Recent controversy in the US has put pikatropin in the spotlight and raised a lot of questions.
It is an ingredient in many preworkouts, some of them rumoured to be highly effective.
But consumers were alarmed when the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) sent letters to a number of manufacturers about the mislabelling of their pikatropin products.
So what exactly is pikatropin?
Are the stories about pikatropin’s benefits true?
Anecdotal evidence says that it can enhance mood, and increase mental agility and focus.
Some people take it for its effects on the cardiovascular system.
Does pikatropin actually work, and if so is it legal?
Like all preworkout supplements, there is information out there on pikatropin.
But sifting through can be time-consuming. We’ve put together this guide so that you can find out everything you need to know about pikatropin, in one easy hit.
What is Pikatropin?
Pikatropin is also known as pikamilon and nicotinyl-aminobutyric acid.
It isn’t an amino acid or a food derivative.
In fact, pikatropin is a unique chemical that has been created from gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and niacin.
GABA is a neurotransmitter and it inhibits neuron and nerve cell activity. Niacin is said to help with circulation problems and migraines.
Pikatropin was first synthesised in Russia in 1969, as part of research into performance-enhancing substances.
It is now used as a prescription drug in Russia and Japan to treat depression, migraine, neuro infections, and glaucoma.
It is classed as a nootropic — coffee is another example of one of these — because it affects cognitive function.
There has been some controversy about this chemical when used as a supplement.
This began in November 2015, when the USFDA sent warning letters to five companies about the ‘misbranding’ of their supplements containing pikatropin as dietary ingredients.
In the US, the FDA has the authority to force companies to remove their products from the market if they can first prove that the products are either unsafe or misbranded.
In this case, the companies were told that pikamilon (pikatropin) did not match the definition of a dietary ingredient held by the US government.
The FDA did not prove that pikatropin is dangerous.
A spokeswoman for the FDA, Lyndsay Meyer, said that the agency had been made aware of 10 consumers who had adverse reactions after taking pikatropin.
However, because the pikatropin was consumed as part of a product containing other ingredients, it couldn’t be isolated as the aggravating factor.
In the UK it is legal to buy pikatropin at health and nutrition shops, or online.
You don’t need a prescription because the chemical is classed as a dietary supplement in the UK.
You can choose from powder or capsule forms of the supplement.
What Does Pikatropin Do?
Pikatropin is a nootropic, which means that because of the way its two ingredients are combined, it is able to affect the way the brain works.
GABA is a neurotransmitter, but without being chemically fused to niacin, it can’t cross the blood-brain barrier.
Back in the 1960s, Russian scientists discovered that niacin could carry the GABA molecules across this barrier into the brain.
Once the pikatropin has crossed into the brain a hydrolytic reaction occurs (this adds a water molecule to the chemical) causing it to split back into GABA and niacin.
The GABA is now free to affect the activity of the brain, and this usually shows as a decrease in feelings of anxiety, stress, and negativity.
Despite GABA reducing mental activity related to anxiety and stress, pikatropin doesn’t cause a feeling of being sedated, because of the niacin component.
The niacin acts as a vasodilator, opening the brain’s blood vessels, improving blood flow and oxygen delivery.
This allows the brain cells to release more energy, leading to cognitive enhancements like increased memory, clarity, and focus.
It is also believed that pikatropin can improve the maintenance of blood vessels all through the body, and it has been seen to reduce blood pressure.
It also influences the nerves including those that affect vascular tone.
Pikatropin has vasodilation effects which means it can increase blood flow to working muscles.
The increased oxygen supply can boost power and the higher blood flow flushes away metabolites that can cause muscle fatigue before they cause a dip in performance.
The increased concentration and calmness that pikatropin brings should help you focus on form, whether you are training or competing.
Users report that the effects of pikatropin can be felt quickly – after as few as 30 minutes, but usually within an hour after ingestion.
The effects can then last for four to six hours.
How Much Pikatropin Should You Consume?
How much pikatropin should I take?
There are no official guidelines giving safe dosages of pikatropin.
However, most supplements recommend 50-100mg per serving.
But, capsules of pikatropin are usually 150mg.
Russian research indicates that taking doses as low as 40-80mg per day can help people in asthenic (weakened) states.
In extreme cases, the research states that doses as high as 200-300mg per day can be used for up to six weeks.
In another Russian study, elderly people suffering from depression were given 200mg per day divided into 3 doses for a period of 12 weeks.
It is advisable to start with a low dose and increase to the maximum of 300mg per day only if you don’t feel the benefits at lower doses.
Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best approach.
What Foods Contain Pikatropin?
Pikatropin is a chemical synthetically built from niacin and GABA.
There are no natural food sources.
Foods containing niacin are turkey, chicken, peanuts, mushrooms, liver, tuna, green peas, beef, sunflower seeds, and avocado.
Eating foods high in glutamic acid may help to increase the body’s levels of GABA.
These foods include almonds, bananas, beef, broccoli, brown rice, lentils, oranges, oats, spinach, halibut, and walnuts.
However, as discussed earlier, GABA cannot cross the blood-brain barrier unless it is attached to niacin, so eating glutamic acid containing foods will not contribute directly to increased GABA in the brain.
When to Take Pikatropin
When is it recommended to take pikatropin?
Pikatropin is felt in the body within an hour, and sometimes in as little as half an hour.
Its effects are reported to last from four to six hours.
There are no official guidelines for when and how to take pikatropin but to make the most of its vasodilation effects, take it as a preworkout.
If you are taking this supplement on its own (and not as part of a workout formula) then taking it later in the evening may allow you to take advantage of its calming effects.
Side Effects of Pikatropin
Pikatropin is said to be safe by the nootropic community when taken in doses of less than 500mg per day.
However, there has been little research into this chemical in the western world.
If you do decide to take this supplement, consult your doctor, and use with caution.
Pikatropin is a weak monoamine oxidase inhibitor.
What Is a Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor?
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are also know as MAOIs.
Monoamine oxidase is the family of enzymes that break down dopamine.
When these enzymes are inhibited, dopamine levels rise, causing mood improvements.
The antidepressants moclobemide, phenelzine, and tranylcypromine are MAOIs, as is the natural supplement, St. John’s Wort.
MAOIs can react badly with some foods and medicines, causing potentially serious side effects.
If you eat lots of foods containing tryptophan while taking MAOIs, there is a small possibility of developing serotonin syndrome.
Foods such as nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, chicken and red meat are high in tryptophan.
Serotonin syndrome is potentially life threatening.
Symptoms include: increased heart rate, high body temperature, agitation, increased reflexes, tremors, sweating, and diarrhoea.
Tyramine, found in foods like cheese, liver, and marmite can also react badly with MAOIs.
In this case, the two substances combined can cause an extreme rise in blood pressure which can result in organ failure – a throbbing headache is one of the early symptoms.
The niacin component of pikatropin can cause flushing to the face and body, tingling sensations, and rashes.
In some cases, it can increase blood sugar levels, and very high levels of niacin can cause hepatotoxicity (liver damage).
Doses of under 150mg of pikatropin are generally thought to be too low to cause these effects.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that stopping GABA supplements suddenly can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Therefore, it may be better to reduce doses over time when coming off pikatropin.
Your doctor will be able to advise you on whether this supplement is right for you.
Do You Need to Cycle Pikatropin?
Yes, anecdotal evidence suggests that it is helpful to cycle pikatropin.
Cycling with another nootropic like Phenibut may help avoid the risk of building up tolerance as well as reducing the possibility of withdrawal symptoms.
It is generally considered to be a safe nootropic, you could cycle pikatropin for 4 days and then use a different nootropic for 2 or 3 days.