improvements in memory, learning, and concentration ability by taking them both than taking one or the other.

Recommended Dosage (split into two doses):

  • 1,600 mg/day Piracetam
  • 10 mg/day Noopept

Phenibut and Piracetam

Phenibut is known to help reduce anxiety and promote healthy sleep patterns, however it is addictive so needs to be used moderately and carefully, if supplemented at all.

This stack is not a common one, however it may be useful here and there if you are needing to reduce anxiety while boosting cognitive function.

Recommended Dosage (split into two doses):

  • 2,400 mg/day Piracetam
  • 250 mg/day Phenibut

Aniracetam and Piracetam

If you want to amplify your memory benefits and add in additional mood and creativity effects, stacking this nootropic with Aniracetam is a great option.

Recommended Dosage (split into two doses):

  • 2,400 mg/day Piracetam
  • 600 mg/day Aniracetam

Adrafinil and Piracetam

These two nootropics appear to work synergistically, providing even more nootropic benefits when combined than you would assume by adding their effects together.

Adrafinil offers a stimulant effect that Piracetam is missing. It is the combination of energy, focus, and memory that make this stack particularly helpful for those in college or anyone needing to learn a lot quickly.

Some will compare this stack to Adderall, but without the jitters.

Recommended Dosage (split into two doses):

  • 2,000 mg/day Piracetam
  • 600 mg/day Adrafinil

Piracetam and Adderall

Both Adderall and Piracetam have been found to help enhance concentration abilities in those with ADD and ADHD. Adderall is a stimulant, while this nootropic is not.

Some people have asked what it would be like to stack these two compounds together.

When you read user reviews, you will find that these two will often amplify both the good and bad parts of Adderall. You will likely feel even more of an ability to focus, but this comes with the downside of even more stimulation and jitters.

In fact, Piracetam has been shown to enhance the effects of amphetamines, and thus it should be avoided to take this nootropic and Adderall at the same time.

Piracetam and Choline

When it comes to stacking with any member of the racetam family, a good choline source is a important for the best nootropic benefits. Piracetam has been found to cause a decrease of ACh thanks to increased utilization, and supplementing with choline can provide a source for more ACh synthesis. This can help to mitigate the headache that some users report when taking this nootropic.

It is recommended to take a choline source that is highly bioavailable and able to cross over blood-brain barrier. Your two best options here are Citicoline (also known as CDP choline) or Alpha GPC.

Recommended Dosage:

  • 1,600-4,800 mg/day Piracetam, split into two doses
  • 300 mg Alpha GPC or 500 mg Citicoline, split into two doses

Alcar and Piracetam

ALCAR (Acetyl L-Carnitine) and Piracetam both work partly through modulating the cholinergic system. Stacked together, users have reported synergistic benefits for learning, memory, energy, focus, and cognitive health.

This is largely thanks to ALCAR supplying the acetate that is used in combination with choline to form the ACh. As Piracetam boosts the utilization of ACh in the brain, this increase in ACh synthesis can lead to synergistic cognitive effects.

It is recommended to also take a choline source in this stack.

Recommended Dosage (split into two doses):

  • 1,600-4,800 mg/day Piracetam
  • 500-1,000 mg ALCAR
  • 300 mg Alpha GPC or 500 mg Citicoline

User Experiences

“It was a godsend for the first 2 months, with noticeable improved verbal fluency, relevant memory recalls for the technical work that I do, working memory enhancement (mainly I noticed myself able to juggle a lot of calculations and data in my head).” Reddit user review of using Piracetam for one year

“Never felt so smart, such a great logic, analysis, learning, improved memory...I felt super confident, quite often went arguing/discussing my point and always felt confident.” Longecity user review of what it felt like when Piracetam kicked in after 2-3 weeks of supplementation

Comparisons

Noopept vs Piracetam

These are two of the most commonly used nootropics on the market, and both offer noticeable improvements in learning, memory, and other cognitive functions.

While both of these nootropics provide similar benefits, they work in different ways. Noopept primarily works on the glutamate receptors while Piracetam works largely through the cholinergic system. They both increase communication between the two sides of the brain.

Users generally report that Noopept and Piracetam offer similar benefits, but these benefits are much stronger when taking Noopept.

