Piracetam

Piracetam is one of the oldest and most popular nootropics available. Used by beginners and veterans alike, it is regarded as one of the most effective and safe smart drugs. It provides a wide range of benefits to multiple aspects of cognition while having few side effects.

Piracetam is most effective when taken alongside mental exercise. To discover how to best integrate Piracetam into a mental workout regimen please consult the Building Brain Power program. Building Brain Power is a workout regimen designed specifically for your brain and the nootropic section discusses Piracetam in extensive detail.

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piracetam

Key Benefits:

  • Improves memory [5][30][34][36]
  • Improves mental energy levels. [28][29]
  • Improves communication between the left and right brain and increases activity in the corpus callosum. [7][32][33]
  • May reverse effects of aging on the brain and help prevent cognitive disorders. [1][2][3]
  • Improves neural plasticity, which makes brain training games such as those offered by Lumosity more effective. [30]
  • Increases blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain. [8][35]
  • Has neuroprotective properties [36][37][38]
  • Improves verbal fluency [40]

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What Is Piracetam?

Piracetam is among the very first nootropic smart drugs. Its discovery dates all the way back to 1964. Research was led by Dr. Corneliu E. Girugrea and upon his discovery of Piracetam, he coined the term nootropic to describe its properties.

Piracetam was launched clinically in the early 1970′s under the name Nootropil and is currently used in many European countries. Since the invention of Piracetam, other pharmaceutical companies began their own research.

An entire family of ‘racetam drugs has since been born. Some nootropics in the ‘racetam category include aniracetam, oxiracetam, pramiracetam, and nefiracetam. Though all the ‘racetam drugs have somewhat similar mechanisms of action, others are much more potent. Piracetam is regarded as the least potent of the family.

Cognitive Benefits of Piracetam

Research has shown piracetam to provide a wide array of positive mental benefits, below are the ones with the most substantial backing evidence.

  • Piracetam has been shown to improve memory in healthy individuals.[5][30][36] One double blind study found a significant improvement in verbal learning after two weeks of treatment.
  • Research suggests Piracetam can reverse the effects of aging on the brain and help prevent cognitive disorders.[1][2][3]
  • Piracetam has been shown in animal studies to improve communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain and to increase the amount of activity in the corpus callosum. [7][32][33] The corpus callosum is a bundle of neural fibers which connects the left and right parts of the brain. Studies have suggested that increased communication between brain hemispheres results in improved memory, learning, and recall. [34]
  • Piracetam increases mental energy (ATP), particularly when levels are low. One study showed that Piracetam boosted levels of brain glucose metabolism in rats by 22%. This is noteworthy because brain cells produce their own ATP from glucose and oxygen. An increase in the metabolism of glucose within the brain translates to higher levels of ATP. [28] Studies have also shown that it increases the rate of synthesis of cytochrome b5, which is an integral part of the electron transprot chain. [29][30]
  • Piracetam improves synaptic plasticity, which is the ability of the brain to create new synapses between brain cells and to strengthen existing ones.[30] Increased plasticity increases the mental benefit gained from performing mental exercises and brain training games. (Such as the ones found at Lumosity)
  • Piracetam increases blood flow to the brain and supplies it with more oxygen. [8][35] Oxygen is an essential fuel for our brains, which use close to 20% of our body’s entire oxygen supply. The brain devotes available oxygen to essential processes first and higher mental functions such as cognition last. Increasing your brain’s oxygen supply will positively affect all aspects of mental performance.
  • Piracetam is neuroprotective, and has been shown to protect against and improve recovery from hypoxia, cerebral trauma, and damage caused by alcohol abuse. [36] One study showed that it was extremely effective in preventing cognitive damage due to surgical procedures. [37] Another study showed that acute piracetam treatment can protect against and treat ischemic brain damage. [38]
  • Considerable anecdotal evidence suggests that piracetam has a positive effect on verbal fluency. Many users report an easier flow of conversations as well as an improved vocabulary when speaking. A study in which Piracetam improved language skills in dyslexic youth seems to back up this assertion [40], however we are not aware of any studies testing this claim performed on healthy individuals.
  • Piracetam may improve the ability to drive. One study performed on elderly drivers in actual traffic observed an average improvement on a test of driving performance by ~7%. Test subjects who had scored under an 80% in the first test improved without exception after being administered piracetam. [27]

