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From the book Smart Drugs & Nutrients, copyright (c) 1990. Used with permission.

Excerpts from Smart Drugs & Nutrients

Piracetam (Nootropyl)

by Ward Dean, M.D., and John Morgenthaler

Piracetam is reported to be an intelligence booster and CNS (central nervous system) stimulant with no known toxicity or addictive properties. Piracetam is inexpensive (under $0.85 per day) and available by mail (see appendix A). The subjective effect described by some people is that piracetam, “wakes up your brain.” You'll find more personal accounts of the effects of this remarkable drug in the case histories and testimonials appendix. It's effects and safety are so impressive that piracetam prompted the creation of a new pharmaceutical category called nootropics.

The term nootropic comes from a Greek word meaning “acting on the mind.” Since the invention of piracetam by UCB Laboratories in Belgium, other pharmaceutical companies have been scrambling to develop their own nootropics. Some of them being researched now include; vinpocetine, aniracetam, pramiracetam, and oxiracetam. As yet, there is no nootropic compound that is FDA approved for sale in the US, but there is plenty of motivation on the part of pharmaceutical companies to get that approval. Financial analysts expect that the US market for these cognitive enhancers will soon be in excess of $1-billion per year (Pelton, 1989).

Piracetam is very similar in molecular structure to the amino acid pyroglutamate (see Pyroglutamate). Piracetam and pyroglutamate have the same “base” chemical structure, the 2-oxo-pyrrolidine, but they differ by the side chain. Pyroglutamate is 2-oxo-pyrrolidine carboxylic acid, and piracetam is 2-oxo-pyrrolidine acetamide.

Piracetam enhances cognition under conditions of hypoxia (too little oxygen), and also enhances memory and some kinds of learning in normal humans. Outside of the US, piracetam is used to treat alcoholism, stroke, vertigo, senile dementia, sickle cell anemia, dyslexia, and numerous other health problems (Pelton, 1989).

One of the most intriguing effects of piracetam is that it promotes the flow of information between the right and left hemispheres of the brain (Buresova, 1976). We know that the communication between the two sides of the brain is associated with flashes of creativity. This may also be the basis for piracetam's usefulness in the treatment of dyslexia (Dilanni, 1985).

The effect of piracetam can be increased if taken with DMAE, centrophenoxine, choline, or Hydergine. When choline and piracetam are taken together there is a synergistic effect that causes a greater improvement in memory than the sum of each when taken alone (Bartus, 1981).

We know of one person who claims she feels slightly agitated and depressed if she takes piracetam for more than a week without a choline supplement. This feeling is alleviated for her with a single dose of choline. It may be that the piracetam causes acetylcholine to be used up more quickly and that the choline helps to replace this important neurotransmitter.

One fascinating study suggests that piracetam might increase the number of cholinergic receptors in the brain. Older mice were given piracetam for two weeks and then the density of muscarinic cholinergic receptors in their frontal cortexes was measured. The researchers found that these older mice had 30-40% higher density of these receptors than before (Pilch, 1988). Piracetam, unlike many other drugs, appears to have a regenerative effect on the nervous system.

One theory of Alzheimer's disease is that the decline of intellectual functions is partly caused by a decreased activity of the cholinergic system in the brain caused by cell death and cell degeneration. The researchers in the above study speculated that their findings could explain how piracetam works and could also explain the finding of Bartus, et. al. regarding a profound effect of combining choline with piracetam on memory enhancement of old rats.

As mentioned previously the late drug researcher Arthur Cherkin related to us that he believed the combination of Hydergine and piracetam potentiate each other by five times. This highlights the importance of adjusting the dosage when multiple substances are taken because, some of these substances will cause paradoxical effects when excessive amounts are taken.

Although piracetam is a derivative of GABA (gamma amino butyric acid, a neurotransmitter), there is no evidence that piracetam works through the GABAergic system. Some research even suggests GABA may even inhibit memory and learning (Zhang, 1989).

Precautions: Piracetam may increase the effects of certain drugs, such as amphetamines, psychotropics, and Hydergine, as stated. Adverse effects are rare but include insomnia, psychomotor agitation, nausea, gastrointestinal distress, and headaches. Piracetam has virtually no known toxicity or contraindications.

Dosage: Piracetam is supplied in 400 mg or 800 mg capsules or tablets. The usual dose is 2400 to 4800 mg per day in three divided doses. Some literature recommends a high “attack” dose be taken for the first two days. We have noticed that often when people first take piracetam they do not notice any effect at all until they take a high dose (approximately 4000 to 8000 mg). Thereafter, they may notice that a lower dosage is sufficient. Piracetam takes effect within 30 to 60 minutes.

Sources: Piracetam is not sold in the US. It can be purchased over the counter in Mexico or by mail from the sources listed in Appendix A. Other names include: Avigilen, Cerebroforte, Cerebrospan, Cetam, Dinagen, Encefalux, Encetrop, Euvifor, Gabacet, Genogris, Memo-Puren, Nootron, Nootrop, Nootropil, Nootropyl, Normabrain, Norzetam, Pirroxil, Psycotron, Stimucortex, and UCB-6215.

APPENDIX D: Testimonials & Case Histories

Testimonials and case histories are always suspect in scientific circles. This is because the human mind is so powerful at producing the placebo effect. Humans repeatedly experience powerful drug effects from taking inactive substances when they believe that the substances are drugs. That is why we rely on references to scientific research for the information we present.

We include this appendix of testimonials and case histories so that you may orient yourself as to which substances you would like to try. If you would like to share your experiences with us, whether they are similar or different than the ones described here, please feel free to write to the authors c/o

B&J Publications, PO Box 483, Santa Cruz, CA 95061-0483.
[This address is no longer valid.]


“My secretary responded so well to piracetam (at doses of only 800 mg) that I decided to give her a small raise so she could afford it. She takes piracetam instead of heading for the coffee machine. Every day she takes it she is decidedly more alert, and intelligent acting and she smiles more. She is overall a much better employee. She says it wakes up her brain.” ——JM

“Piracetam keeps me alert when I am driving. It also helps me to formulate new and different ideas when I am taking essay tests in school.” ——DB

“I liked piracetam so much that I decided to try it with vincamine and xanthinol nicotinate. I took standard doses of all three — 2400 mg of piracetam, 20 mg of vincamine, and 300 mg of xanthinol nicotinate. I actually felt stupid! I had the ‘right on the tip of my tongue’ response for hours. Recently a friend suggested that I combine Hydergine with piracetam, explaining that the two synergize each other, and that I should try a small dose of each. I had tried Hydergine years ago and liked it a lot, but found it prohibitively expensive. I decided to experiment with these two in combination with ginkgo biloba. I started with what I thought were very small quantities, 1/4 mg of Hydergine, 200 mg of piracetam, and 50 mg of ginkgo, but found the combination to be extraordinary. I've tried many different cognitive enhancers, but this low-cost, low-dose combination is my favorite.” ——BP

“I started taking piracetam with choline about a year ago and have found this combination to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. I no longer get extreme mood swings, I am much happier in general, and my concentration and speaking ability is better. I also found that my relationships with family and friends have improved, probably due to my increased self confidence.” ——HH

“I took two grams of piracetam and, after 30 minutes, I began to find my boyfriend much more sexually attractive. I assumed this was as fluke since I had never heard of this effect from piracetam. Since this experience I have taken piracetam every day for two months and every time, without fail, it has the same effect. Piracetam has vastly improved my sex life.” ——DB

“Intelligence is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” ——Tim Leary