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The Racetam Family Explained

questionRacetams are synthetic compounds that are often utilized as key ingredients in nootropic supplements. Several types are available, and they all share a common structure, but the minor differences between each of the forms allows them to produce slightly different effects.

What are Nootropics?

Often called “smart drugs” or “cognitive enhancers”, nootropics are compounds that are used to stimulate improved mental function.

Nootropic ingredients are often incorporated into supplements that are designed to enhance the memory, boost concentration and learning abilities, or improve mental function in some other favourable way.

The Different Types of Racetams

Each type of Racetam possesses its own individual strengths, so a particular nootropic that may offer benefits that are a perfect match for one person’s needs may prove to be a poor choice for someone else.

Potential users will need to decide which racetam is most suitable for their needs.

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Mind Lab ProThe racetams have some cognitive benefits, but they can come with some side effects as well.

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PiracetamEasily the most well-known nootropic drug in present use, Piracetam was developed in 1964 and holds the distinction of being the first racetam. It is milder than most other nootropic drugs and, for this reason, Piracetam is usually the best option for less experienced nootropic users.

Benefits associated with Piracetam supplementation include:

  • Improved memory
  • Better focus
  • Enhanced learning abilities
  • Increased alertness
  • Heightened level of perception


Aniracetam first became available during the 1970s. It’s roughly five times more potent than Piracetam, is considered to be particularly good for improving focus and concentration abilities, and is often the go-to racetam for students who are busy cramming in preparation for their exams.

aniracetamBenefits associated with Aniracetam supplements include:

  • Increased memory capacity
  • Reduced anxiety levels
  • Improved mood
  • Extra motivation
  • Better focus and improved learning abilities


Another racetam that could be said to be a child of the 70s, Oxiracetam is one of the faster-acting nootropics and is also a powerful stimulant.

It is probably the most appropriate racetam choice for anyone who needs to improve their spatial memory or try and get their heads around abstract concepts.

Benefits associated with Oxiracetam include:

  • Better analytical thinking
  • Accelerated learning abilities
  • Improved memory
  • Better focus
  • Increased alertness and perception


Yet another racetam that was introduced during the 70s, Pramiracetam is infinitely more powerful that the aforementioned nootropics. It’s 30 times stronger than Piracetam and offers longer-lasting benefits.

Pramiraceam benefits include:

  • Maximized focus
  • Heightened awareness
  • Improved recognition
  • Enhanced memory
  • Improved productivity and intellect.

How Racetams Exert Their Nootropic Effects

neurotransmittersThe way racetams work is so complicated it is beyond the scope of this article to explain, but they appear to be able to coerce the actions of neurotransmitters, such as Acetylcholine (important for memory, focus and decision making).

Racetams also seem to have the ability to traverse the blood-brain barrier and bind to the Acetylcholine receptors to provide improved cognitive abilities. They are believed to be capable of boosting blood glucose levels as well.

Improved glucose metabolism can result in increased amounts of mental energy, improved focus, and heightened levels of alertness. However, scientists have (as yet) been unable to determine all the processes involved.

Who Uses Racetams?

meetingRacetams are a popular choice with students who are hoping to improve their study abilities.

They are also sometimes favoured by hard-working business professionals who need a little extra help to cope with the mind-taxing pressures their roles involve.

However many people from all walks of life have been known to turn to racetams whenever they need to improve their cognitive function, so the “typical” racetam user is hard to define.

Some evidence suggests racetams may be useful for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and similar conditions of mental decline and they have also proved to be a useful treatment for people who have suffered cerebral injuries.

Side Effects and safety Issues

Nootropic brain healthAlthough racetams are generally considered to be safe, their usage can sometimes result in unpleasant side effects. However any negative issues are usually quite mild unless the maximum dosage recommendations have been ignored.
Common side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Nausea

Headaches are possibly the most common side effect, but in many cases this can be prevented by the use of a choline-providing supplement.

Although the use of racetams does not require a doctor’s prescription, it is always a wise precaution to consult a medical professional before starting to use any new form of dietary supplement.

This advice is especially true in the case of pregnant or nursing mothers and people who have existing health problems.

About Ross

Ross is a writer for several online health and fitness magazines. He has designed the formulae for nootropic and ergogenic supplements, and is always on the look out for the next big breakthrough in sports supplement science. An Ironman triathlete and distance runner, Ross loves the endurance game, but he's happy powercleaning a sandbag in the park. Feel free to ask him a question in the comments section.

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