Medical Uses of Piracetam

  • Piracetam is widely used throughout Europe, Asia, and South America as a prescription medication. It is most commonly used to treat a wide variety of mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and cerebral trauma. [14][15] It should be noted that there is still some debate as to the efficacy of Piracetam in treating these disorders. [16]
  • A few studies have suggested that while Piracetam may not be very effective at treating Schizophrenia alone, it can improve the cognition in people suffering from it at least as much as it can in the healthy. [23] Interestingly a study has shown that a combination of piracetam and haloperidol is significantly more effective than a treatment of haloperidol alone. [25] The researchers speculate that glutamate receptors play a role is the physiology of schizophrenia, and that Piracetam improves the efficacy of haloperidol by acting as a positive glutamate receptor modulator.
  • Studies have shown that Piracetam may be of some use as an anti-aging drug. Studies on mice have shown that it may reverse the effects of aging in the brain.[17] Further studies have shown it to reduce levels of lipofuscin in the brain. [18] (Lipofuscin is formed by oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids and commonly accumulates due to aging or alcoholism.)
  • Research has shown that Piracetam is an effective treatment for cognitive impairment caused by alcoholism. [19] It also may be useful in treating alcohol withdrawal related psycosis, though there is little evidence that it can make an alcohol addiction easier to quit. One study did find that it was at least as effective as chlormethiazole at mitigating withdrawal symptoms, however. [26]
  • Piracetam has enjoyed a long history of use as a treatment for clotting and vasopastic disorders. [20] It does this by preventing the build-up of platelets and improving the malleability of blood-cells. Because this is a relatively novel mechanism of action, it works particularly well when combined with typical anti-thrombotic drugs.
  • Some studies have suggested that Piracetam can successfully treat mild depression and anxiety.[22]
  • Piracetam’s neuroprotective effects can be seen in it’s ability to produce significant improvements in cognitive function in patients who suffered cerebral trauma. Treatments up to five years after the trauma occured have been shown to produce improvements in memory, focus, and motor functions. [24]
  • Piracetam has been used to treat vertigo and dizziness resulting from head injuries. [39]

Using Piracetam

Many people who are new to nootropics take piracetam and expect to immediately feel smarter. When they take it for a few days and don’t feel any different they often get frustrated and stop. What they fail to realize is that piracetam is most effective not immediately after a single use, but after daily use for a period of at least two weeks. [5] This period of time is different for everyone: some people report it working within a week, others only after three weeks of continuous use. Take it daily for at least 3 weeks before trying to gauge if it’s working for you.

Piracetam can be taken either with food or on an empty stomach, although it is recommended to take it after eating. Staying hydrated while taking piracetam is also important.

It is also recommended that you take a choline supplement along with piracetam. This is for two reasons:

  1. Piracetam use causes the brain to deplete reserves of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine at a faster rate than normal. This is what causes the mild headaches that are sometimes a side effect of piracetam use. Choline is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, so taking choline supplements will allow your body to replentish it’s acetylcholine reserves at a faster rate.
  2. Piracetam has been shown to have synergy with choline. [44] This means that taking a choline supplement along with piracetam will cause it to be more effective than it would be otherwise.

Powder vs. Capsules

If you would like to start taking Piracetam, you have two basic ways to take it; either in capsules or in a bulk powder form. Bulk powder Piracetam is generally cheaper, but less convenient. Most people don’t like the taste of Piracetam powder, however it dissolves is water and the taste is hidden well by just about any type of flavored beverages. In addition with the purchase of a capping machine, the powder can easily be packed into homemade capsules.

How much cheaper is Piracetam in bulk powder as opposed to capsules? On Amazon.com we can see that 500 grams of bulk powder Piracetam costs $29.95 while only 48 grams of Piracetam capsules costs $23.44. This means that Piracetam powder costs $0.06 per gram while capsules cost $0.48 per gram.

