Racetams are a class of drugs that share a pyrrolidone nucleus. Some, such as piracetam, are considered nootropics. Some such as aniracetam, oxiracetam, pramiracetam, and phenylpiracetam are also nootropics. Others such as levetiracetam and seletracetam are anticonvulsants.
While each racetam is a bit different from the others, their functions are similar. By boosting the oxygen, nutrients, and brain-fuel (glucose) traveling through the blood, the brain is better supplied. This improves the brain’s stamina to function longer, reduces the degeneration of brain cells, and increases focus and concentration.
The very first synthetic nootropic – and the substance that inspired researcher C.E. Giurgea to coin the term “nootropic” and conceptualize this category of cognitive enhancers in the first place – was Piracetam. All modern racetams now derive from Piracetam, though some are far more potent. Pramiracetam, for instance, may be as much as 30 times stronger than Piracetam.
As well as knowing what racetams are, it is also useful to understand what they are not.
What Are Racetams?
They are not stimulants, for instance, and don’t aim to affect the stimulating neurotransmitters that often bring side effects such as anxiety, insomnia or the jitters. I bring this up only because racetams often get lumped in with other “smart drugs” (e.g. Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, Modafinil, etc.) for their synthetic drug status.
Research suggests that taking piracetam may enhance brain function. Though it’s unclear why animal studies provide potential reasons.
For example, animal studies indicate that piracetam makes cell membranes more fluid. This makes it easier for cells to send and receive signals, which aids communication (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
That could be a reason why its effects appear to be stronger in older adults and people with mental issues, as research shows that their cells membranes tend to be less fluid (4Trusted Source).
Other studies observe that piracetam increases your brain’s blood supply, as well as oxygen and glucose consumption, especially in people with mental impairment. These are other factors that may improve brain function (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
(always make sure to consume plenty of water when taking racetams)