Racetams often thought of as being part of the smart drug craze since the millennium, and especially since the rise of the Internet. However, the first racetam was actually synthesized way back in 1964 by a Belgian pharmaceutical company.
Piracetam was the first racetam, and it was developed to try and deal with people who suffer from motion sickness. So nothing sinister at all, just trying to solve a minor everyday problem.
It was discovered during trials that recipients were finding elevated levels of cognition and focus.
Seeing the potential, the company (UCB Pharma) released piracetam under the name “Nootropil” during the early 1970s.
So as you can see, racetams have been around quite a while. Every single one was developed to solve the problem, but not all of them work in the same way at all. That’s why it’s sometimes difficult to understand how they work, and which one is best for you.
Whether you are looking for the best racetam for anxiety relief, for focus and motivation, the higher energy levels, for cognitive sharpness, or even if you are struggling with the condition like ADHD, it can be complex to determine whether this synthetic smart drug class could work for you.
What Defines A “Racetam”?
The original racetam was Piracetam. Developed in 1964, it was intended to be a calming drug to help with motion sickness.
It was designed to interact with a neurotransmitter in the body called GABA. However, it was found that it doesn’t actually interact with this neurotransmitter, but it still had a calming effect.
Since then, there have been dozens of derivatives of this original chemical construction.
All of them are similar in structure chemically, but not the same as the original. They have been designed for a range of purposes.
The definition is that every racetam construction is synthetic, and shares the core chemical structure of a pyrrolidone nucleus.
How Racetams Work
Although they share the same nucleus at the heart of their construction, these artificial chemicals all work in slightly different ways. That’s why they have different effects.
So what I’m going to do here is talk you through the top seven racetams to give you an overview of how each works, and what each delivers as a nootropic effect.
Apart from the nucleus, all of these drugs alter acetylcholine levels in the brain.
So it’s essential that you take a good quality choline supplement when ever you use any racetams to avoid unwanted side effects such as headaches.
Alpha-GPC and CDP-Choline are both widely available to buy at reasonable prices, and are easy to stack with any of these racetams.
The Top 7 Racetams & Their Effects
Here are the top seven most popular racetams. Each you’ll quickly learn how they work, and what the positive effects they can bring to you are.
So whether you are looking for the best racetam for anxiety, motivation, studying (widely talked about on Reddit), or for increased physical energy levels, or even dealing with ADHD symptoms, this list will tell you exactly what you need.
This is the original and first proper nootropic drug developed and now widely available. First synthesized way back in 1964, it’s been used ever since as the basis for other racetam chemicals.
It’s a derivative of the neurotransmitter GABA, but doesn’t actually interact with that neurotransmitter in the body.
Although it was designed to calm, it was found it didn’t really do that very well.
But what Piracetam was observed to do was to boost cognitive levels significantly, especially in healthy people.
It works by modulating the AMPA and NMDA receptors in the brain. Doing this helps to increase the effectiveness of glutamate.
Glutamate allows nerve cells to more efficiently transmit data between themselves. It’s the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter the body users.
It also improves the flow of ACh, as well as increasing the density and the overall sensitivity of those receptors. Alongside this, cerebral blood flow has been observed to elevate as well.
The thing is, people get disappointed using this drug. But they are not taking correctly.
You have to use it every day for at least two weeks to get the best level of effects. It’s also fat soluble, in common with the other drugs in this class.
Doses are high, around 1500 mg each, dosed at three times per day because of the short half life.
Many hard-core neurohackers suggest you use double this dose for the first three days, which they call an attack dose.
But after this two week period, you should notice significant effects:
- Improved mood
- Overall feeling of well-being
- Lower levels of anxiety
- Higher creativity levels
- Better verbal fluency
- Improved memory recall
- Improves memory formation
- Improved memory retention
Overall the father of all racetams isn’t actually that potent, and you have to take it at very high doses.
But, it’s perfect for beginners who want to get a sense of the potency of these chemicals. With nearly 40 years of human research, minimal side effects and no signals of long-term problems, it’s the perfect thing to try for a month or so before moving on to experiment with more potent modern variants.
