Aniracetam is a drug of the “racetam” chemical classification that was initially developed in the 1970s by pharmaceutical company Hoffman-La Roche. Chemically, aniracetam is synthesized via reaction of 2-pyrrolidone with anisoyl chloride in the presence of triethylamine; hence it is sometimes referred to as “N-anisoyl-2-pyrrolidinone.” When administered to humans and animals, aniracetam functions via allosterically binding to the AMPA receptor, a specific subtype of glutamate receptor.
Upon binding to the AMPA glutamate receptor, aniracetam acts as a positive AMPA modulator, thereby bolstering activation of glutamate. This glutamateric activation is believed to enhance a user’s alertness, attentional capacity, encoding of memory, and learning. Furthermore, aniracetam is thought to increase BDNF levels, as well as other neurotropic factors, leading many to label this drug as a nootropic and neuroprotective agent.
The speculatively touted cognitive enhancing effects associated with aniracetam, as well as its unregulated status as a drug in the United States, lead many individuals to blindly assume that it’s completely safe and void of side effects. While it may be a safer substance than various pharmaceuticals and/or supplements, it is necessary to acknowledge that not everyone has a favorable experience with aniracetam. Certain users may experience unwanted side effects, some of which may outweigh the benefits of aniracetam and lead to discontinuation.
Aniracetam Side Effects: List of Possibilities
Below is a list of side effects that you may experience while taking aniracetam. Realize that certain aniracetam users may not experience any side effects, while others may experience every side effect listed below (or possibly more). Also keep in mind that severity of each side effect that you experience is subject to individual variation, as well as subjective interpretation. The most common side effects from aniracetam include: anxiety, diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, and nausea.
Anxiety: Despite the fact that some users report potent anxiolytic (anti-anxiety effects) from aniracetam usage, others may experience an exacerbation of anxiety, leading to nervousness, jitters, and discomfort. Some users have gone as far as to suggest that aniracetam triggers racing thoughts and mild paranoia, especially in social situations. Aniracetam is known to be more stimulating than other “racetams” and for this reason, it may provoke anxiety in certain users.
Some of the anxiety may be caused by its alteration of cholinergic, dopaminergic, and serotonergic transmission. That said, it may be necessary to consider that a subset of aniracetam users may experience relaxation-induced anxiety (anxiety resulting from too much relaxation). In other cases, anxiety from aniracetam may result from clouded thinking and/or unnecessary modulation of neurotransmission. If you become unnecessarily anxious on aniracetam, you are not alone – others have experienced this effect.
Apathy: Another side effect of aniracetam is an emotional state of apathy or emotional blunting. You may feel cognitively enhanced and more focused, but simultaneously may notice that your emotions have completely disappeared or been dampened. Though this may not be problematic if you’re managing to power through some cognitively demanding tasks, if the blunted affect lingers for a long duration after usage, you may dislike aniracetam. It should be noted that the side effect of apathy from aniracetam isn’t usually severe, but may be noticeable.
Brain fog: It is no secret that many people take aniracetam with the intention of getting rid of brain fog. Though some users may find that aniracetam (and other racetam compounds) cure their “cog fog” or impaired cognitive function, others experience a worsening of brain fog. In some cases, individuals with no brain fog prior to aniracetam administration report that they feel spaced out, forgetful, and exhibit signs of cognitive decline each time they take aniracetam; this is counterintuitive to what is expected.
Diarrhea: Aniracetam can cause gastrointestinal irritation, which in some cases, can provoke both upset stomach and diarrhea. Obviously this side effect may be more common among users that take aniracetam on an empty stomach as opposed to with food. Food can often enhance absorption without provoking gastrointestinal irritation that may trigger diarrhea. If the diarrhea is bad, but you want to continue taking aniracetam, you could consider concomitant administration of Imodium.
Dizziness: In some cases, individuals may notice that they feel dizzy when taking aniracetam. This dizziness may be caused by depletion of acetylcholine, taking too high of an aniracetam dose, and/or interactions with other co-administered agents. Some users have reported dizziness so severe that they could barely stand and/or walk. Even mild dizziness may be a disconcerting reaction to aniracetam.
