What Is Piracetam?
Piracetam side effects are typically mild in nature, and over the long-term, never manifest an overzealous cumulative effect. Piracetam is a nootropic drug, which is a class of cognitive enhancing supplements designed to improve concentration and boost memory. Nootropic supplements are most used to increase attention spans and help individuals focus when studying or performing a job. Piracetam was one of the first racetams developed in this line of supplements and has a long history of use in the medical field; however, it is not registered in North America.
Piracetam was first created in 1964 by a Belgian scientist working at a pharmaceutical company. The drug was actually found by accident as the study being conducted was to find a cure for motion sickness. What was found is that a nootropic substance has the ability to boost mental functioning. Corneliu E. Giurgea coined the term, nootropic to describe it and other substances he discovered held the properties to enhance cognitive impairment. Piracetam was first launched clinically by UCB in the 1970s and is still currently used in many European countries.
The studies on Piracetam for treating neurological disorders have shown positive results, however, not enough for it to be approved as a treatment in the United States. There is evidence it improves symptoms in Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients but is not approved therapy as it does not show it will fully reverse either of these conditions. Due to these results, Piracetam is mainly an off-label product. It has been used for decades now as an agent to increase cognition and memory. Some of its benefits are:
- Greater focus
- Heightened Sensory Function
- Reduced Anxiety/Depression
- Improved Vasodilation
- Reduced Brain Trauma
- Increased Memory
- Improved Learning
One of Piracetam’s most widely reported benefit is an increase in sensory perception. This is a result of an increase in the Acetylcholine neurotransmitter in the brain. While many people have reported it has been effective for them to fight depression and anxiety, it has not been approved as a treatment.
Piracetam has been reported to provide a range of cognitive social, mood and physical benefits:
- Concentration – Piracetam is said to cross the blood-brain barrier and interact with acetylcholine and glutamate receptors. These are areas in the brain responsible for memory and cognition. Specific effects vary from person to person as some reports claim only a subtle increase in memory while others report being able to remember even the smallest details.
- Moods – A benefit of Piracetam has heightened motivation as users claim they experience both physical and mental energy increases. Its benefits against depression have also been documented. Research shows cerebrovascular disease can cause depression symptoms and when Piracetam is taken it improves the circulation in the brain, lessening depression.
- Sensory Perception – Reports show an increase in acetylcholine activity due to Piracetam use. It is said users experience improvement in distinguishing touch, smell, and sight. They further say they have an increased ability to recall previous auditory, olfactory and visual experiences. This is often one of the first effects noticed when a person starts taking Piracetam, especially the increase of colors as they appear to be more vibrant.
- Reading Disorders and Dyslexia – The European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry published a paper stating that Piracetam had a significant impact on children with reading disorders. They conducted a study of over 600 children with dyslexia, and in seven double-blind results, it was shown to have improved both verbal reasoning and reading comprehension.
- Old Age – One of the most dramatic effects of Piracetam is found by people suffering from cognitive degeneration. Slowing of cognitive decline and better short term memory has been widely reported by older patients taking this supplement. It has also shown positive results in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
- Oxygenation – After taking Piracetam it is noted the oxygen utilization in the brain increases. This will aid in fighting fatigue and increase a person’s attention span. It is said to possibly aid in preventing damage to neurons due to cerebrovascular insufficiency. Some have claimed Piracetam will even aid in fighting alcoholism.
- Memory and Learning – This is the most commonly reported benefit and reason for using Piracetam. In 1976 journals like the Psychopharmacology began to note that daily use of this supplement above 1200mg could cause noted improvements in working memory and recall. In 1991, the New Zealand Journal conducted a study which found Piracetam helps memory and new learning. Their study also showed the supplement improved cholinergic activity.
There is a large range of effective dosages for users of Piracetam. A low baseline dose would be 400mg and is the bottom of dosage amounts listed. A dose of 800mg is considered a medium dosage and often taken in a single sitting. This amount can be taken up to three times a day with zero toxicity effects. People who are just starting out with this supplement may need to increase their dose initially to receive any of the benefits. This can be done by:
- Beginning with an “attack dose” or as sometimes called a “loading dose.” This is a common practice with supplements which includes doubling or tripling doses for a short period of time then resuming a normal dosage pattern.
- The other method would be to take Piracetam and let the effects build up over a three week period. Sticking to a lower dose of 1200-1600mg per day will allow for the supplement to build up effects.