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Aniracetam is fat soluble, and was developed in 1978. The fact it’s fat soluble is important, because unless you take it with a source of fat, it won’t dissolve properly and you won’t get the full effects.
It boosts the effectiveness of glutamate, and basically works in the same way as the original piracetam.
However, it’s more potent, and the levels of clarity, memory, comprehension, and focus you will get a far in excess of several other drugs in this class.
Interestingly, this is one of the few racetams that can lower anxiety, it works as an anxiolytic.
So it’s one to consider trying. Again though, you’ll have to take it over several days to start getting the effects properly, and you’ll need to dose it at 750 mg twice per day.
You’re going to love the experience of this, and I really advise you to give it a try.
A more modern construction, Coluracetam was developed in Japan around 2005.
It works by boosting your brain’s ability to convert choline into higher amounts of ACh.
This leads to an overall increase in learning and memory functions. Again, it increases the level of glutamate and its effectiveness.
Coluracetam is so named because as well as enhancing cognitive abilities, it also enhances sound and color. But it’s important to note that this isn’t within the context of getting you high and tripping.
Most people take around 80 mg per day, in one or two doses. However, for an all round daily improvement, a morning dose of 40 mg, followed by an afternoon dose of 40 mg is what I have found to be the most effective level and spacing.
I know, some of the names of these drugs can be weird, and Nefiracetam is right up there.
Developed in the 1990s, it was originally hoped to work as a treatment for cerebral vascular disorders.
Again, boosts the levels of GABA and glutamate. This produces calming, while also inducing focus, mental clarity, boosted learning, and better memory function.
Many people enjoy this racetam because of its calming effects. It’s perfect for social anxiety problems.
This is because it enhances the signaling of GABA on the GABA receptors when levels are low. On the other side of that, it helps to suppress GABA when it’s too high. This leads to a more balanced mood and feelings of calmness.
One study in humans, dosing between 600 mg and 900 mg per day over 12 weeks, had significant results.
From 159 people in the study, 95% of them reported a noticeable improvement in mood, and feelings of balance and satisfaction in what were significantly depressed people (they were stroke patients who were struggling to deal with the physical and emotional side effects).
Overall Nefiracetam benefits:
- Improved mood balance
- Ability to improve cognitive function
- Longer attention span
- Higher levels of motivation
- Lower mental fatigue
Also, as with some of the other racetams, it has the ability to enhance your visual range. It broadens the processing spectrum visually, making things around you look more vibrant and sharply focused.
So I advise you to get your hands on some of this and give it a trial. Up to 900 mg per day is acceptable, but I would dose once in the morning, and once in the afternoon at around 400 mg.
Next on the list is Oxiracetam. It was third in line for development, which took place in 1977.
It uses a slightly different method of action (choline-acetyltransferase in the brain) to produce higher levels of acetylcholine.
In addition, it levels up the density of sites for neurotransmitters to bind on AMPA receptors. The result of this is a mild stimulant effect. But wonderfully, this mild stimulation both physically and mentally doesn’t come with the physical and mental side effects we often associate with stimulants (even caffeine at higher doses).
Overall, these are the wonderful benefits that Oxiracetam:
- Removes brain fog
- Improves motivation
- Increases ability to focus on tasks
- Improves learning ability
- Better memory formation and recall
- More positive outlook and emotions
- Reading more quickly and thoroughly
- Improved information comprehension
- Improved linguistic skills
This is a fantastic all-round nootropic. Again, you will have to take this for a couple of weeks every day to really get the true effects, but even after a single day you should get some idea.
Top dose for this is 1500 mg per day, but I wouldn’t really advise going higher than 1000. Split into two doses around six hours apart.
This was created in the early 1980s by adding a phenyl group to the original Piracetam structure.
It was created to boost physical and mental performance levels. Specifically, for use by cosmonauts during spaceflight. It’s allegedly still used by cosmonauts on the international space station.
It’s a stimulant, and can produce athletic performance benefits. It’s banned by the world anti-doping agency, and isn’t allowed in any major sports.
