Piracetam - A Review Of Cognitive-enhancing Drugs

Piracetam is one of many nootropic or "smart drugs". Nootropic drugs are a class of drugs that improve mental abilities. These affect the metabolism in the brain by increasing the usage of glucose in the brain or by activation of some other unknown mechanisms that increase energy levels. Their efficiency, however, was never strictly proved.

The drug Piracetam exhibits psychotropic effects (affecting mental health), as well as effects on the central nervous system. The biochemical effect is exacerbated by enhanced ATP metabolism function. It is believed that Piracetam protects the brain from hypoxia and also increases cortical control over subcortical neurons, facilitating the transmission of information from one hemisphere to the other. This leads to an improvement in cognitive and affective functions. It also shortens the recovery period.

Popular trade names of Piracetam in Europe are also Nootropil, Lucetam and Oikamid, among others.

Therapeutic indications of Piracetam

Since Piracetam increases the use of glucose in the brain, it is helpful in case of progressive dementia, for which reason it is used to treat the so-called Diogenes syndrome, or the senile syndrome. It is also used in the treatment of aphasia together with intense logopedic therapy, as well as for treatment of dyslexia in children.

This is its primary use; however, as in case with other nootropic drugs, which are used in treatment of sleep disorders above all else, such as sleep apnea, so Piracetam is used for off-label purposes due to its cognitive-enhancing effect, that is, due to its effect on mental abilities, such as memory and learning skills.

The good thing about Piracetam is that its absorption after oral administration is very rapid and almost complete. After oral administration, plasma concentrations are almost identical to those after intravenous administration. It reaches its maximum after 30 to 60 minutes.

Who should not take Piracetam?

People who suffer from mild to moderate kidney diseases, especially elderly people with severely impaired renal function, must use smaller doses, according to their doctor's instructions. There isn't any standard dosage, but it must be prescribed individually.

In the same way, people with damaged liver should not use Piracetam, as well as children whose body weight is less than 66 pounds, and people who suffered a stroke or a heart attack. The same applies to people suffering from mental disorders. According to a study conducted by Neznamov and Teleshova in 2008 on Piracetam and Noopept drugs (Comparative Studies of Noopept and Piracetam in the Treatment of Patients with Mild Cognitive Disorders in Organic Brain Diseases of Vascular and Traumatic Origin, Journal of Neurology), Piracetam should not be used "in treatment of patients suffering from mild cognitive disorders".

Possible side-effects of Piracetam

Piracetam may cause vertigo, headache, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, nervousness, an increase in body weight, insomnia, sleepiness, agitation, anxiety, confusion, depression, hallucinations, dermatitis, hives, rash and other allergic reactions, increased sweating, a decrease in sexual desire, worsening of epilepsy, etc.

As you can see from this incomplete list of possible side-effects of Piracetam, it can cause both insomnia and sleepiness despite its nootropic effects, that is, despite the usage of many nootropic drugs in treating sleep disorders. In the same way, it can cause an increase or a decrease in libido, the latter usually together with depression.

If you experience any of these side-effects, you should contact your physician. And if an allergic reaction appears, seek immediate medical help.

Considering all possible side-effects, the safest way is to use Piracetam only if prescribed by your doctor, that is, only for disorders for which it was designed to treat, despite the available data gathered from preclinical studies that Piracetam did not exhibit noticeable toxic, mutagenic or carcinogenic potential.

Special warnings and precautions

People suffering from epilepsy should not take Piracetam, since it can lead to a decrease in the threshold for an attack in particularly sensitive patients (neuronal hyper-excitability). Also, it should not be used after surgery and in case of hemorrhage (bleeding). The same applies to people suffering from kidney diseases.

An abrupt discontinuation of therapy with Piracetam is not recommended, either, since it may induce seizures in people suffering from mental disorders. They are advised to gradually stop with the therapy.

During pregnancy and lactation period

Piracetam easily passes the placental barrier. Considering the fact that the safety of Piracetam use or the use of any other nootropic drug during the period of pregnancy is not confirmed, it is not advised to use this medicine during pregnancy.

Mothers who are breastfeeding should avoid the use of Piracetam, or should discontinue breastfeeding during the therapy with Piracetam, since it can get secreted into the milk of the mother. Also, Piracetam may eliminate the effects of contraceptives if taken during the therapy.

The impact of Piracetam on psychophysical abilities

In clinical studies, at doses of 1.6 to 15 grams per day, hyperkinesia, somnolence, nervousness, and depression were observed with a much higher incidence in individuals taking Piracetam than in individuals using a placebo.

There is no data for effects of Piracetam on driving skills if taken in doses of 15 to 20 grams a day, though it is recommended not to drive or work with machines while using Piracetam or any other nootropic drug.