Studies have been done to find what the best dose to receive the best benefits is. The results are once a person has established tolerability, a higher dose will have more effect than a lower dose. The most common dose of 4 grams has reported providing the most benefits. The effects do take approximately one to four hours to show, so you do have to plan your day accordingly.
Piracetam can be taken in either powder form or a pill. The taste of raw Piracetam is said to be quite bitter when taken as a powder, leaving many to prefer the pill method.
There have been a limited number of side effects reported for Piracetam. There are some that can occur, but usually only when a patient is taking a high dosage of the supplement. There is limited data available to indicate Piracetam has led to any fatalities or serious health complications. These are some of the common side effects that can occur in higher doses:
- Gastrointestinal issues
Some of these side effects have been sited to be caused by ACH receptor “burning out.” This is caused by a supplement with a choline source which is contained in Piracetam. If any of these side effects are occurring, the user should discontinue taking the supplement
There are limited drug interactions experienced with Piracetam; however, when anyone is taking any other medications they should always check with their physician before beginning use of this supplement. Tolerance for the supplement appears to be low. It can be taken for months without any signs of tolerance build up. There are also no signs of withdrawal symptoms being present when the use of Piracetam is discontinued.
Are Side Effects Common?
Not all of Piracetam’s mechanisms are known yet, but it is showing to work by improving the permeability of cell membranes. It improves the delivery and dispersal of oxygen to cells in the brain. Increased circulation to neural tissues has also been observed. Better circulation keeps tissues healthy enabling protection against normal damage and decay which occurs as one age. When cell membranes are healthy they also protect against hypoxia and can prevent or reduce the risk of brain conditions such as stokes.
Piracetam can also affect brain glucose levels. Increased metabolism of glucose can result in mental energy levels increasing and also heighten alertness. This supplement has also been shown to increase the cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate) levels in the brain, which improves the mitochondria in aging adults.
According to a report in the journal Pharmacology in 1993, Piracetam creates interactivity of L-glutamate and NMDA receptors in the brain. This site of the human brain is what regulates memory and stimulates growth. The report stated this is a key factor in what enables Piracetam to be effective in the prevention of age-related cognitive decline.
Long-Term Use And Short-Term Use
There have been no side effects found for users of Piracetam over the long term. Some cases have found over time patients may develop a tolerance to the supplement and notice a decline in its benefits. The short term effect would be all the benefits listed above.
A meta-analysis was conducted using nineteen double-blind, placebo-controlled studies with Piracetam in patients suffering from dementia or cognitive impairment in the elderly. There was a common outcome measure in these studies to check for an impression of change and see if there was any clinically meaningful improvement. The results of the meta-analysis did demonstrate a difference between those patients given the Piracetam and those given a placebo. While the results did state there may be problems in interpreting the statistical results, the analysis did provide compelling evidence that Piracetam has global efficacy in a diverse group of older subjects suffering from cognitive impairment. The study also showed this supplement offers limited benefits for healthy people.
Is Piracetam Legal?
Piracetam has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in medical contexts. This is only due to their lack of formal testing, not for product safety. Other countries have approved this supplement for human use and have been using it for decades. Their doctors regularly prescribe Piracetam to their patients. It is not a controlled substance, therefore it is legal to possess, consume and buy for human use.
Most reviews of Piracetam are favorable. It is called a tolerable and easy to take a supplement with few side effects. It is sometimes hard to determine a baseline; overdose effects have almost never been reported. Those who have left reviews say:
- The best benefit noticed after taking Piracetam were related to memory. I was able to recall images, names, and experiences with better detail. There were even memories from my childhood I suddenly remembered.
- Sometimes when sitting in a classroom I would just feel “foggy.” After taking Piracetam I began to feel more involved with my class and found I was able to focus better during lessons.
- I often dream at night but have never really been able to remember the details of the dreams. When I began to take Piracetam I would wake up with total recall of my dreams that night. My dreams have become more lifelike and detailed.
Side effects of Piracetam are entirely mild and are not something one should worry about whilst using the drug. While the U.S. has not yet listed this supplement as a medical aid too many cognitive dysfunctions, it appears many other countries have performed studies and support its use. I would find Piracetam a supplement to try if experiencing any mental struggles. The studies and the reviews read on this supplement clearly state it is able to improve mental clarity.