Sifting through paperwork, research data, and biochemistry books, Dr. Corneliu Giurgea grew steadily more excited. The latest project he’d been working on for the Belgian pharmaceutical company, UCB, was almost completed and the results were promising.
Of course, the drug Giurgea was synthesizing is commonly referred to as piracetam today and it was the first in the line of racetam smart drugs, which are now popular amongst nootropic enthusiasts, beginners, and Alzheimer’s patients alike.
Since 1964, many other well-respected scientists have picked up the torch left behind by Giurgea and created various other racetams that all have similar structures, but varied psychoactive effects within the brain.
A racetam is classified as a synthetic drug that share a similar chemical structure with a “pyrrolidone nucleus”. This may be more science than you care to learn, but just keep in mind there is a chemical reason the racetams are classified by that name!
What was the First Racetam?
The first racetam synthesized by Romanian scientist, Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, is now one of the most commonly searched nootropic compounds in the world. Piracetam was a novel drug, which had promise (and still does) for neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Although piracetam has lost much of its appeal compared to newer racetams within the family, if you continue reading below, you will find a new perspective on piracetam that might change how you experience the drug.
Best Racetams: Which are Popular?
Over the past 53 years, great biochemists, pharmacologists, and researchers have developed new racetams to add to the family.
All structurally similar, many of them never saw the light of day. Others had little preliminary research, but large bodies of anecdotal evidence from eager Reddit and Longecity nootropic users willing to test new compounds on themselves.
This grand-daddy of the racetam family is still the most popular and well-respected within the class of drugs. This stems primarily from the 53 years of research and over 120 published papers on the subject. Most people start off with piracetam, but many are deterred by the high doses and lack of subjective “feeling” (i.e: stimulation of some sort).
This is often because people do not take large enough doses of piracetam. One great analysis on Longecity , showed how piracetam studies all show human benefits on higher doses than most people consume. According to the evidence, people should take around 10 grams of piracetam daily to be comparable to the piracetam studies showing cognitive enhancement.
Considering most people take 1500 – 3600 mg per day, it’s no wonder they do not feel any effects.
The second iteration in the racetam family was aniracetam, which developed popularity because it entered the bloodstream quickly, provided a stimulatory effect to many, and was fat soluble. Although it has far fewer studies than piracetam, this drug is probably the second most well-studied racetam and thus very popular.
Aniracetam is novel because it has far-reaching cognitive effects. While initially developed for memory formation and learning ability (as with most racetams), many anecdotal reports claim increased creativity and holistic thinking while utilizing aniracetam.
In fact, when we interviewed Smart Drug Smarts founder, Jesse Lawler, he said “…for creativity, I really like aniracetam…” 
This drug seems to have the most promise for neuroprotection and recovering from neurological trauma. Oxiracetam was a more recent discovery and seems to enhance long-term potentiation (LTP) memory formation . This is somewhat novel for racetams and oxiracetam is widely considered both stimulatory and memory enhancing.
One study comparing oxiracetam and piracetam showed that 5 days of oxiracetam treatment (half the dose of piracetam) was able to enhance memory formation better than piracetam , which was confirmed by a later study as well . These studies comparing oxiracetam vs. piracetam are seen by some as evidence that oxiracetam is superior. For some reason, oxiracetam is anecdotally one of the best nootropics for programming.
Even though nefiracetam has nearly 100 studies on the efficacy of the drug for neuroprotection and cognitive enhancement, it is not popular amongst most nootropic users. It seems the risks of nefiracetam outweigh the costs (such as testicular toxicity, kidney pain, headaches) , which has made it a less favorable candidate compared to the other racetams.
Nefiracetam is also where the mechanism of action changes for the racetam drugs. Piracetam, aniracetam, and oxiracetam are all classified as positive AMPA modulators, but nefiracetam is a bit different.