Aniracetam vs Piracetam

The biggest difference between these two racetams is that Aniracetam is fat soluble and can more easily cross over the blood-brain barrier when compared to Piracetam. The benefits of these two nootropics are very similar, however the effects of Aniracetam tend to kick in faster and last longer.

Aniracetam also boasts stimulation and a stronger benefit for those suffering from anxiety.

Piracetam vs Phenylpiracetam

Phenylpiracetam is one of the newest members of the racetam family, and as such has not had as many studies as Piracetam. That has not stopped the popularity from raising quickly, largely thanks to the strong effects of this nootropic.

It is known to be a very effective central nervous system stimulant, helping to improve both mental and physical energy and endurance.

While they both have benefits on memory and cognition, Phenylpiracetam is much stronger and can be over stimulating for some.

Piracetam vs Alpha Brain

Alpha Brain is a nootropic blend that contains numerous compounds, some at effective dosages and some at too small of dosages to make much of an impact. It is one of the most well-known nootropic blends. Studies have found this nootropic to improve verbal recall and completion time, and was found to be safe when compared to placebo.

One of the biggest differences between these two nootropics is price. Piracetam is one of the most affordable nootropics, while Alpha Brain is one of the more expensive options.

The benefit of Alpha Brain over Piracetam that many users will like is that it is made up of all-natural ingredients, in comparison to Piracetam, which is a synthetic drug. It is also formulated to be well-rounded to help avoid side effects and provide a good, simple nootropic option.

Pramiracetam vs Piracetam

Pramiracetam is known as one of the strongest members of the racetam family, while Piracetam is the weakest. If you are new to racetams, it is advisable to start with Piracetam and work your way up to trying stronger nootropics, such as Pramiracetam. They are considered to have very similar effects, it is just the difference in potency that users notice.

Pramiracetam is both strong and a great standalone nootropic that offers sufficient benefits that many users do not feel the need to add anything additional, while many will stack with Piracetam. Pramiracetam is fat soluble and better crosses over the blood-brain barrier while also exerting its effects more quickly.

Adrafinil vs Piracetam

Adrafinil and Piracetam are both synthetic nootropics, however they work very differently in the body and provide different benefits. While Piracetam is great for overall memory, learning, and concentration, Adrafinil is best for stimulation and increased energy.

The exact mechanisms by which Adrafinil works are not fully known, but it is likely through histaminergic signalling. Long term use of this drug may not be safe due to it being metabolized in the liver, so intermittent use is advised. Contrary to that, thus far long-term use of Piracetam appears to be safe.

Oxiracetam vs Piracetam

These two members of the racetam family have similar effects, however Oxiracetam adds stimulation and increased ability to focus for long periods of time when compared to Piracetam.

When it comes to learning and energy, Oxiracetam is the way to go. However, studies have found more beneficial effects of Piracetam when it comes to preventing lipofuscin accumulation in the brain, so it may be a better choice for helping prevent against age-related cognitive decline.

Piracetam vs Phenibut

Phenibut has stronger anxiolytic effects and more side effects when compared to Piracetam. It is known to provide a calming antidepressant and anxiolytic effect without causing sleepiness, and has also been found to improve sleep quality.

Users are more likely to use Piracetam for cognitive memory enhancements and Phenibut for mood and calming effects, particularly for conditions such as PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder.

Where to Buy

This nootropic is found in pill, tablet, and bulk powder forms. You will not find it in your local drug store or Amazon, and it is best to purchase it from a source that provides third-party testing to confirm you are getting a safe and quality product.

The best Piracetam brand is Pure Nootropics piracetam as they offer third-party testing and analysis, allowing you peace of mind and quality supplements. There are other online vendors where you will find this nootropic, including Powder City.

While racetam nootropics are legal to buy and sell in the US, this is not the case in Canada or the UK. While you can legally possess Piracetam in the UK, it is not legal for a company to sell it to you there. Because of this, you will need to ship this in from another country, preferably the US to ensure quality.

In Canada Piracetam is considered a drug, so it is not available over the counter through nootropic suppliers. However, you are able to possess racetams, and thus will need to import from the US as well.

References:

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