In the 2011 film Limitless, a struggling writer played by Bradley Cooper becomes one of the world’s smartest men after taking an experimental drug called NZT-48. The character then proceeds to use his newfound intelligence to finish his novel, make mountains of money on the stock market, and to win back the affection of his ladylove. Little more than a MacGuffin in the movie, the fictional miracle drug is based, albeit very loosely, on an enigmatic class of cognitive-enhancing drugs known as nootropics.
What are they?
Any food, drug, or dietary supplement that improves (or claims to) one or more aspect of mental function, such as attention, working memory, or motivation, could be considered a nootropic. Many of these substances, perhaps even most, are marketed and sold as so-called ‘smart drugs’ to users on the internet. Yet in spite of their eye-catching claims, few nootropics have been formally tested and found to improve mental function. Today we will discuss two cognitive enhancers that are more than just smoke and mirrors.
Derived from the racetam family of drugs, Noopept is a powerful peptide that is prescribed as a nootropic in Russia. According to studies, it is up to 1000 times as potent as other, more popular members of the racetam family, such as piracetam. But there’s more to Noopept than its high potency. Known mostly for its neuroprotective properties, the drug has been found to enhance memory in numerous tests. One such study offered promising results in the treatment of cognitive degeneration in human beings with Alzheimer’s disease. For these reasons and many more, Noopept is considered and sold as a smart drug, or nootropic. In fact, it is offered as a dietary supplement in the United States and in most other countries. Only in Russia and neighboring nations is it sold as a prescription medication.
In addition to its cognitive benefits, Noopept has also been tested for possible anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties. In one human study, adult subjects reported significant improvements in levels of anxiety, irritability, and depression. Further benefits on mood, sleep, and restlessness were also noted in patients with cognitive impairment. Numerous studies have been completed on animals with similar results with regard to anxiety and depression related to extraneous factors.
Another member of the racetam family of drugs, Phenylpiracetam (Phenotropil) is a derivative of piracetam with an added phenyl molecule. Like our earlier entry, it is much stronger than prototypical racetam drugs with greater neuroprotective properties. In other words, it may have cognitive benefits that other, less potent drugs do not possess. Of course, the only way to gauge a drug’s effectiveness is to test it, and Phenylpiracetam has been subjected to numerous scientific studies. What were the results?
There is quite a bit of research to suggest that Phenylpiracetam is effective at reducing the rate of cognitive decline caused by organic brain diseases such as dementia, as opposed to brain trauma. The drug also helped alleviate some of the most common symptoms of cognitive decline, such as anxiety and depression, in several different studies and clinical trials.
Like Noopept, there is compelling evidence that Phenylpiracetam has anti-depressant properties. In both animal studies and human trials, the drug ameliorated depressive symptoms in subjects with cognitive impairment. This may be due to its psychostimulatory effects, which can increase locomotor activity for hours on end.
Noopept and Phenylpiracetam comparison
Now that we know a bit about these two nootropics, it is time to examine them head-to-head. But before we do, it is important to note that both of these medications or dietary supplements have proven effective at enhancing cognitive function in some subjects. As a result, there is no winner or loser in this matchup, but merely a more suitable selection based on individual needs. With that in mind, let us examine the tale of the tape.
Drug family Racetam Racetam
Potency vs. Piracetam 1000 times 60 times
Classification(s) Neuroprotectant Neuroprotectant, Psychostimulant
Dosage 10-30mgs daily 100-200mgs daily
What are the main differences?
In spite of the apparent discrepancy in strength, when we adjust for dosage, Noopept and Phenylpiracetam are nearly equal in potency, with the edge going to Noopept. Two of the strongest cognitive enhancers available, both drugs have been thoroughly tested in laboratory trials. As members of the racetam family of drugs, they share similar mechanisms of action with each other and the prototypical racetam drug, piracetam. However, significant discrepancies between the two nootropics have been observed during testing.