Although dizziness may subside with repeated aniracetam administration (as the brain adapts to it), usually dizziness is a sign of unfavorable tolerability. Since aniracetam is known to deplete acetylcholine, it is possible that dizziness is caused by abnormally low levels of acetylcholine. Certain individuals may find that dizziness subsides upon replenishment of acetylcholine (such as through choline supplementation).
Headaches: Arguably the single most common side effect associated with aniracetam is that of headaches. Some users report mild headaches, while others report severe headaches to the extent of classifying them as full-blown migraines. If you experience a headache on aniracetam, you are certainly not alone.
The exact cause of aniracetam-induced headaches isn’t fully elucidated, but many believe they are caused by a depletion of acetylcholine within the hippocampal region of the brain. For this reason, some users find that concomitant administration of a choline supplement attenuates and/or completely inhibits headaches stemming from aniracetam. That said, if you have been taking choline along with aniracetam the entire time, realize that a surplus of choline can also trigger a headache; there’s a fine line between “too much” and “too little” choline.
Insomnia: While there’s scientific literature and anecdotal reports to suggest that aniracetam administration may aid in the treatment of insomnia, some users experience exacerbation of insomnia. Others may experience insomnia characterized by inability to fall asleep or remain asleep following administration of aniracetam – despite having never experienced insomnia prior to administration of aniracetam. In part, this insomnia could be triggered by the stimulatory effect of aniracetam.
Some individuals find aniracetam so stimulating, that their thought speed increases and they become nervous. This may be triggered by alterations in neurotransmission of serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine – possibly increasing beta waves and/or suppressing slower brain waves. It is also necessary to consider that the time of day at which aniracetam is administered may affect your circadian rhythm, which in turn compromises your ability to fall asleep.
It is also necessary to consider that in certain cases, aniracetam may not be the culprit for insomnia. It may be that co-administration of choline supplements (e.g. excess choline) may provoke insomnia, leading a user to assume that the insomnia was caused by the aniracetam rather than the choline. A third possibility is that there’s some overlap and that certain mechanisms of aniracetam and choline are synergistically contributing to insomnia.
Jaw tension: In some cases, individuals taking aniracetam report severe jaw tension – possibly to the extent of bruxism (teeth grinding during sleep). Excess jaw tension may be triggered by depletion of acetylcholine, but is more likely a result of excess acetylcholine – usually stemming from concomitant choline supplementation. Individuals that supplement with too much choline (or consume excess dietary choline) often end up with an overload of acetylcholine, leading to headaches, jaw tension, and muscle tension.
Nausea: It is documented that some users experience nausea while taking aniracetam. Typically the nausea is most severe when a user first begins using aniracetam. Over time and/or with continued usage and dosage adjustments, nausea resulting from aniracetam usually subsides. If after taking aniracetam you’re suddenly feeling extremely nauseous and/or as if you’re about to vomit, discontinuation may be an obvious choice.
Pain: After taking aniracetam, you may notice the onset of physical pain throughout your body. It is unclear what mechanism of aniracetam induces an increase in pain, but if when you don’t take aniracetam, your pain dissipates – it is logical to conclude that aniracetam was the culprit. Some users have reported chest pain, muscle pain, and muscle aches from aniracetam. That said, consider that concomitant administration of choline may elevate acetylcholine levels to an extent of causing muscle tension and pain.
Restlessness: You may notice that aniracetam makes you feel restless to the extent that you cannot sit still or remain calm. This side effect often goes hand-in-hand with anxiety, nervousness, and racing thoughts that some users experience. Restlessness could be triggered by its stimulatory effects, which may in turn stem from modulation of glutamatergic, cholinergic, serotonergic, and dopaminergic transmission. Also keep in mind that restlessness may be caused by excess choline supplementation.
Skin rash / itchiness: In rare cases, some users have reported skin rashes, dry skin, and/or itchiness. Realize that this side effect is extremely uncommon, but may occur as a result of cascade effect in which neurotransmission modulated via aniracetam spikes histamine. This histaminergic response may lead to itchiness of the skin and/or a mild rash. To be sure that it’s the aniracetam causing the skin rash and/or itchiness, be sure to avoid taking it with other supplements and/or medications.
