What Is Aniracetam?

This non-prescription drug is believed to boost memory and cognition

Aniracetam capsules and powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

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Aniracetam (N-anisoyl-2-pyrrolidinone) is part of the racetams family and is a nootropic drug, meaning it's believed to improve:

  • Memory
  • Creativity
  • Motivation
  • Mental sharpness

It's available by prescription in Europe and sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn't approved it for any use.

This article looks at how aniracetam works, as well as what research says about its possible health benefits, side effects, and dosages. It also discusses what to look for when buying it.

Common Brand Names

  • Ampamet
  • Draganon
  • Memodrin
  • Referan
  • Sarpul

How Nootropics Work

Nootropics are often called "smart drugs" and some healthy people use them as brain boosters. Most health experts point out that there's not enough support for this.

The category includes:

Other Nootropics

Nootropics that are closely related to aniracetam include:

  • Piracetam
  • Fasoracetam
  • Phenylpiracetam
  • Adrafinil

Aniracetam vs. Piracetam

While more research is needed, it appears as if aniracetam is better than piracetam in certain respects.

In some animal studies involving brain damage, aniracetam helped restore and protect memory. It also showed more consistent results when compared to piracetam.

What Is Aniracetam Used For?

Aniracetam has been around since the 1970s. It works on part of a brain cell (neuron) called an AMPA receptor. AMPA stands for αlpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid.

AMPA receptors help signals move quickly between neurons. By stimulating receptors, aniracetam may improve memory, concentration, and alertness.

Some manufacturers say aniracetam can treat:

However, these claims aren't supported by research. To date, little clinical evidence backs aniracetam for treating any medical condition.

Cognitive Function and Mood

Research on aniracetam for cognitive function and mood has mixed results.

On the positive side:

  • Researchers involved in a large study said taking aniracetam for a year improved mood and cognitive function in older people. They say it worked better and had fewer side effects than standard Alzheimer's drugs.
  • A 2018 analysis of studies said aniracetam and similar drugs were effective for cognitive dysfunction in young adults with vascular dementia.
  • A 2016 review said aniracetam and similar drugs showed promise for depression.

Does aniracetam increase dopamine and glutamate?

Research suggests that aniracetam stimulates dopamine production and glutamate activity, both of which may contribute to its mood boosting effect.

On the negative side:

  • Several studies have shown no mental benefit in mice or pigeons.
  • Animal studies are usually considered less valuable than human trials. However, they tend to have better controls and measures when it comes to functional memory.
  • The large human study is often criticized as being poor quality and possibly biased, which casts doubt on its conclusions.

Possible Side Effects of Aniracetam

Little is known about the long-term safety of aniracetam. Studies suggest it's well-tolerated up to one year. Side effects are mild and include:

  • Insomnia, a type of sleep disorder
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Vertigo, a dizzy sensation that may be a symptom of another condition
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

Aniracetam can interact with some medications. In most cases, it amplifies the other drug's effects. Known interactions include:

If you take any of these drugs, talk to your healthcare provider about whether aniracetam is safe. Don't start a supplement or stop a prescription drug without your healthcare provider's OK.

This drug's safety in childhood, pregnancy, or breastfeeding hasn't been established.

Dosage and Preparation

Aniracetam is often sold as a 750-milligram (mg) capsule, in powder form, or as part of "brain-boosting" multi-supplements. Clinical studies have used up to 1,500 mg daily with no notable side effects.

Never exceed the recommended dose on a supplement's label. That can increase the side effect risk, and higher doses often don't mean more benefits.

Before starting aniracetam, talk to your healthcare provider about any medical concerns you have and whether aniracetam may be a reasonable option for you.

Trying to self-treat a medical condition involving memory loss or cognition can delay proper diagnosis and treatment.

What to Look For

In the U.S., aniracetam is widely available online and in some supplement shops.

In general, avoid dietary supplements that make health claims, which tend to be unsupported or exaggerated. Remember that supplements do not go through the same strict testing as prescription drugs and making such claims is not permitted.

Nootropics manufacturers have come under fire for false advertising. In 2019, the FDA and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) both issued warnings about marketing scams and false health claims.

Supplements vary between brands. Look for independent certifications by:

  • U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP)
  • NSF International
  • ConsumerLab

Certification means the product contains the ingredients on the label and nothing else.

Summary

Aniracetam is a purported brain-boosting product sold as a supplement in the United States. Evidence for its effectiveness is weak despite a nearly 50-year history.

If you take aniracetam, be on alert for side effects and interactions with other drugs you take. Be sure to involve your healthcare provider in the decision to take aniracetam.

A Word From Verywell

If you want a cognitive boost due to illness or just to improve mental sharpness, don't be taken in by false claims. Ask your healthcare provider and pharmacist for help finding treatments that are proven safe and effective.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Phillips H, McDowell A, Mielby BS, et al. Aniracetam does not improve working memory in neurologically healthy pigeons. PLoS One. 2019;14(4):e0215612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215612

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  5. Deutschenbaur L, Beck J, Kiyhankhadiv A, et al. Role of calcium, glutamate and NMDA in major depression and therapeutic applicationProg Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2016;64:325-333. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2015.02.015

  6. Reynolds CD, Jefferson TS, Volquardsen M, et al. Oral aniracetam treatment in C57BL/6J mice without pre-existing cognitive dysfunction reveals no changes in learning, memory, anxiety or stereotypy. F1000Res. 2017;6:1452. doi:10.12688/f1000research.11023.3

  7. Canadian Institutes of Health. Aniracetam.

  8. U.S. Federal Trade Commission. FTC and FDA send warning letters to companies selling dietary supplements claiming to treat Alzheimer's disease and remediate or cure other serious illnesses such as Parkinson's, heart disease, and cancer.

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.