One of the most popular and successful nootropic drugs in the racetam family today is called phenylpiracetam. This drug is structurally nothing more than piracetam combined with a “phenyl” group, but this has drastic consequences for the mechanism within the body.
Phenylpiracetam is highly stimulatory in most subjects, which is one of the reasons it is banned by the Olympic Anti-Doping Agency . There isn’t much scientific literature showing the stimulatory benefits of phenylpiracetam, but one learning study inadvertently noted sleep disturbances due to psychostimulation .
Most evidence for focus benefits is anecdotal, but the drug is highly popular on nootropic communities and the stores that supply them. One unfortunate characteristic of phenylpiracetam is quick tolerance to the drug. To avoid tolerance, it is best to take 2-300 mg a day only 1 – 2 times per week.
While structurally similar to piracetam, coluracetam has a different mechanism of action altogether. Through a process known as “high affinity choline uptake” (HACU), the coluracetam nootropic helps impaired neurons retain choline and thus improves memory retention.
Most studies of coluracetam focus on using the drug for preventing memory decline after adding toxins, but anecdotal reports suggest it can be stimulating and boosts creativity. Many people use coluracetam sublingually for easier administration.
Another iteration of the racetam line of drugs is pramiracetam, which is one of the worst tasting compounds that will ever touch the inside of your mouth (make sure to buy capsules). In any case, pramiracetam is also known as a high affinity choline uptake (HACU) enhancing drug and was developed in the 1980s as a more potent form of piracetam .
As of 2017, fasoracetam is one of the most unique and newest racetam drugs. Although many of the family are considered to be stimulatory, fasoracetam is actually studied for focus and concentration benefits. A study on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder suggests fasoracetam may be helpful for ADHD patients .
What is novel about fasoracetam is the ability to affect both memory formation and learning (as is the case with the entire racetam line), but also increase stimulation and focus.
Noopept the Best Racetam?
Despite being popular as a nootropic compound and synonymous with piracetam, noopept is not actually considered to be a racetam. As the name suggests, it is structurally different than the racetams despite having similar impacts on the brain.
Most of the scientific literature even compares noopept to piracetam and is considered approximately 1000 times more potent than piracetam (by dosage) , but if you want to get technical, noopept does not have a 2-oxopyrollidine skeleton so isn’t really a racetam.
Racetam Trade Off: Research vs. Experience
Before deciding which of the racetam family you want to begin, it’s important to consider a distinction between many of the racetams. While the family of drugs is generally considered safe, some are far more well-researched than the others.
For example, piracetam and aniracetam have lots of data supporting their use not only in animals, but also in humans. More importantly, not only in humans with diseases or some type of mental impairment, but also healthy adults.
Some of the other racetams, such as phenylpiracetam or fasoracetam, might be considered the best racetam within some nootropic communities, but they do not have the scientific literature to back that up.
If you feel comfortable in making that trade off, then proceed with whichever racetam you believe is best for your needs and desires.
Choose Your Racetam: Editor’s Note
My personal experience with racetams has been a mixed bag. The first attempts with aniracetam and oxiracetam were relatively positive, but not overly so. Even though it was probably my fault for taking a low dose, the effects were subtle at best and I did no long-term testing to see whether my memory was getting any better.
With aniracetam and oxiracetam I did notice things were a lot clearer. I was doing jiu-jitsu at the time and it felt like I was more creative in escapes, getting more submissions, and trying new things. It seemed almost like a small microdose of psychedelics.
Lately, I’ve added phenylpiracetam once or twice per week and it is now the only racetam I still use regularly. It’s stimulating, but in a different way to caffeine. It is a great way to cycle off of caffeine and it is generally a powerful nootropic.
For most beginners, I’d suggest choose whatever sounds best for you, but make sure to start at low doses. For phenylpiracetam the dosage goes all the way to 600 mg and I’d jump out of my skin if I took that (even now). I started with 100 mg and only take 300 mg now.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
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