University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1849-1856
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Early online date14 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2014


Introduction: Performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs), also known as “lifestyle drugs,” are increasingly sold on the Internet to enhance cognitive as well as sexual, muscular, attentive, and other natural capacities. Our analysis focuses on the misuse of the cognitive enhancer piracetam. Methods: A literature review was carried out in PsychInfo and Pubmed database. Considering the absence of peer-reviewed data, review of additional sources of unstructured information from the Internet was carried out between February 2012 and July 2013. Additional searches were conducted using the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), a secure Internet-based early warning system developed by Health Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO), which monitors media reports in six languages, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Results: Piracetam is sold via illicit online pharmacies with no need of prescription at low prices. Buyers, mainly healthy individuals, purchase the product to enhance study- and work-related performances as well as for recreational purposes. Its nonmedical use is often associated with the occurrence of side effects such as hallucinations, psychomotor agitation, dysphoria, tiredness, dizziness, memory loss, headache, and severe diarrhoea; moreover, several users declared to have neither felt any cognitive improvement nor psychedelic effects. Conclusions: This is a new and fast-growing trend of abuse that needs to be extensively monitored and studied also by using near real-time and unstructured sources of information such as Internet news and online reports in order to acquire rapid knowledge and understanding. Products sold online might be counterfeits and this enhances related health risks


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Substance Use & Miuse on December 2014, available online at:

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