Piracetam: Review of the Benefits, Dosage, & Side Effects
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Mon 24 September 2018
Medical Review by Dr. Stefano Pizzo, MD
What is Piracetam: Sold with brand names Nootropil, Memotopril, and Nootropyl, Piracetam was the first ever created nootropic compound. It can be obtained without prescription in US, but many European countries require one to be able to purchase it.
Piracetam was first synthesized in 1964 by a Romanian chemist, Corneliu E. Giurgea, who worked in a Belgian company by the name of UCB phrama to create medication that would enhance cognitive abilities without having sedative or stimulative effects.
The synthesis of Piracetam marked the creation of the first ever racetam compound and sparked the existence of the field of nootropics (medicine and supplements used for cognitive enhancement).
Piracetam (2-oxo-1-pyrrolidine acetamide) is purely synthetic and it does not appear naturally in any food or plant source.
Table of Contents
How Does Piracetam Work
The exact mechanism of action behind the benefits of Piracetam isn’t fully known.
It is a cyclical GABA-analogue, yet it doesn’t seem to affect the actual brain GABA-receptors or the activity of the neurotransmitter. And unlike many other nootropic smart drugs, Piracetam has no known stimulative or sedative effects.
The general consensus among researchers is that Piracetam works by modulating the AMPA and NDMA receptors of the brain, which enhances learning and memory processing.
It also appears to increase the usability of the brain neurotransmitter; acetylcholine, by increasing its uptake at the ACh receptors.
Due to Piracetam’s anti-thrombotic and vasodilator effects, it is often also prescribed for use before and after strokes to prevent future strokes and minimize the brain damage caused by ischemic-strokes.
Piracetam works by increasing the sensitivity and density of AMPA and NDMA-receptors as well as increasing the uptake of acetylcholine at its receptor sites.
Piracetam Benefits and Research
Piracetam is one of the most researched nootropic compounds in the world.
in test-tubes and rodents, Piracetam has been found to increase brain oxygen consumption, resulting in increased usage of glucose as metabolic fuel. These results were later successfully replicated with humans.
Piracetam increases the expression of brain NDMA-receptors (associated with memory and learning) and the density and sensitivity of brain AMPA-receptors (associated with synaptic signalling and memory storage).
In a study of 16 healthy-men, 1200mg’s of daily Piracetam was associated with significantly better performances in a backwards word-recall test when compared to placebo, suggesting that it enhances short-term memory.
During a 21-day study on healthy humans, 4.8g/day of Piracetam was able to improve the measures of verbal learning by 8.6% when compared to placebo.
The same 4.8g/day dosage has been found to improve overall cognitive abilities in various of brain tests in elderly people.
On learning disordered kids and young teens, Piracetam administration has been found to increase markers of verbal learning and comprehension.
In patients with age-related dementia, Piracetam is able to reduce the cognitive decline.
Piracetam is well-researched and proven to elicit a whole host of cognitive benefits in humans.
Piracetam Dosage and How to Take
The standard Piracetam dosage is 1200-4800mg per day. This is also the dose range that has been proven to work in clinical studies.
Since Piracetam has a plasma half-life of about 5 hours, it’s recommended to take it 2-3 times a day, depending on what you’re looking to achieve with the ingestion (for someone using it to boost cognitive performance at work or studying, obviously take it before such tasks).
One interesting thing is that some in their book “Smart Drugs and Nutrients“, two neuroscientists recommend taking a “Piracetam attack dose” (a higher dosage taken first time to amplify the effects). This makes some sense as most racetams have a cumulative effect and it can take some time before the neurons are saturated with the compound.
This so called attack dosage ranges from 2x to 5x of the standard recommended amount and the idea is just to purposefully over-stimulate the neurons for increased synaptic receptor sensitivity.
Piracetam is water-soluble, so it can be taken on an empty stomach without food. However, eating does not hamper its absorption.
Since Piracetam also increases the usage of acetylcholine, it also depletes the brain from its main building block; choline. Because of this, one should always co-supplement with a source of choline when using any racetam or smart drug. This enhances the benefits and reduces the possibility of headache-related side effects.
Would I recommend this type of attack dosage for first time users? For the majority of smart drugs, no. Piracetam however, has a very low side effect risk so it might be worth a try on this particular nootropic. Just remember to also use choline and drink plenty of water.
Piracetam Side Effects and Tolerance
Piracetam is considered one of the safest nootropics, and thus often recommended for beginners as their first smart drug to try.
Some known adverse effects are disturbances in sleep, drowsiness, and feelings of irritability, but these are considered extremely rare and short in duration.
Massive doses of Piracetam fed to animals have also yielded no conclusive signs of toxicity at dosages up to 10g/kg.
Anecdotally, some users report feelings of “brain fog” after consumption of racetam class nootropics. This is often explained to be caused by insufficient choline intake and not drinking enough water with the nootropics.
There appears to be no tolerance build up for Piracetam, at least according to anecdotes and scientific studies that use the compound daily for 6-12 months. It’s also considered to be a non-addictive substance.
Piracetam is regarded as one of the safest smart drugs, with no known toxicity, tolerance build up, or serious side effects. Just always remember to use choline and drink plenty of water while using nootropics.
NOTE: Learn more about nootropics from the Smart Drug Crash Course.