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Piracetam ball-and-stick.png
Clinical data
Trade namesBreinox, Dinagen, Lucetam, Nootropil, Nootropyl, Oikamid, Piracetam and many others
AHFS/Drugs.comInternational Drug Names
Routes of
By mouth, parenteral, or vaporized
ATC code
Legal status
Legal status
  • AU: S4 (Prescription only)
  • CA: Unscheduled
  • UK: POM (Prescription only)
  • US: Not permitted as drug or supplement
Pharmacokinetic data
Elimination half-life4–5 hr
CAS Number
PubChem CID
ECHA InfoCard100.028.466 Edit this at Wikidata
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass142.16 g/mol
3D model (JSmol)
Melting point152.0 °C (305.6 °F)

Piracetam (sold under many brand names) is a medication in the racetams group, with chemical name 2-oxo-1-pyrrolidine acetamide. It is approved in the United Kingdom[1] but is not approved in the United States.[2][3] In the UK, piracetam is prescribed mainly for myoclonus,[4] but is used off-label for other conditions. Evidence to support its use for many conditions is unclear, although it is marketed as a nootropic (cognitive enhancer). Studies of piracetam's cognitive effects have had equivocal results, sometimes showing modest benefits in specific populations and sometimes showing minimal or no benefit.[5]

It shares the same 2-oxo-pyrrolidone base structure with pyroglutamic acid. Piracetam is a cyclic derivative of GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid). Related drugs include the anticonvulsants levetiracetam and brivaracetam, and the putative nootropics aniracetam and phenylpiracetam.

Medical uses[edit]


A 2001 Cochrane review concluded that there was not enough evidence to support piracetam for dementia or cognitive problems.[6] A 2002 review and 2005 review concluded that piracetam had some positive effects in older patients with these problems.[7][8] In 2008, a working group of the British Academy of Medical Sciences noted that many of the trials of piracetam for dementia were flawed.[9][10]

Depression and anxiety[edit]

Some sources suggest that piracetam's overall effect on lowering depression and anxiety is higher than on improving memory.[11] However, depression is reported to be an occasional adverse effect of piracetam.[12]

Post Concussion Syndrome[edit]

A study published in the Indian Journal of Neurotrauma [13] showed that low dose piracetam successfully reverses cerebral blood flow impairment which might be associated with postconcussion syndrome and may result in subjective symptomatic improvement in patients with postconcussion syndrome.


Peripheral vascular effects of piracetam have suggested its use potential for vertigo, dyslexia and sickle cell anemia.[8] There is no evidence to support piracetam's use in sickle cell crisis prevention.[14]

Side effects[edit]

Piracetam has been found to have very few side effects, and those it has are typically "few, mild, and transient."[15] A large-scale, 12-week trial of high-dose piracetam found no adverse effects occurred in the group taking piracetam as compared to the placebo group.[16] Many other studies have likewise found piracetam to be well tolerated.[15][17][18]

Symptoms of general excitability, including anxiety, insomnia, irritability, headache, agitation, nervousness, tremor, and hyperkinesia, are occasionally reported.[12][19][20] Other reported side effects include somnolence, weight gain, clinical depression, weakness, increased libido, and hypersexuality.[12]


Piracetam does not appear to be acutely toxic at the doses used in human studies.[6][15][17] The LD50 for oral consumption in humans has not been determined.[21] The LD50 is 5.6 g/kg for rats and 20 g/kg for mice, indicating extremely low acute toxicity.[22] For comparison, in rats the LD50 of Vitamin C is 12g/kg and the LD50 of table salt is 3g/kg.

Mechanisms of action[edit]

Piracetam's mechanism of action, as with racetams in general, is not fully understood. The drug influences neuronal and vascular functions and influences cognitive function without acting as a sedative or stimulant.[8] Piracetam is a positive allosteric modulator of the AMPA receptor, although this action is very weak and its clinical effects may not necessarily be mediated by this action.[23] It is hypothesized to act on ion channels or ion carriers, thus leading to increased neuron excitability.[21] GABA brain metabolism and GABA receptors are not affected by piracetam [24]

It has been found to increase blood flow and oxygen consumption in parts of the brain, but this may be a side effect of increased brain activity rather than a primary effect or mechanism of action for the drug.[25]

Piracetam improves the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine via muscarinic cholinergic (ACh) receptors[citation needed], which are implicated in memory processes.[26] Furthermore, piracetam may have an effect on NMDA glutamate receptors, which are involved with learning and memory processes. Piracetam is thought to increase cell membrane permeability.[26][27] Piracetam may exert its global effect on brain neurotransmission via modulation of ion channels (i.e., Na+, K+).[21] It has been found to increase oxygen consumption in the brain, apparently in connection to ATP metabolism, and increases the activity of adenylate kinase in rat brains.[28][29] Piracetam, while in the brain, appears to increase the synthesis of cytochrome b5,[30] which is a part of the electron transport mechanism in mitochondria. But in the brain, it also increases the permeability of some intermediates of the Krebs cycle through the mitochondrial outer membrane.[28]


Piracetam was first made some time between the 1950s and 1964 by Corneliu E. Giurgea.[31] There are reports of it being used for epilepsy in the 1950s.[32]


Piracetam is primarily used in Europe, Asia, and South America.[citation needed] In the United States, it is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for any medical use and it is not permitted to be sold as a dietary supplement. Piracetam is legal to import into the United Kingdom for personal use with or without prescription.[citation needed] Piracetam has no DIN in Canada, and thus cannot be sold but can be imported for personal use in Canada.[33] It has become popular as a cognitive enhancement drug among students.[34]


Piracetam 800 mg tablets

Piracetam is sold under a wide variety of brand names worldwide. Popular trade names for piracetam in Europe are Nootropil and Lucetam, among many others. In Argentina, it is made by GlaxoSmithKline S.A. laboratories and sold under the trade name of Noostan (800 mg or 1200 mg). In Venezuela and Ecuador, piracetam is produced by Laboratorios Farma S.A. and sold under the brand name Breinox. In Mexico it is produced by UCB de Mexico, and sold under the brand name of Nootropil. Other names include Nootropil in the United States, Europe, Brazil, Hong Kong, India, and Mexico; Lucetam, Oikamid, Smart, Geratam, and Biotropil in Europe and Brazil; Neurobasal in Colombia; Breinox in Ecuador and Venezuela; Cerecetam in India; Stimulan in Egypt; and Nocetan in Latin America.

See also[edit]

  • AMPA receptor positive allosteric modulator
  • Aniracetam
  • Brivaracetam — an analogue of piracetam with the same additional side chain as levetiracetam and a three–carbon chain. It exhibits greater antiepileptic properties than levetiracetam in animal models, but with a somewhat smaller, although still high, therapeutic range.
  • Hydergine
  • Levetiracetam — an analogue of piracetam bearing an additional CH3–CH2– sidechain and bearing antiepileptic pharmacological properties through a poorly understood mechanism probably related to its affinity for the vesicle protein SV2A.
  • Oxiracetam
  • Phenylpiracetam — a phenylated analog of the drug piracetam which was developed in 1983 in Russia where it is available as a prescription drug.
  • Pramiracetam


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External links[edit]

  • Dean, Ward; Morgenthaler, John (1990). "Piracetam (Nootropyl)". Excerpts: Smart Drugs & Nutrients. Cognitive Enhancement Research Institute (CERI).
  • Gouliaev, AH; Senning, A (May 1994). "Piracetam and other structurally related nootropics". Brain Research Reviews. 19 (2): 180–222. doi:10.1016/0165-0173(94)90011-6. PMID 8061686.