So this is a slightly different racetam in structure and effects. Overall, you’ll get the following benefits:
- Lessens anxiety
- Raises you out of depressive feelings
- Minimizes fear
- Retains calmness with alertness
- Improves all cognitive abilities
- Increases focus and clarity
Phenylpiracetam works by increasing the density of several key receptors in the brain. The receptors are Acetylcholine, NMDA, GABA, and dopamine.
More receptors available means that neurotransmitters related to memory functions will have more binding sites. So it enhances the overall ability of your brain to manage the use of those key neurotransmitters.
In addition, it increases blood flow in the brain. So as well as providing more binding sites for neurotransmitters, it also allows an increase in oxygen and nutrients.
If you’re looking for mildly stimulant and focusing nootropic, that’s also calming then this could be what you are looking for.
Just be aware that many experienced neuro hackers, and my experiences back this up, state that it is the strongest of the racetams, and indeed, one of the strongest nootropic substances that you will use.
It has a high level of bioavailability, and onset is rapid (usually within 30 minutes). At high doses, the effects can be very pronounced.
Recommended dosage is 200 mg per day, split between two doses. However, some people who want a top end strength experienced take the whole 200 mg in one go.
Last on my list of the top seven best racetams (and related chemicals) to consider is Pramiracetam.
This one was made in the late 1970s. Again, it deals with choline uptake, and up regulating availability of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine.
However, what makes it slightly different is that it does not regulate, influence, or in any way interact with GABA. More than that, it doesn’t deal with dopamine, serotonin, or norepinephrine.
That means it’s not boosting the effects of the neurotransmitters deal with mood and outlook. So this will not help with anxiety or depression issues.
What this does do very well though, is to stimulate very intense. Of mental focus and clarity. It will also boost your confidence, which may offset some types of anxiety (social anxiety).
So if you’re looking to study, present well, drink up information, and be in the room, then this is nootropic for you.
Overall, it induces the following effects:
- Better memory recall
- Improved verbal skills
- Better ability to calculate mathematically and moving parts
- Intense ability to study
- Improves length of time you can focus and study
- Boosts confidence
So for me, this one is about study, presenting, working on projects, being in the room. If you’re a gamer, it’s the one you’ll take to hit that 12 hour session at peak performance.
You’ll dose Pramiracetam at up to 400 mg, but a beginner’s dose is around 200 mg. You’ll dose it once, twice, or three times per day up to that maximum of around 400 mg in total.
How To Choose The Best Racetam Nootropic For You
Now I know that all of those sound intriguing, and you may wish to try them all over the course of a year!
Just bear in mind that it can take a couple of weeks the effects to build up and maximize themselves, and you want a good break between your experiments at least the length of the time that you took that nootropic for.
But which one is actually going to best for you? Because Racetams are similar, with many overlaps, but some with distinct differences in the effects they produce, it may not be as easy to answer as you would think.
You can find the best racetam Reddit conversations easily enough. They will discuss endlessly about using them for anxiety, motivation, studying, ADHD, energy, focus, motivation, basically everything you would take a nootropic for.
But you’ll rarely get clarity on which one is best for you personally, because unfortunately that’s the million dollar question that only you can answer with experimentation.
Let me finish here by breaking those top seven into groups for the purpose you might want to use them for:
Mild and safe entry-level experience: Piracetam.
Studying, presenting, or needing intense focus: Nefiracetam, Pramiracetam, Oxiracetam.
Relief of anxiety and stress symptoms: Aniracetam.
Seeking a vivid visual and mental experience: Coluracetam.
Physical and mental stimulation and determination: Phenylpiracetam.
My final thoughts are to be aware that some of these are fat soluble, so won’t work properly unless you consume them with a fat source.
Also, all of them feed off Acetylcholine in the brain. You will need a good source of choline alongside your racetam choice to ensure you don’t get side effects like bad headaches, and that they work at their maximum.
Whichever racetam you are thinking about buying, you'll want to get the best deal on price and quality.