What is a Racetam?

What is a Racetam?

As you may have noticed, a lot of nootropics end in the suffix -etam. Some well-known nootropics that end in -etam include piracetam, aniracetam, and phenylpiracetam. But what does that suffix mean?

It means they are all racetams. But what is a racetam? That’s the question we’re going to answer in this article.

What Is A Racetam?

The racetams are a class of chemically-similar substances, many of which are nootropics. What the racetams have in common is that they all share a pyrrolidone nucleus. And they all share the suffix -etam.

It is very common in the world of drugs to group similar compounds together and give them a common suffix. Take benzodiazepines (or benzos for short), for example. Common benzos you may recognize include diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), and alprazolam (Xanax). Notice how they all end in either -pam or -lam?

Benzos are most certainly not considered nootropics. If anything they decrease mental performance and can be highly addictive: two things nootropics definitely don’t do. But they are one of many examples of a class of drugs that share a common suffix. Besides the racetams, another class of nootropics that share the same suffix are eugeroics (wakefulness-promoting drugs). These include modafinil, armodafinil, adrafinil, and fluromodafinil. As you can see, they all end with -afinil.

Not all racetams are nootropics, but many are. While the racetams are chemically similar, they don’t all work the same way. Just because two drugs are similar chemically doesn’t mean they will have the same effect on the body and brain. However, it is thought that many of the racetams’ nootropic effects come from its ability to influence glutamate and cholinergic receptors. Glutamate and acetylcholine are neurotransmitters known to play a crucial role in learning and memory.

But not all racetams affect these receptors in the same way. Piracetam, for example, is an allosteric modulator of the AMPA receptor, a subtype of glutamate receptors. And the racetams can affect a variety of other neurotransmitters and their receptors besides glutamate and choline, but it depends on the substance. For example, aniracetam has been found to affect the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in certain parts of the brain.

The racetams have been around for quite a while. Now let’s take a look at their history.

The History Of The Racetams

The first racetam to ever be created was piracetam – but it certainly wasn’t the last. In 1964, a Romanian chemist named Corneliu Giurgea first synthesized piracetam by altering a GABA molecule.

Dr. Giurgea coined the term “nootropic” in the 1960s.

Dr. Giurgea was also the person who coined the term “nootropic.” He noticed that piracetam enhanced cognition without causing any side effects and needed a term to describe it. That makes piracetam not only the first racetam but also the first nootropic.

After the creation of piracetam in 1964, a number of other racetams were created throughout the 60s and 70s by various drug companies. Aniracetam and pramiracetam, two popular nootropics, were first created in the 1970s by the drug companies Hoffmann-La Roche and Parke-Davis, respectively.

In the decades following piracetam’s creation, the Russians took an interest in it and other cognition-enhancing drugs. They created a number of racetams, one of which was phenylpiracetam. In 1983, the Russian Academy of Science developed phenylpiracetam to help Soviet Cosmonauts to deal with the stresses of being in space. They found it to have a number of stress-reducing and brain-boosting effects.

Phenylpiracetam was available in Russia as a prescription medication under the trade name Phenotropil until 2017. For years, it was used to treat a variety of conditions. And phenylpiracetam isn’t the only racetam that is or has been used as a prescription drug.

In several European countries, pramiracetam (under the trade name Pramistar) is used by doctors to treat memory and attention problems in the elderly. Aniracetam is also used as a prescription medication in several European countries sold under the trade names Draganon, Sarpul, Memodrin, Referan, and Ampamet. And piracetam is a prescription drug in England and in Japan. Those are just a few examples of racetams that are prescription drugs overseas, but there are others.

In recent years, a number of racetams have become popular in the United States and in other countries for their nootropic benefits. In the U.S., most racetams are not prescription drugs and can be purchased online. Over the last decade, interest in nootropics has grown immensely. And since there are several racetams known to improve cognition without causing any serious side effects, they are among the most popular classes of smart drugs being used today.

Now let’s take a look at some nootropic racetams. We won’t list all of them nor will we go into a lot of detail. These are just a few of the most popular nootropic racetams.

Nootropic Racetams

There are a number of racetams that have powerful brain-boosting effects. Here are some of the most popular ones being used for their nootropic benefits.


Piracetam has to come first since it was the first nootropic. It’s been around since the 1960s and has been extensively studied in humans and animals. Piracetam has an excellent track record of being both safe and effective. Here are just some of piracetam’s potential nootropic benefits:

  • Improved learning
  • Memory enhancement
  • Greater focus
  • Increased Motivation


This is one of the most popular nootropic racetams being used around the world today. Aniracetam has been around since the 1970s and, like piracetam, it has a long history of being both safe and effective. The thing that draws people to aniracetam is its ability to reduce anxiety without causing sedation. A lot of users report that it increases their focus while decreasing anxiety levels. Here are some of aniracetam’s potential benefits:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improved memory and learning
  • Increased focus
  • Improved mood


This is another popular racetam that has a long history of safety and effectiveness. Pramiracetam was first created in the 1970s and has been studied in both humans and animals. The thing that pramiracetam users love about it is that it can increase focus and improve memory without affecting mood or anxiety levels. Here are some of pramiracetam’s potential benefits:

  • Increased focus
  • Improved working and long-term memory
  • Enhanced learning


The last nootropic racetam I’ll mention is phenylpiracetam. Developed by the Russians in the early 1980s by adding a phenyl ring to a piracetam molecule, this racetam is much more potent than the one it was created from. Phenylpiracetam has been used as a prescription medication and as a nootropic for decades with plenty of science to support its safety and effectiveness. Here are just some of phenylpiracetam’s potential benefits:

  • Increased focus
  • Improved mood
  • Improved memory
  • Increased motivation
  • Improved physical performance

Other Nootropic Racetams

Those are four of the safest and most popular racetams being used as nootropics, but there are several others. Some other nootropic racetams include:

  • Coluracetam
  • Fasoracetam
  • Nefiracetam
  • Oxiracetam
  • Sunifiram
  • Unifiram

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