Bottom line? Unless you are willing to pay a large premium for convenience, bulk powder Piracetam is a much better deal.

Dosage Information

Piracetam’s safety and low side effect profile make it an extremely easy nootropic to experiement with. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the more you take the more significant your benefits will be. In fact, piracetam’s effectiveness can be mapped as a bell curve, with a specific optimal dose that will provide the greatest effects. This sweet spot is different for everyone and you will probably have to play around with your dosage until you find it. There are some guidelines that can help point you in the right direction, however.

Piracetam has a half-life of about 7.8 hours, with a plasma half-life of 5 hours. If you do not redose, it will completely clear from your body in about 30 hours.

Nootropic communities generally recommend that beginners take a dose of .8 to 1.6 grams taken two or three times a day. If you’ve never tried piracetam before this can be a good place to start. One recent study suggests that the optimal dose may actually be much higher, however. In this study, a single dose of either 2.9G, 4.8G, 9.6G, or a placebo were given to volunteers. Different measures of cognitive function where then measured using EEG potential maps. The study found that the cognitive measures were highest after the 4.8G dose. [43] This provides some direct evidence that taking too much piracetam can be counterproductive. It also suggests that the optimal dose of piracetam may be higher than what is usually reccommended.

The above dosage advice is for those who are taking piracetam for general cognitive improvement. Various studies have suggested other doses when using piracetam
for different reasons:

  • When used to treat clotting or coagulation, a daily dose of 4.8 to 9.6 grams divided into three treatments per day 8 hours apart has been shown to be optimal. (When combined with a usual Warfarin or Heparin regimen) [21]
  • When used to treat closed craniocerebral trauma, one study found a daily dose of between 1.6 – 2.4 grams to be effective. [24]
  • When combined with haloperiodal, a dose of 3.2 grams per day proved much more effective at treating schizophrenia than a treatment of only haloperidol.[25]
  • One study found a significant improvement in verbal learning in healthy adults at a dose of 1.6 grams per day. [5]

For more information on determining your ideal piracetam dosage, see this post.

How Does Piracetam Work?

We still don’t completely understand the pharmacology behind how piracetam works, though we know that it has an influence on mental and vascular functions but that it doesn’t act as a stimulant or sedative. Research has shown that piracetam does the following, however:

  • Piracetam is a positive allosteric modulator, meaning it regulates certain enzymes and proteins by binding to an effector. In this case, piracetam binds to the AMPA receptor, and in doing so increases its activity. [9] It then acts on ion channels or ion carriers to increase neuron excitability. This also explains its low toxicity and lack of inhibitory effects.[10]
  • Studies have shown that piracetam can help restore membrane fluidity of damaged neurons. This allows neurotransmitters to cross the membrane more easily and could explain piracetam’s neuroprotective properties. [45]
  • It has been found to increase oxygen consumption in certain parts of the brain.[8][35]
  • Piracetam also increases the functionality of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine via ACh receptors. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine plays an important role in many mental processes including memory, synaptic plasticity, attention, and decision making. This effect could explain many of piracetam’s cognitive enhancing properties, as well as its effect on synaptic plasticity. This also explains why people taking piracetam use up choline at an abnormally fast rate. Taking choline with piracetam produces a synergistic effect since piracetam now has more fuel to carry out some of its functions. [12]
  • Piracetam also has an effect on NMDA glutamate receptors. These receptors have heavily involved in mental processes related to learning and memory. [11]
  • It appears to increase the rate of synthesis of cytochrome b5, as well as increasing mitochrondrial permiability in certain stages of the Krebs Cycle. [29][30] This is likely the cause of piracetam’s ATP increasing effect.
  • It is thought to increase cell membrane permeability. [11]

Safety and Side Effects of Piracetam

Adverse Side Effects:

Piracetam is extremely safe and well tolerated in even high doses. [13][41] One large trial of high-dose piracetam found no adverse side effects in the group using piracetam when compared to the control group. [41] Countless other studies have reported similar findings.

