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Phenibut Addiction – Signs, Symptoms, And Risk Factors

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 11, 2019

Phenibut is a supplement that acts as a synthetic form of GABA, creating feelings of calm and relaxation. Using phenibut can lead to abuse, which in turn can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped.

Phenibut is a supplement that got its start in Russia in the 1960s. There, it has been prescribed as an anti-anxiety medication to treat conditions such as depression, insomnia, PTSD, and stuttering.

Phenibut is not a controlled substance and is legal to have, sell, and use in the United States. It’s also available without a prescription, making it fairly easy to obtain.

This substance is a synthetic form of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that has a calming effect. GABA helps individuals feel more relaxed and calm and less anxious. It can also help to control overthinking and self-consciousness.

Phenibut can be found and purchased easily online and is often marketed as a nootropic, or “smart drug.” This supplement is most commonly used and known for its effects as a mood booster and sleep aid.

Psychological Effects Of Phenibut

Because phenibut is a synthetic form of the neurotransmitter GABA, it primarily tends to provide a relaxing effect on those who take it. It can suppress anxiety, and many people use the drug in social situations to prevent social anxiety.

Phenibut can also help to calm the mind and can make people sleepy. As a result, some individuals use phenibut as a sleep aid.

The drug has also been noted for its mildly stimulating effects without the harsh “upper” sensation brought about by caffeine and other stimulants. For this reason, some people use phenibut to heighten concentration and focus.

Some bodybuilders and other fitness enthusiasts use the supplement to increase muscle-building abilities and act as a recovery booster. However, these effects have not been proven.

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Side Effects Of Phenibut

Phenibut side effects tend to be minimal when taken in low doses. However, as with any other drug, side effects are certainly possible.

Some of the most common side effects of phenibut include:

  • allergic reactions
  • headaches
  • increased anxiety
  • upset stomach
  • irritability
  • tiredness

Because the United States does not regulate the use of phenibut, there is no way to know every side effect the drug may have. Each person reacts differently to medication, so while one person may have no side effects, another person may have severe side effects.

Taken at higher doses, phenibut can cause more intense and potentially dangerous effects that may include the feeling of a hangover, loss of coordination, and motor impairment.

Long-Term Effects Of Using Phenibut

As with many drugs, using phenibut for an extended period of time can lead to dependence. When a person is dependent on phenibut, he or she may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when not taking the supplement.

Another long-term effect of phenibut is the possibility of fatigue and depression. These symptoms can arise even in the absence of physical dependence on the drug. Individuals that heavily use phenibut may also be at an increased risk of fatty liver disease and eosinophilia.

Phenibut Addiction

The abuse and addiction potential of phenibut has not been thoroughly studied in the United States. Because this drug is not controlled and can be easily obtained, there is currently no way to monitor the rates of abuse and addiction.

However, because phenibut is a psychoactive drug, addiction is a real possibility for those who take it.

People who use phenibut can build up a tolerance to the drug quickly, requiring them to take more of the substance to get the same effect. Taking higher doses of phenibut can make it harder to stop taking the drug.

Phenibut can also cause uncomfortable and potentially severe withdrawal symptoms. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms can cause someone to continue taking the drug to find relief.

Withdrawal Symptoms Of Phenibut

People who take phenibut can experience symptoms of withdrawal, even after only one use of the drug. Those who take phenibut for an extended period of time will most likely have more severe withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms have been shown to begin as soon as three to four hours after the last dose is taken. Withdrawal effects can last up to two weeks after stopping the drug.

Symptoms of withdrawal from phenibut may include:

  • tremors
  • increased anxiety
  • trouble sleeping
  • hallucinations
  • upset stomach
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • irritability
  • decreased appetite
  • paranoia
  • cognitive problems
  • tension in the muscles

While uncommon, it is possible to overdose on phenibut. Overdose symptoms may include excessive tiredness, decreased body temperature, and intense muscle relaxation.

Getting Treatment For Phenibut Abuse And Addiction

If you or a loved one is addicted phenibut, it’s important to know that there is help available. Signs of addiction may include dependence on the drug, trying to quit but failing, hiding the use of the drug, and mood changes.

There are several options available for the treatment of phenibut addiction, with the most successful often being a formal treatment program. Other types of treatment used for phenibut addiction include medication, stress reduction, and tapering off the drug.

To learn more about phenibut and the treatment options available for phenibut addiction, call our dedicated treatment specialists today.

CNS Drug Reviews - Phenibut (beta-phenyl-GABA): A Tranquilizer And Nootropic Drug

Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology - Dissociative Intoxication And Prolonged Withdrawal Associated With Phenibut: A Case Report

BMJ Case Reports - Phenibut Dependence

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