If you’re taking aniracetam with other medications, it could be a complex interaction that causes a rash or itching. Also realize that like any drug, some users will have tolerability issues and develop unpredictable adverse effects like skin rashes. Even if a majority of users don’t experience an allergic reaction and/or hives, it is important to proceed with caution and consult a medical professional if you notice this side effect.
Stomach aches: Many users know that aniracetam can provoke gastrointestinal distress, especially when taken on an empty stomach. This gastrointestinal distress may cause stomach aches, usually of mild or moderate discomfort. To avoid these stomach aches, you may want to consider taking aniracetam after a meal, especially one high in healthy fats to improve absorption and prevent stomach aches. Additionally, you may want to consider a dosage reduction and/or administration of an over-the-counter (OTC) agent that specifically addresses gastrointestinal distress.
Sweating: Some aniracetam users notice changes in perspiration, sometimes to a significant extent. If you begin using aniracetam and are sweating like crazy, it may be due to alterations in temperature regulation. You may notice that at some times of the day you feel chilled, while other times you feel as if you have a low-grade fever. These temperature changes can provoke sweating throughout the day and especially “night sweats.”
Temperature changes: Some individuals experience changes in body temperature while taking aniracetam. These changes may be mild or moderate to the extent of a low grade fever. As a result of temperature changes, users may report feeling abnormally hot (feverish) or cold (chilled) throughout the day. These temperature changes may prompt the occurrence of sweats, especially at night.
Tiredness: An unexpected reaction to aniracetam that has been reported is an increase in overall tiredness and feelings of fatigue. If you experience tiredness when taking aniracetam, it may be a result of numerous factors including: time of day at which it was administered, the dosage you’re taking, interactions with other drugs/supplements, and/or acetylcholine depletion. Tweaking of aniracetam dosage and/or concomitant choline supplementation may offset the side effect of tiredness.
Vertigo: If you feel like the room is spinning and you’ve become increasingly dizzy after taking aniracetam, you may be experiencing vertigo. Though vertigo isn’t a common side effect, it has been reported by some users. Those that have reported vertigo note that they’ve often had to lie down and close their eyes to cope with this adverse reaction. Vertigo could be a sign of taking too much aniracetam and/or a result of interactions with concomitant supplements.
Factors that influence Aniracetam side effects
There are many factors that may dictate whether you’re likely to experience debilitating aniracetam side effects. Examples of factors to consider as culprits of side effect induction include: aniracetam dosage, frequency/term of administration, concomitantly administered substances, and individual hepatic metabolism.
Dosage (High vs. Low)
It is understood that when higher dosages of drugs and supplements are ingested, likelihood of side effects increases. If you are taking high dosages of aniracetam, you should expect to experience more side effects than if you were takin a low dosage. For this reason, many cautious users employ the strategy of taking a “minimal effective dose” – an amount that enhances cognitive performance without noticeable side effects.
Since there is no clear-cut medically recommended dosage of aniracetam, users may be inclined to experiment with high doses without considering the fact that side effects may be more likely. At higher doses, aniracetam will alter neurophysiology to a greater extent than at lower doses. This neurophysiologic alteration inevitably will trigger unwanted side effects in certain users – especially if they fail to account for acetylcholine depletion.
At lower doses, the overall influence of aniracetam on neurophysiologic function isn’t as significant. Furthermore, acetylcholine won’t be depleted to the same extent as if administered at a high dose. It is also necessary to consider that plasma half-life may increase when administered at higher doses as a result of less efficient hepatic metabolism (as a result of increased burden on CYP450 isoenzymes).
Co-administered drugs or supplements
Many users of aniracetam are quick to blame aniracetam for their side effects without considering that other supplements and/or drugs that they’re taking may be the real culprit. Unless you are taking aniracetam as a standalone supplement, it is impossible to place full blame on the aniracetam as the sole cause of your unwanted side effects. Consider that simultaneous administration of drugs and/or supplements may interact with aniracetam and/or synergistically amplify certain side effects.
