Piracetam (or 2-oxo-1-pyrrolidineacetamide) is a so-called "smart drug" or nootropic
that was first synthesized in 1964. Structurally, it has many similarities to the amino acid
pyroglutamate and is a derivative of GABA
. It is considered an unscheduled substance
in the United States and has not been approved by the FDA
for human consumption, though in many other countries it has been available over the counter
or on a prescription
basis since the 1970s -- most commonly under the brand name of Nootropil.
The exact neurochemical effect that piracetam has on the brain is still unclear, though most scientific evidence seems to indicate that it facilitates neurochemical reactions involving choline as well as aids in the reception of signals at various neurotransmitter receptors. It has also been suggested that it may increase blood flow to the brain, increase communications between the two hemispheres of the brain, or act as a protective agent against damage to brain tissue and cells.
Typically reported effects of piracetam from the general public are improved memory, improved learning ability, better concentration, and a general "waking up of the brain." In clinical trials it has shown promise in treating some cognitive conditions such as dyslexia and memory loss associated with Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, or simple old age. Side-effects are rarely reported, but can include nausea, headaches, increased anxiety, insomnia, and tremors. No research on any long-term side-effects has been conducted.
Suggested daily dosages vary anywhere between 800mg to 4000mg, usually spread across several doses taken over the course of the day. Given the relatively low occurrence and mild nature of any side-effects, those who begin taking piracetam are typically able to experiment with different amounts and find a dose that is both effective and comfortable within several weeks. Anecdotal evidence suggests that new users may wish to take a higher dose for the first few days if they wish to feel immediate effects. A synergistic effect is frequently observable in piracetam users who also take a choline or hydergine supplement.