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Med Leg J. 2017 Dec;85(4):203-206. doi: 10.1177/0025817217717846. Epub 2017 Jun 28.

Heroin-piracetam mixture: Suggested mechanisms of action and risks of misinterpretation for drug users.

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1 Legal Medicine Section - SAIMLAL Department, SAPIENZA University of Rome, Roma, Italy.
2 State Police Health Service Department, Ministry of Interior, Rome, Italy.


Piracetam is a positive allosteric modulator of the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor that has been frequently used in the treatment of cognitive disorders. Press and internet reports indicate that the use of piracetam, as a heroin adulterant, has spread rapidly in some countries, especially in Asia and Europe. Its use, as adulterant, is believed to produce more profound desirable effects, while decreasing hangover. Recent surveys demonstrated that piracetam protects neurons from heroin-induced apoptosis. The protective role of this adulterating substance may be related to restoration of beta-endorphin levels and to its neuroprotective effects. The aim of this paper is to review the relevant literature and suggest the main hypothetical mechanisms that justify its use as a heroin adulterant, try to understand if its use could help people who want to come off heroin by reducing withdrawal symptoms and, finally, give useful information that permit us to understand why drug trafficking organisations started to use piracetam as heroin adulterant.


Piracetam; body packer; body packing; forensic toxicology; heroin; withdrawal

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