Some side effects that have been reported include anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and mild headaches. Headaches associated with large doses are caused by the brain expending acetylcholine at a faster rate than usual, and can be allieviated by taking a choline supplement or a drug with cholinergic effects. (Such as Centrophenoxine)

Reactions With Other Medications:

I have been unable to find any evidence of dangerous interactions between piracetam and other medications. There is some speculation that taking piracetam in combination with stimulants such as Amphetamines can cause excitotoxicity, however there doesn’t seem to be any definitive proof one way or another. You should still consult with your physician before taking piracetam with other mediciations, just to be safe.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that piracetam may potentiate certain common drugs such as Caffeine, Alcohol, and THC. On the other hand, some people have reported the opposite. If combining piracetam with these drugs it’s best to start slow to see if piracetam will potentiate them for you or not.

There is considerable evidence that piracetam does potentiate MDMA, and can be effective at preventing MDMA related brain damage. [42]

Risk of Overdose:

Piracetam is so non-toxic it may actually be impossible to overdose on it. Acute toxicity studies were performed in an effort to determine piracetam’s LD50 (the dose which is lethal to 50% of test subjects) in various animals. When given to rats at a dosage of 8 grams per kg of bodyweight it failed to reach an LD50. Similar results were performed in other animals, with the same result. If extrapolated to humans this means that a 154 pound person could take 700 grams of piracetam at once without jeapordizing their life. Of course, doing this would be very stupid, and would probably cause negative side effects far exceeding what can usually be expected.

Tolerance:

I have been unable to find any evidence suggesting that a tolerance forms to piracetam. In fact, because piracetam works best after prolonged periods of daily use it would be very surprising if a tolerance did develop. While some people claim they have developed a tolerance to it, it seems more likely that their brains have just adjusted to operating at a higher cognitive level causing them to feel normal despite still recieving cognitive benefits from the piracetam. If any of these reports were backed up with some quantitative measures of mental performance I would find them much more credible.

Addiction and Withdrawal:

There is no risk of developing an addiction to piracetam. It doesn’t cause a release of dopamine as most addictive drugs do, and produces no high. Withdrawal symptoms are very rarely reported, and tend to be mild. Anxiety and hand tremors are the most commonly reported withdrawal symptoms. The most frustrating part of ceasing a piracetam regimen is “feeling dumb” as its cognitive enhancing effects wear off and the brain’s functioning returns to baseline.

Legality and Availability

Information in this section may be outdated, don’t use us as a source of legal advice.

US / Canada:

Piracetam is legal to possess without a prescription in the US. For many years piracetam was marketed and sold as a nutritional supplement, and vendors were mostly left alone by the FDA. More recently, however, the FDA has sent warning letters to many manufacturers preventing them from selling it as a dietary supplement. Despite many claims of a ban on piracetam, many manufacturers have continued to sell it by not marketing it as a dietary supplement. There has been speculation that the FDA crackdown is in preparation for a play by US pharmecutical companies to gain exclusive rights to sell piracetam, though there hasn’t yet been much evidence to back up these claims.

In Canada it doesn’t seem to be available locally but can be delievered by international mail.

Europe:

Piracetam is legal to possess without a prescription in at least the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, the Ukraine, and the Czech Republic. It is uncontrolled but requires a prescription to purchase in Finland, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands, and Poland. It is illegal to import Piracetam to Finland without prior approval.

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Piracetam FAQ

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about Piracetam. If you have a question that’s not on this list, send it to us at questions@whatarenootropics.com and we will answer it for you.

Should I Take Piracetam?

How Long Does it Take Before I Will Feel the Effects of Piracetam?

What Nootropics Have a Synergistic Effect With Piracetam?

How does Piracetam differ from the other 'racetams?

Can I take Piracetam With Other 'racetams Such as Aniracetam?

Should I Take Choline Supplements With Piracetam?

How Long Does a Single Dose of Piracetam Last?

I've started taking Piracetam and haven't noticed anything. What's wrong?

Is it Possible to Overdose on Piracetam?

Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol While on Piracetam?

Does Piracetam Make a Good Study Drug?

How Much Smarter Will Piracetam Make Me?

How Can I Tell if Piracetam is Working for Me?

Can I Take Piracetam Every Day?

What Are Some Good Alternatives to Piracetam?

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