One major difference between Phenylpiracetam and Noopept is that the former provides a mental boost because it is a psychostimulant. What this means is that Phenylpiracetam produces a transient increase in psychomotor activity that lasts for up to four hours. In other words, it acts as a cognitive pick-me-up whose effects have been confirmed in numerous tests. Although there is some evidence that Noopept may improve your mood because of its anxiolytic properties, it does not appear to increase psychomotor activity because it is not a stimulant.
Just as in the movie Limitless, the effects of most smart drugs are ephemeral, often lasting only a few hours. Researchers have also observed that users tend to build up a tolerance to these drugs in short order. Such is the case with Phenylpiracetam, which delivers a quick brain boost when used episodically. However, when users take the drug on a regular, daily basis, they do not receive the same stimulative effects because of tolerance. Noopept, on the other hand, does not appear to share that shortcoming.
Scientists are not sure why this is, but the potent nootropic can be taken for much longer periods of time without the user building up much of a tolerance. According to numerous reports, Noopept’s effects are cumulative, which means that the drug will build up in the body over time. With that said, the accumulation takes much longer, generally about one to two weeks before users experience peak benefits. As a result, most users cycle on and off of Noopept every week or fortnight. The benefits of this program include improved focus and better memory recall/retrieval.
Anxiety and depression
Although the mechanism of action remains a mystery, both Noopept and Phenylpiracetam have anxiolytic properties. One theory is that both drugs stimulate benzodiazepine receptors in the hippocampus area of the brain, which may help ease anxiety and depression. But however they work, the two nootropics have proven effective in numerous studies, especially on subjects with cognitive impairment.
It is important to note, however, that Noopept has been tested more thoroughly for anxiolytic properties than Phenylpiracetam, including both animal studies and human trials. By comparison, the efficacy of Phenylpiracetam for treating symptoms of anxiety and depression has only been tested in rats. This does not mean that the drug is ineffective at treating these disorders, but merely that more research is needed.
When to use Noopept
A potent nootropic that delivers peak performance in one to two weeks, Noopept is one of the few smart drugs that can be used on a regular basis. Whether you are taking a challenging college course or are working as a summer intern in a highly competitive environment, Noopept can provide increased focus, improved memory recall/retrieval, and greater learning capacity. It is no wonder Noopept is one of the hottest nootropics on the market today.
When used responsibly, the drug/dietary supplement has few side effects. Unlike most other nootropics, Noopept does not cause headaches or sleep issues. The most common complaints are minor GI tract issues such as stomach aches. Often the results of excessive intake, the problem can generally be solved by cutting down to the recommended dosage.
When to use Phenylpiracetam
Nearly as potent as Noopept, Phenylpiracetam stimulates the mind and body, increasing mental concentration and physical energy at the same time. Thoroughly tested in the lab and the field, the popular nootropic improves cognitive function, in particular learning and problem solving. Its only notable flaw seems to be that users build up a tolerance to Phenylpiracetam quite quickly. According to the research, peak benefits are reached after only a couple of days of use. As a result, Phenylpiracetam is not a supplement that should be taken regularly.
Much like the fictional drug NZT-48, Phenylpiracetam delivers short bursts of energy and brainpower that fade fast. As such, it works best when you know that you will need to concentrate intensely on something for a short period of time. Not surprisingly, Phenylpiracetam is popular with college students who take it during all-night cram sessions before a big exam. It can also provide the necessary mental endurance to meet a looming project or work deadline. Just be aware that the cognitive enhancer only works for around four hours at a time, after which time the stimulative benefits will recede.
As with any new medication or supplement, new users may experience side effects when they start taking Phenylpiracetam. Relatively minor compared to other drugs, some users have reported bouts of gastrointestinal discomfort, headache, nausea, and irritability. Like most smart drugs, there is no known drug interaction with other medications or supplements or risk of physical addiction with Phenylpiracetam.
Although not the miracle brain boosters we see in the movies, Noopept and Phenylpiracetam are genuine smart drugs that can improve mental function in some people. Extensive testing has also revealed that both nootropics help ease feelings of anxiety and depression, especially in people with cognitive impairment. Of course for most folks, these drugs are used to enhance mental function, memory, and motivation – if only for a short while.