Additionally, if you introduced aniracetam to your “stack” at the same time as another supplement, the other supplement may be just as likely as aniracetam to have caused your side effects. Perhaps the best way to determine whether aniracetam is the culprit for your side effects is to take it in isolation, rather than as just another chemical in a large “stack.” On the flipside, if you are taking aniracetam alone, it is possible that lack of choline supplementation may yield side effects.
Aniracetam is known to deplete acetylcholine stores within the brain, leading to low levels – which can cause side effects. However, if you are already supplementing with a choline source, consider that the choline dosage may be too high and/or too low. It may take some tweaking of both aniracetam and your adjuvant choline source to determine the dosages that enhance cognition without side effects.
It should also be noted that other drugs and/or supplements may alter the pharmacokinetics and potentiate alterations in neurotransmission made by aniracetam. Specifically, consider that aniracetam is likely metabolized via CYP450 isoenzymes in the liver. Any agent that inhibits the same pathways responsible for the metabolism of aniracetam may yield elevated plasma concentrations, altered distribution, and/or changes in elimination half-life – each of which may increase likelihood of side effects.
Term of administration
How long you’ve been taking aniracetam may also dictate whether you’re likely to experience side effects. Many users of psychoactive drugs experience side effects that develop after long-term usage; these are more properly referred to as long-term effects. Long-term neurophysiologic adaptations resulting from aniracetam may lead to tolerance, which in turn may prompt a user to increase his/her dose.
Though the increase in dose may be beneficial in that it may renew the initial enhancement of cognitive function that can no longer be attained from low doses (as a result of tolerance), but it may place a greater burden on neurophysiology. Higher doses are more potent, yielding more metabolites, increased plasma concentrations, and heightened distribution. For these reasons, longer-term users may be expected to experience more side effects.
However, it should be noted that some users experience transient side effects when they first begin taking aniracetam. This may result from a temporary adjustment phase that often occurs with most medications. Short-term side effects may last for just a few days and subside as the body (and brain) learn to accommodate the exogenous substance that is aniracetam.
Hepatic metabolism (CYP450)
Although it is understood that aniracetam is likely metabolized hepatically via CYP450 isoenzymes in the liver, the specific pathways haven’t been fully elucidated. Since certain CYP450 isoenzymes are subject to interindividual variation, some aniracetam users may metabolize the drug differently than others. In other words, certain users may extensively metabolize the drug, whereas others may be intermediate and/or poor metabolizers.
If you happen to be in the small percentage of individuals expressing non-functional CYP450 alleles necessary for efficient metabolism of aniracetam, the likelihood that you’ll experience side effects significantly increases. This is due to the fact that plasma concentrations will remain elevated for a longer duration and elimination half-life of aniracetam will be protracted.
Source of aniracetam
Let’s face it, not every company that sells aniracetam should be considered a quality supplier. Since aniracetam is an unregulated substance in the United States, purchasing it over the internet from an unknown vendor may translate to questionable quality, or even worse, a potentially contaminated product. Purer sources of aniracetam may cost more than sources of questionable and/or of lesser quality.
If you aren’t able to verify the purity and/or quality of your product, there’s a chance that you could’ve purchased a bad “batch” of aniracetam. If you experience side effects with aniracetam of one brand, yet try another brand that you hypothesize to be of superior quality, there’s a chance that one brand is superior to the other. For this reason, you may want to experiment with the sourcing and ensure that you’re getting aniracetam from a reliable vendor to minimize potential contamination and adverse reactions that may result from a subpar product.
Do Aniracetam’s side effects outweigh its benefits?
If you’ve been taking aniracetam, you may need to question whether its perceived therapeutic and/or cognitive enhancing benefits outweigh its side effects. In the event that you don’t experience any side effects, it may be a no-brainer to continue supplementation. On the other hand, if you don’t experience any side effects but also don’t notice any benefit, it doesn’t really make sense to continue supplementation.
