Last night I messaged a special acquaintance. During our conversation I couldn’t help but mention my latest pharmacological fascination. My curiosity has been fueled partially by members of the Transhumanist community on Facebook. Many of them, not surprisingly, are enthusiastic about the prospect of passive intelligence amplification. While I am fond of her usually pleasant demeanor, unusually long legs and ample backside, I was not happy to hear her casting aspersions upon my latest research interest. While the safety of the piracetam is not disputed, whether it, its relatives or any alleged nootropic available to the public substantially improves cognition in healthy people is still a matter of contention. Like countless fitness supplements much of the online information about piracetam is filtered through the interpretations of nonprofessionals. However, the average person researching piracetam is likely more intelligent than the fellow discussing the perfect steroid cycle with his gym bros.
Piracetam has several recorded effects on the brain. First, it increases the usage of acetylcholine by the hippocampus. Practically speaking, this means it should be taken with a choline supplement like Alpha GPC, otherwise it can deplete the body’s reserves of this precious neurotransmitter, leading to headaches and other unpleasant side effects in those with already low levels. In a double blind study Kessler showed piracetam assisted with the recovery of verbal fluency in aphasic stroke patients. The results of his experiment? “The placebo group showed an increase of activation effect only in the left vocalization area. In the test battery, the piracetam group improved in 6 language functions, the placebo group only in 3 subtests.” Racetam drugs appear to stimulate neurogenesis, which could account for the cumulative improvements in cognition observed inside and outside of the lab, however, more research needs to be done before definitive conclusions can be drawn. The evidence for its use in treating dementia and other mental impairments is mixed and it has yet to been seen whether it can delay the onset of mental decline due to aging. Some users, particularly those who take large quantities combined with choline, report immediate effects, but it is not uncommon for the benefits, if any, to go unnoticed for the first few days. Mental clarity is primarily what Aunt Pira provides; this is best noticed when performing a measurable task, like puzzles on a chess tactics trainer or games on Lumosity.
“On the first dose, you won’t notice anything. In all likelihood, you wont notice anything until about a week of taking it consistently. It’s nothing like a stimulant whatsoever. Taking piracetam I notice I have better recall, faster reaction time, words flow more easily in my sentence composition, I’m able to visualize things more clearly, music sounds more intricate and colors seem a little more vivid.”
“Significant improvement in functional disability was also found with daily doses of 9.6 g and 16.8 g [very large doses]. The dose-effect relation was linear and significant. More [epileptic] patients showed clinically relevant improvement with the highest dosage and, in individual patients, increasing the dose improved response. Piracetam was well tolerated and adverse effects were few, mild, and transient.”
This user’s account is similar to many others. In a few sentences he encapsulates a great number of reports on Erowid and elsewhere. Racetams drugs do not intoxicate. Although one may feel more energetic under their influence, they are not stimulants like caffeine or methamphetamine. Although they may be calming, they are not depressants. Users also report an enhanced appreciation for music, food, and other items. Pattern recognition is improved possibly as a result of improved interhemispheric communication. While it is nontoxic and innocuous for most people, including those with a sundry of preexisting health conditions (nevertheless, please check with your doctor before putting anything into your body), pregnant and nursing women should not take piracetam. As a supplement its purity is not guaranteed by the FDA, meaning one must be very careful about purchasing it from an American company. Since it is a prescription drug in European countries pharmacy grade tablets can be obtained without a tremendous amount of effort. Some American suppliers have their batches analyzed by independent laboratories, like New Star, but if their records are not convincing enough, you can test it yourself, or send it to a lab. I fear if someone ingests a contaminated sample nootropic research as a whole will unfairly suffer because of the inevitable panic it will cause. Association is as bad as guilt in the information age.
In the end, however, adequate sleep, nutrition, exercise, fluid intake, mental stimulation and socialization are still our safest and most effective means of improving our minds, but there is no doubt these molecules show promise and should be investigated further.