Phenylpiracetam is a relatively new drug that is widely claimed to have “nootropic” (“cognitive-enhancing”) effects. It is closely related to piracetam , another relatively popular nootropic drug. Phenylpiracetam has been claimed to have many interesting potential effects related to cognitive function and physical performance – but what does the current science have to say about it? Read on to learn more about the potential mechanisms and side-effects of this drug.
Disclaimer: This post is not a recommendation or endorsement for the use phenylpiracetam. The FDA has not approved this drug for any specific medical or other use, and the available research on it is still in a very early stage, without adequate data to come to any conclusions about its general efficacy or safety in humans. We have written this post for informational purposes only, and our goal is solely to inform people about what science currently says about phenylpiracetam’s mechanisms, potential effects, and possible side-effects. What Is Phenylpiracetam?
Phenylpiracetam is a nootropic drug that has been recently added to the racetam family.
Just like its parent molecule piracetam , it has been claimed to enhance memory, cognitive function, and even physical strength. Additionally, it has also been reported to be up to 30 to 60 times more potent than piracetam [ 1 ].
For these reasons, phenylpiracetam has been gaining popularity among users of “nootropics”, or “cognitive-enhancing” drugs. Interestingly, phenylpiracetam has recently been banned from use by the Olympics committee due to concerns that it could be abused as a performance enhancer by athletes.
Phenylpiracetam is essentially a piracetam molecule with a phenyl group attached to it. This addition increases its bioavailability and ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier , compared to regular piracetam (as this new molecule is now fat-soluble) [ 2 ].
The addition of a phenyl group is also believed to increase the compound’s affinity for a variety of neurotransmitter transporters, which may be involved in some of its purported effects on various types of brain activity [ 3 ].
While most of phenylpiracetam’s popularity is based on claims that it may improve brain function and physical strength, some very preliminary evidence does exist which suggests that phenylpiracetam may also be helpful for reducing certain symptoms of depression and anxiety [ 4 ].
However, it’s unclear exactly how much of phenylpiracetam’s popularity is just based on hype, as the actual science behind these purported effects is, at best, relatively modest.
Phenylpiracetam is sold as a prescription-only drug in Russia under the name Phenotropil . While not prescribed as a pharmaceutical in the United States, it is an uncontrolled and unscheduled substance, meaning that it is technically legal and does not require a prescription to purchase or possess.
However, this also means that the FDA has not approved it for any specific medical use .
Additionally, the fact that it is a relatively new substance means that it has not been extensively studied, and as such, it is not possible to make any firm conclusions about how effective or safe it may be – at least, not without a lot more research, including clinical trials in human users.
In this post, we will review some of the current evidence about phenylpiracetam’s mechanisms and purported effects. Nonetheless, as you read on, it’s important to keep in mind that all of this evidence is still in a very early stage, and any claims about this compound’s effects should, therefore, be taken with a healthy grain of salt! Mechanism of Action
Although the exact mechanisms of phenylpiracetam are currently unclear, some possible mechanisms have been identified by some early studies. Some of these potential mechanisms include: Increasing the number of serotonin , dopamine , and GABA receptors in the brain , which could – in theory – make it useful for improving mood and reducing anxiety [ 5 ].
Inhibiting dopamine reuptake transporters , which could increase dopamine levels throughout the brain, thereby theoretically improving mood and motivation [ 6 , 7 ].
Activates and increases the number of nicotinic acetylcholine and NMDA receptors in the brain , each of which are believed to be involved in cognitive functions such as learning and memory [ 4 , 3 , 8 , 9 ].
Increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor ( BDNF ) , a growth protein that promotes the creation and development of brain cells ( neurogenesis ) – particularly in certain memory-related areas of the brain, such as the hippocampus [ 10 ].
Selectively reducing the activation of brain cells that control movement (motor cortical neurons), which could hypothetically help decrease seizures [ 11 ].
Increasing alpha- and beta-wave activity throughout the brain . These patterns of neural activity have been associated with cognitive processes such as mental coordination, calmness, alertness, learning, and focus [ 12 ].
However, according to a few animal studies, high doses of phenylpiracetam (>20 mg/kg body weight) actually decreased the levels of several major neurotransmitters in the brains of rats and mice, leading to reduced arousal or stimulation [ 13 ]. In other words, even some of the early evidence about phenylpiracetam’s mechanisms so far is already mixed, and not necessarily easy to interpret.
Phenylpiracetam exists as “R-” and “S-” enantiomers – a pair of molecules that are structurally identical, but which are mirror images of each other (similar to a left- and right-handed pair of gloves).
Some early animal research has reported that both the “R” and “S” forms of phenylpiracetam may play a role in improving motor coordination and mood . Although the “S” enantiomer form was reported to be more potent (biologically active), only the “R” form was reported to have any noticeable effects on improving memory – at least according to this one mouse study. However, in humans, the drug itself is typically used as a mixture of the two. Although some forms can have only one enantiomer, it is rare because the process to isolate each form of molecule is very expensive, and it’s therefore cheaper just to produce an unseparated mix of the two […]