In the event that you notice enhanced cognition, but also experience severe side effects (e.g. incessant diarrhea), it may be difficult to justify continued supplementation. Ideally, aniracetam will serve as a cognitive enhancer with minimal side effects. If you notice significant cognitive benefit and a few mild side effects, it’s probably worth continuing.
It may be most difficult to decide whether aniracetam supplementation is worth continuing if you experience side effects that are equipotent to cognitive enhancement. Keep in mind that you should always consider potential dangers of nootropics prior to ingestion, even of seemingly benign agents like aniracetam. Many marketers (selling aniracetam-based compounds) and new users (experiencing enhancement that’s likely unsustainable over a long-term) really like to hype up aniracetam (and other “smart drugs”); avoid this hype and think for yourself.
Possible ways to reduce Aniracetam side effects
If you are experiencing unwanted side effects from aniracetam, it may be possible to reduce them in terms of quantity (i.e. number of effects) and severity (i.e. the extent to which they are debilitating). Attenuation strategies such as: choline supplementation, dosage reduction, and/or avoiding other drugs/supplements may reduce the incidence of side effects. However, in some cases, it may be necessary to discontinue aniracetam due to neurophysiologic incompatibility.
- Choline supplementation: If side effects stemming from aniracetam result from depletion of acetylcholine, it may be necessary to ramp up intake of dietary choline. One way in which choline can be increased is via supplementation with something like CDP-choline, or consumption of foods like raw egg yolks and organ meats (e.g. beef liver). Realize that it may take some time to find the ideal dosage of aniracetam to choline. One should also understand that too much choline may provoke its own set of unrelated side effects.
- Dosage reduction: An obvious strategy to reduce severity and number of side effects is dosage reduction. Reduce the amount of aniracetam that you’re taking and consider that you may be ingesting too high of a dose. The higher the aniracetam dosage, the greater the influence it has over your neurochemistry – increasing the likelihood of side effects. For this reason, it may be helpful to start with a super low dose (microdose) and work your way up until you notice side effects.
- Avoid other drugs/supplements: Many people fail to consider that other pharmaceutical drugs and/or supplements could interact with aniracetam. As a result of an unexpected interaction, side effects may become more numerous and increase in severity. For this reason, you may want to take aniracetam on a standalone basis, rather than adding it to a “stack.” This will help you determine whether your side effects are legitimately from the aniracetam. If you are taking aniracetam as part of a “stack” (especially a large one), other substances could be the culprit for your side effects. Furthermore, there are numerous permutations of interactions between the supplements that may provoke side effects; these will be difficult to isolate in a large stack.
- Take with food: Taking aniracetam after a meal may offset some of the gastrointestinal side effects associated with its usage. Food may slow the absorption of aniracetam and mitigate gastrointestinal irritation. This may lead to reductions in likelihood of diarrhea and stomach aches that are associated with aniracetam.
- Continue using: Sometimes side effects associated with aniracetam are transient in that they occur for a few days and diminish within 1 to 2 weeks of continued usage. Many individuals experience transient side effects as their body adapts to a newly administered exogenous substance. With repeated usage over a longer-term, aniracetam side effects may completely subside for some users.
- Discontinuation: Perhaps the most commonsense thing to do if you’re experiencing unwanted side effects while taking aniracetam (especially cognitive impairment) is to discontinue usage. There’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that aniracetam is safe in all humans and there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that it provides sustainable long-term cognitive enhancement. If your side effects from aniracetam don’t subside or are severe – avoid taking it.
Have you experienced any side effects from aniracetam?
If you’ve experienced side effects from aniracetam, feel free to share them in the comments section below. Discuss when you initially noticed the onset of side effects as well as the respective severity of each one. Which side effect did you find most disconcerting? To help others get a better understanding of your situation, mention the daily dosage of aniracetam you took (or are taking), your choline intake, as well as whether you are taking any other supplements or medications.
Realize that although aniracetam has been extensively studied in animals, and appears relatively tolerable in humans, its full side effect profile isn’t well-documented. If you experienced a side effect that wasn’t mentioned above, and are sure it was from the aniracetam, be sure to report it in your comment. Also keep in mind that no drug is a panacea; if you don’t respond well to aniracetam, cessation is probably a smart course of action.