Phenylpiracetam (also known as Phenotropil or Carphedon) is a nootropic (“smart drug”) used to enhance cognitive function and physical strength. It can also boost motivation and concentration. Read more to learn about the uses, mechanisms, and side effects of this drug.
Note: By writing this post, we are not recommending this drug. Some of our readers who were already taking the drug requested that we commission a post on it and we are simply providing information that is available in the scientific literature. Please discuss your medications with your doctor.
What Is Phenylpiracetam?
Phenylpiracetam is a nootropic drug that has been recently added to the racetam family. Just like its parent molecule piracetam, it enhances memory, cognitive function, and physical strength. However, it is 30 to 60 times more potent and energizing than piracetam [R].
For this reason, phenylpiracetam is gaining popularity amongst nootropic users. In fact, it is so effective that it has even been banned from the Olympics for being a performance enhancer.
Phenylpiracetam is available as a prescription drug in Russia under the name Phenotropil. While not prescribed as a pharmaceutical in the U.S., it is an uncontrolled and unscheduled compound, meaning that it is legal and does not require a prescription to possess or buy the drug.
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 piracetam (as it is now fat-soluble) [R].
The phenyl group also increases the compound’s affinity for a variety of neurotransmitter transporters, which enhances brain activity [R].
Mechanism of Action
Although the precise mechanisms of phenylpiracetam are currently unclear, it is believed to work by:
- Increasing the number of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA receptors in the brain, which helps improve mood and reduce anxiety [R].
- Inhibiting dopamine reuptake transporters, which increases dopamine levels and improves mood and motivation [R, R].
- Binds to and increases the number of nicotinic acetylcholine and NMDA receptors in the brain, both of which are involved in learning and memory formation [R, R, R, R].
- Increasing the levels of BDNF, a protein that helps protect the survival of brain cells, in the memory center of the brain (hippocampus) [R].
- Selectively reducing the activation of brain cells that control movement (motor cortical neurons), which may decrease seizures [R].
- Increasing brain alpha/beta waves, which aid in overall mental coordination, calmness, alertness, learning, and focus [R].
However, in high doses (above 20 mg/kg), phenylpiracetam decreased neurotransmitter levels in rats and mice, leading to reduced arousal or stimulation [R].
Phenylpiracetam exists as R and S enantiomers, which means they exist as a pair of molecules that are mirror images of each other.
Lab research showed that both the R and S enantiomers play a role in improving movement and mood, although the R enantiomer form is more effective, while only the R form is responsible for improving memory. 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 make them is very expensive [R].
Racetams like phenylpiracetam are normally supplemented along with choline to enhance their activity. This is because racetams disrupt the proteins that block choline from binding to its receptors, thereby allowing for more choline uptake in the body [R].
1) Improves Brain Function
Phenylpiracetam enhanced the recovery of and survival of rats after brain ischemia (shortage of blood flow to the brain) [R].
Additionally, in a study (prospective cohort) of 99 patients with brain disease (encephalopathy following gliomas or acute lesions of organic origin), phenylpiracetam improved cognitive function and memory after one month of treatment [R].
2) May Improve Memory
3) May Reduce Anxiety and Depression
In a prospective cohort study, phenylpiracetam lowered anxiety and depression in 99 patients with brain damage (from surgery or stroke) after one month of treatment [R].
In another study (open-label study) of 35 heart disease patients with anxiety and depressive disorders, phenylpiracetam treatment for 12 weeks reduced anxiety. However, after 4 to 8 weeks, it was not as effective [R].
Phenylpiracetam reduced anxiety in mice and increased exploratory behavior in an unfamiliar environment [R].
4) May Help with Epilepsy Treatment
In 31 patients, a combination of phenylpiracetam (daily for 2 months) with anti-seizure medications led to a significant decrease in seizures compared to the anti-seizure medication alone [R].
Similarly, a study (double-blind randomized controlled trial) on 90 patients showed that phenylpiracetam in combination with anti-seizure drugs reduced seizures and improved cognitive function [R].
Phenylpiracetam anti-seizure effects may also be explained by its ability to selectively reduce the activation of brain cells that control movement (motor cortical neurons) [R].
5) Boosts Energy
In mice, phenylpiracetam increased movement and physical activity [R].
6) May Enhance Physical Performance
Phenylpiracetam increased the speed and distance traveled of rats during an open-field test [R].
7) Phenylpiracetam May Reduce Weight Gain
In obese rats, phenylpiracetam significantly decreased body weight gain and fat mass increase. The drug also lowered blood sugar levels [R].
8) Phenylpiracetam May Improve Immunity
Phenylpiracetam normalized the immune response of mice with overactive immune systems [R].
9) Phenylpiracetam May Improve Hypothyroidism
Although there is popular opinion supporting the use of phenylpiracetam for these diseases, there is no scientific evidence backing its use in [R]:
- Increasing the tolerance to cold temperatures
- Enhancing physical stamina
Side effects may include:
- Headaches: Like other racetams, phenylpiracetam can cause headaches. To reduce these headaches, it may help to take choline supplements [R].
- Insomnia: The stimulating properties of phenylpiracetam can keep users who take the drug late in the day from getting quality sleep [R].
- Irritability: Phenylpiracetam, like piracetam, can also cause side effects similar to sensory overload, like irritability. Reducing the dosage may reduce these side effects [R].
- Heightened anger/possible suicidal thoughts: Some users have experienced heightened anger, aggressiveness, and suicidal thoughts when using phenylpiracetam. People with a predisposition to these behaviors should use caution when taking this drug [R].
Limitations and Caveats
Clinical studies on phenylpiracetam’s effects are limited and few have studied its interactions with other supplements.
It is also important to note that not all clinical studies on phenylpiracetam are accessible to the general public as most are available only in Russian. As a result, most English information found on this drug comes from non-scientific sources such as blogs or user reviews.
Forms of Supplementation
Phenylpiracetam comes in a bitter tasting powder and capsule forms.
Both the powder and capsule form are taken orally and can be stacked with other daily supplements, like choline [R].
After 3-5 hours of taking phenylpiracetam, half of the drug remains in the bloodstream (half-life) [R].
Users can develop tolerance to this drug quickly, so it should be used as a periodic enhancer, not as a daily supplement [R].
Most users consider phenylpiracetam to be more potent than any other nootropic in the market. ADHD sufferers compare its effects to those of Adderall. Most consider it a better, subtler alternative.
Most students and doctors using the substance have been able to focus better and learn new information quickly.
A user who took the substance to improve physical performance said he felt less tired after taking it.
Many people suffering from anxiety have also found relief through phenylpiracetam.
A particular user with a genetic hormonal disease (adrenal crisis) explained that after taking phenylpiracetam, low blood pressure and pain associated with the disease was no longer experienced. She has not experienced an adrenal crisis since.
When one user began taking phenylpiracetam, he initially experienced some negative side effects, such as chest pain and difficulty sleeping. After he switched to the originally branded phenylpiracetam (Phenotropil), symptoms ceased. He also explained that while phenylpiracetam had great mood enhancement properties, its effect on focus was weak compared to that of other drugs like modafinil.
Another user explained that after 3 days of taking phenylpiracetam, he barely felt the effects of the drug. He also experienced insomnia and dehydration.
One user felt the effects of phenylpiracetam were too intense, as even after 16 hours of taking the drug they still could not fall asleep.