Aniracetam is popularly described as a nootropic compound – one that allegedly improves cognitive function. Despite a lack of effectiveness and safety data and FDA warnings, some people use it for dementia, anxiety , and depression . However, aniracetam is not a supplement but an unapproved drug. Read on to discover its side effects, dangers, and reviews.
Disclaimer : We recommend against using this drug. It is classified as an unapproved new drug by the FDA, which means that its safety and effectiveness are unknown. Aniracetam has a high potential for harm. What is Aniracetam?
Aniracetam is a type of racetam, a class of compounds that have a similar core chemical structure and variable effects on the brain.
This compound was developed in the 1970s by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche.
Proper scientific evidence is lacking to determine the effectiveness and safety of aniracetam.
Despite this, online vendors sell aniracetam ( N -anisoyl-2-pyrrolidinone) as a nootropic, misleadingly marketing it for boosting mood , focus , and memory.
The FDA recently issued warnings to several companies that were illegally producing and selling racetams [ 1 , 2 ].
In the warning, the FDA reinstates that all racetams, including aniracetam, are new unapproved drugs since they are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the labeled uses among experts.
Like all racetams, the mechanisms of action are not fully understood.
Scientists are investigating whether aniracetam has the following effects on the brain, based on animal and cellular data: AMPA receptors are activated by the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. Aniracetam binds to AMPA receptors, amplifying their response to glutamate activation and causing the release of noradrenaline [ 3 , 4 ].
Aniracetam slows down AMPA receptors desensitization to glutamate. Desensitization is when receptors no longer or less efficiently respond to neurotransmitters after prolonged exposure [ 5 ].
Aniracetam also binds to another class of glutamate receptors called kainate receptors and increases the effects of glutamate stimulation [ 6 ].
Aniracetam is cholinergic, meaning it increases acetylcholine transmission in the brain [ 7 ].
Aniracetam reduces dopamine levels in certain areas of the brain (striatum and hypothalamus) and increases serotonin levels in some areas (cortex and striatum) while decreasing it in others (hypothalamus) [ 8 ].
None of these mechanisms or their health implications have been investigated in humans. Uses of Aniracetam Lacking Evidence
All racetams, including aniracetam, are classified by the FDA as unapproved new drugs .
Evidence is lacking to support any of the uses listed below.
We strongly advise against taking aniracetam until its safety and effectiveness have been determined in large clinical trials. 1) Dementia
There is insufficient evidence to determine the effects of aniracetam on dementia.
In a low-quality study (placebo-controlled trial from the 90s) on 109 mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease patients, subjects that were given aniracetam showed some improvement in attention, verbal and visuospatial memory, and logical-perceptual ability compared to patients who received a placebo [ 9 ].
Another study (double-blind randomized controlled trial) of 60 patients with mental deterioration found that 1,500 mg/day of aniracetam for four months improved cognitive function. This study is only available in Italian and its findings haven’t been replicated [ 10 ].
In a study (randomized controlled trial) of 276 dementia patients, aniracetam supplementation for 12 months prevented cognitive decline and improved mood [ 11 ].
In rats, aniracetam increased levels of acetylcholine , a neurotransmitter that is associated with memory, learning, and muscle movement [ 12 ].
Large-scale, multi-center trials are needed to further explore the effectiveness and safety of aniracetam in dementia patients. Additional Precautions
Aside from being ineffective and unsafe, products like aniracetam may prevent a person from seeking an appropriate diagnosis and treatment for cognitive issues.
The FDA recently issued 12 warning letters and 5 online advisory letters to companies that are illegally selling unapproved and misbranded drugs that claim to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease and other serious diseases and health conditions. Aniracetam was on that list [ 13 ]. 2) Sleep We don’t know how aniracetam might affect sleep, anxiety, or mood since human data are lacking .Aniracetam seemed to restore REM sleep and a normal sleep cycle after five days in stroke-prone rats. The control rats showed decreased REM sleep during the day and excessive non-REM sleep at night. Far more research is needed, especially since insomnia is a potential side effect [ 14 ]. 3) Anxiety In mice, aniracetam had anti-anxiety effects as shown by increased social interactions and improved performance in mazes and fear stress tests. The effects of aniracetam on anxiety in humans are unknown. Additionally, some users report increased anxiety from this compound [ 15 ]. 4) Depression Aniracetam increased serotonin and dopamine . Theoretically, a balance of these neurotransmitters supports mood and is associated with positive feelings. However, no human data speak to the effects of aniracetam on mood or depression [ 16 ].Scientists hypothesize that aniracetam’s effects on AMPA receptors may play a role in depression caused by cognitive diseases like Parkinson’s disease. A study in rats showed that aniracetam’s influence on AMPA receptors appeared to reduce symptoms of depression [ 17 ].In a study on aging rats with impaired brain function, aniracetam decreased depressive behavior in a stressful forced-swim test. These findings can’t be applied to humans [ 18 ]. 5) Brain Damage Human data are lacking to determine how aniracetam might affect recovery from brain damage .Aniracetam reversed the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome in young rats by increasing the amount of AMPA receptors in the hippocampus [ 19 ].Aniracetam increased bladder capacity in rats with blocked blood flow to the brain. In these animals, blocked brain blood flow caused tissue damage and led to bladder overactivity. Aniracetam was hypothesized to act by restoring neural pathways that were disrupted, though this has yet to be confirmed [ 20 ].In another animal experiment, aniracetam corrected behavior and memory in rats with a lack of blood flow to the brain and exposure to excessive nitrogen gas [ 21 […]