What Are Racetam Nootropics?

The Racetam Family Of Nootropics

There are roughly 19 different racetams, from which only 4 are used for cognitive enhancement purposes.

All racetams are classified due to their related structure. 

In the body, this structure is broken apart to release a number of smaller metabolites which then go on to interact with the brains chemistry.

They work mainly by increasing the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and to a lesser extent, the production of dopamine, glutamine, and serotonin. 

A post shared by @thesunlightexperiment on

The History Of Racetams

The racetam family of nootropics were the first nootropics to be discovered when researchers synthesized a molecule designed to combat motion sickness.

This molecule was called piracetam. 

The initial discovery was made in the 1960's, but moved on to cognitive studies after reports came through that the motion sickness tablets were causing people to have a better state of mental clarity as a side effect. 

Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, the Romanian scientist behind the team of scientists who created piracetam, was the man who coined the term nootropic.

He spent many years closely investigating the concept of cognitive enhancement, and seeked out mechanisms of action for this new class of drugs. 

Since this time, there have been many different racetam drugs created, all with the same central structure, but various other additions to the molecule to amplify their effects of absorption in one way or another. 


The Structure Of A Racetam

In order to classify as a racetam, the compound must have nucleus made up of 2-pyrrolidone nucleus made up of oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen.

General racetam structure

The Different Racetams

There are 19 different racetams in total, however, only 4 are commonly used as nootropics. 

All of these racetams have the same nucleus, which is illustrated below as the red portion of the structure.

From here, the "R" groups change. These differences change how the drug is metabolized, its absorption, and its elimination from the body. 

racetams family

1. Piracetam

The simplest structure, piracetam, was the first racetam (and nootropic for that matter) ever created.

It’s the simplest of the four, and has a long history of use dating back to the 1970's.

Piracetam works mainly through stimulation of acetylcholine production, but also has an effect on serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate. 


2. Aniracetam

Aniracetam is a close relative of piracetam but is a bit more potent and longer lasting in its effects.

The compound is fat soluble (rather than water soluble) which helps it last longer inside the body.

It works in a similar way to piracetam but has a stronger effect on the AMPA receptors. This makes is a better candidate for studying. 


3. Oxiracetam

Moving on up the ranks we reach oxiracetam.

This version is even stronger in its actions and is slightly longer lasting than aniracetam. It works in a similar way to the other racetams but is suggested to have a better effect on ATP, this improving mental energy along the way.

It’s considered by many to have a stimulating effect on the mind. This is a great nootropic for periods of mental fatigue, but should not be overused.


4. Pramiracetam

Pramiracetam is the largest of the 4, and as such has a few differences in its functions It is considered to be the most potent of the entire class, reportedly offering a staggering 30 times the potency of piracetam (still looking for peer-reviewed evidence to back this claim up).

It has both the strongest action and the longest half-life once inside the body. 

It is fat soluble and has a notably high bioavailability. Pramiracetam also has a high level of safety, with few side effects noted despite long-term use.


Are Racetams Safe?

Many people believe that since racetams are man-made, they aren't safe. This is a misconception worth eliminating. The facts suggest that racetams are very safe, despite numerous research groups trying to prove them unsafe (thats how science is meant to work). If they were able to prove that they were unsafe it would shine through in the tests and we would avoid using them or limit their usage. 

The facts are however that we have so far been unable to do this. A lot of the negativity around their use comes from annecdotal reports, which have their own merit, but are not a reliable source of information. 

Needless to say, it's important for anybody when using a new substance of any kind, to start small, and pay attention to any negative side effects that might occur. 

The chances of side effects with racetam nootropics is headaches, brain fog, and sleep disturbances.

These are very rare, but not impossible.

The best way to avoid this from happening are to only take racetams within the suggested dosages, combine them with a choline supplement like alpha-GPC, and build up the dose slowly for new users. 

Article By:

Justin Cooke

The Sunlight Experiment

 (Updated October 2018)

Recent Blog Posts: