Phenibut is commonly used as a nootropic, an anti-anxiety medication, and sleep aid.
Phenibut has a somewhat checkered past. The drug was developed by the USSR in the 1960’s as a trial experiment on psychiatric patients.
Tested at the Soviet Union at the Academy of Medical Sciences USSR and the I. M. Herzen Leningrad Pedagogical Institute USSR, the drug was primarily targeted at younger patients and soon was administered as a strong anti-anxiety treatment.
The drug became further institutionalized by the Soviet scientific community, becoming an integral part of a cosmonaut’s medical kit as a treatment for stress during the Apollo-Soyuz space missions.
It is still used today in Russia. It does not have common use in the United States.
Phenibut claims to ease anxieties and improve psychological states. It finds use as an anxiolytic. It is also given to patients before and after surgery. In Russia, doctors have found many different uses for the treatment.
Video: Phenibut Explained
First time Phenibut user? Start with this quick and easy to understand video about Phenibut.
It’ll quickly cover the basics and how this powerful nootropic relieves anxiety while still giving a slight dopamine boost.
What Does Phenibut Do?
Phenibut is a neuropsychotropic drug. A study by Lapin said that it imitates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This keeps GABA receptors busy.
This is effective as the this keeps the brain less excitable. It then stimulates receptors for dopamine. This enhances positive mood.
The most controversial feature of Phenibut is in its depressive function. It blocks beta-phenethylamine.
It works as a depressant to the central nervous system. Along with other issues, this quality may contribute to the drug’s dependence.
In Russia, Phenibut is a common treatment for anxiety. It is also used as a sleep aid. It has a calming effect on users.
Phenibut is often given to patients before and after surgeries. It is also believed to improve cognition. Its processes are said to help the brain focus and concentrate.
Phenibut As Medication
Russia has used Phenibut as medication for decades, and is used today both as a medication and off-label use for a variety of conditions:
- Anxiety disorders
- Fears and phobias
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Sleep trouble caused by neurosis
The United States does not readily use Phenibut as a medication. It has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Thus, it is unregulated and considered a supplement. Plenty of online retailers offer Phenibut in both capsules and powder forms.
Phenibut as a Nootropic
Recreational users often take Phenibut to feel good, euphoric and outgoing. It’s great for sex too. Great to listening to music. It is used to calm stress and it helps staying composed.
Some evidence points to an increase in mental capacity. Some users claim the supplement aided in problem solving and creativity. Without much formal testing, however, it is difficult to say for sure.
There are other nootropics with fewer risks. Modafinil has a reputation of enhancing cognitive functions, giving a boost of energy and increases focus. In the United States, users need a prescription to take it.
Modafinil does have a prodrug called Adrafinil that is available as a legal supplement. Adrafinil becomes Modafinil after metabolizing. The biggest difference is that Adrafinil use comes with a risk of liver damage.
The Effectiveness of Phenibut
It takes only a few minutes to experiences a sense of total calm after taking Phenibut.
Depending on its purpose, it can be taken at different times. For the general relief of anxiety, it is taken during the day. To remedy sleep issues, it is taken a couple of hours before going to bed.
Phenibut causes relaxation. It even has sedative properties. This explains its use before and after surgeries.
When taken at night at lower doses people gradually feel a sense of sleepiness. This is why some people use Phenibut to relax them and take it an hour or two before sleep.
Phenibut -> GABA -> Lower Anxiety
Phenibut works because it readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and binds to GABA receptors in the brain.
In fact, Phenibut is just a modified version of the naturally occurring GABA neurotransmitter; their chemical structures are virtually identical except for an additional phenyl side group in Phenibut.
Once it interacts with the central nervous system, it is able to help lower levels of over-excitement within the brain. More specifically, it decreases some of the sensitivity of your neurons to the neurochemical messages sent between areas of the brain.
By making sure that only the most important messages get through and blocking extraneous information, you can prevent the anxiety-inducing effects of over-stimulation.
Phenibut doesn’t just work on GABA receptors: it has the added benefit of partially binding Dopamine receptors.
An equally (if not much more) powerful neurotransmitter in the brain, Dopamine is responsible for controlling functions like mood and movement and regulating our pleasure/pain cycle. Dopamine is intimately connected with our sense of pleasure and the reward system in our brain.
It also has a function in the brain systems that control attention and focus. As the levels of this brain chemical are increased when taking Phenibut dosages, this can lead to improved mood and even more motivation.
Everyone’s always asking me how much they should take.
Here’s my answer…
Everyone’s phenibut experience is unique, but in general, men should take about 2 – 2.5 grams and women 1 – 1.2 grams of Phenibut in a day.
Positive Effects: The Benefits of Using Phenibut
First time users often pose the question, “what does phenibut feel like?”
Sensations on Phenibut – How Does it Feel?
The effects of phenibut simultaneously combine mild-to-moderate sedation with mild-to-moderate stimulation, allowing one to feel physically relaxed and mentally focused at the same time.
This increases sociability, lowering stress and inhibition levels, without impairing judgment.
While some people have compared the primary effects of phenibut to that of a light dose of GHB or MDMA, it’s really just an effective anti-anxiety, antidepressant medication, with few side-effects and remarkable health benefits.
Phenibut gives some users the sensation of mild euphoria, tantamount to a mild “high”. As such, it can be abused if not used correctly. Yet, the euphoric phenibut high is not intense, and taking more of it doesn’t intensify the high.
After consuming a dose of phenibut–usually between 250 milligrams and 1000 milligrams — how long it takes to feel the effects varies considerably from person to person.
Personally, I’ve found that phenibut works most consistently when taken on an empty stomach, and I feel its effects in around 15 or 20 minutes.
However, it takes longer for most people to feel the effects.
Mant people really feel all the effects kicking in in around 1 or 2 hours after oral ingestion, and then the primary effects usually last for around 4 or 5 hours, although pleasant lingering effects can last for another 24 hours.
While you won’t ever truly know until you’ve tasted the pudding, the following descriptions come pretty close:
- The best description of a good Phenibut experience is “extreme calmness”
- A moderate to drastic reduction in anxiety – general and social
- A moderate to drastic increase in pro social behavior and the desire to be social
- A moderate to pronounced “sense of well-being”
- A slight to moderate euphoria; high levels of euphoria can be achieved sometimes
- Music sounds amazing, somewhat like MDMA
The list goes on…
- Slight to drastic increase in alertness, this is also due to stimulants
- Moderate increase in cognitive processes (you think faster)
- Dilated pupils from taking 3000mg+ in a 24/hr period
- Slightly improved memory retention
- Increased sexual performance (low doses)
- Unlike benzodiazepines, Phenibut enhances instead of killing your motivation
The Dark Side of Phenibut: Negative Side Effects
Build-up and Tolerance
Building up tolerance against phenibut or one of its many effects is quite common, but this build up does not correlate with increases or decrease in phenibut’s nootropic effects.
In other words, more is not necessarily better; re-dosing will only worsen the hangover and provide little to no cognitive benefit.
The first signs of tolerance may be seen within as little as five days. For this reason, it is commonly used for one to two week periods, or dosage is increased by 25-30% after two weeks.
This makes phenibut ideal for short periods of stress or anxiety, but not ideal for chronic use. It is possible that taking only one dose daily may partially reduce the development of tolerance.
Consider this case – an individual taking phenibut in order to get rid of insomnia might see momentary relief of the surface layer symptoms, then after a week of using the product the same problem would occur again.
An ideal time course for phenibut should be no more than a few months.
Taking phenibut for longer periods of time, even as prescribed, increases the likelihood that you’ll encounter nasty withdrawal symptoms. Inevitably the crash will come though, and it can be brutal.
Phenibut is not meant to help you in long term and so it cannot be used as a replacement for making the necessary lifestyle changes that would alleviate social anxiety.
Make use of other anxiolytics whenever possible. I recommend the following herbs:
- Kava Kava
- Lemon Balm
- Valerian Root
Of those five, theanine and Ashwaganda seem to work the best. I always keep them on hand if I plan to use phenibut.
Three things you need to know about Phenibut addiction:
- Anecdotal evidence suggests that phenibut is habit-forming and requires more a higher dose over time given the body’s ability to build a quick tolerance to the drug
- Although when taken in moderation, phenibut can reduce anxiety. If abused, side effects multiple to include agitation, irritability, fatigue and nausea.
- There are several recovery options including tapering, medication and the stress reducing activities like exercise and mindfulness.
Changes In Dream Patterns
One of the more interesting side effects that have been reported by users is a change in their normal dream patterns.
This may be caused by the increase in REM sleep associated with taking Phenibut. In many cases, this means that they begin to remember their dreams and they seem to be more vivid.
Sadly, this can be both good and bad. There have been users reporting that they experience nightmares on a daily basis when using Phenibut. On the other hand, some people find that their dreams are actually better and become more pleasant.
Most people also report that they sleep much more soundly and wake up feeling more refreshed and ready to tackle their day.
Although very uncommon, a number of other users have indicated that after taking Phenibut (usually a few hours later) they feel a pain in their limbs. Others might experience only a mild numbness.
This feeling is described as coming from ‘deep’ inside their bones and feels a bit strange and even unnatural. In some cases this does go away, but the general remedy for this is usually either reducing the dosage or taking a break from this nootropic.
Phenibut can make people drowsy or excessively fatigued, especially when taking it at certain times of day.
You may feel like you are moving in slow motion or that all of your thoughts are taking a longer time to be processed. This is usually the result of an excessive dose.
The best way to overcome this is to monitor how much is being taken and pay attention to the specific effects it has on your body. The right dosage for someone else may in fact be too much for you.
Does not play well with epilepsy medications
If you’re taking epilepsy medications like carbamazepine (a prescription anti-depressant for bipolar disorder), oxcarbazepine (a mood stabilizer), or other MAO inhibitors that affect the GABA pathway, I recommend avoiding phenibut (or baclofen), as they may have drug-drug interactions.
This drowsy effect can be very potent in cases of overdose.
Although having anti-anxiety properties, Phenibut is generally not recommended for long term treatment of General Anxiety Disorder. One of the side effects of Phenibut is a withdrawal or “hangover” effect following cessation of use due to GABA receptor down regulation and tolerance.
Though the source of the hangover is unclear, studies are finding that phenibut could alter the properties and functions of some epilepsy and sleep medications.
What happens during Phenibut withdrawal
During Phenibut withdrawal, excess glutamate floating around the brain causes people to get really bad anxiety, insomnia, and even depressive symptoms.
The depressive symptoms are also in part due to a down-regulation of dopamine receptors (remember that phenibut is a mild stimulant).
These symptoms are not normal. They usually occur in people who have used phenibut for prolonged periods of time in small doses: i.e. consecutive days …sometimes for years.
Most users begin by using phenibut at random times. Because of its steep tolerance ramp and dose-dependent intensity of symptoms, this sporadic dosing schedule leads to irritability and disturbed sleep.
In this weakened state, the temptation to use phenibut every day is very high and many users begin the downward cycle of daily use.
If you’ve been in this situation, then you’re well-acquainted with phenibut’s hellish side effects (when used improperly).
To break the habit, many individuals make serious attempts at cold turkey cessation. Cold turkey successes are rare but not impossible.
For the majority however, they only through your GABA receptor rejuvenation cycle further out of whack, intensifying anxiety. There is a solution in the middle ground.
Beating the anxiety of Phenibut Withdrawal: a Method That Works
The key ingredient: slow your taper.
Many people don’t feel the effects of withdrawal until 24 hours after abrupt cessation of phenibut.
The withdrawal becomes progressively worse and maxes out at 72-96 hours but you’ll still have a rocky road ahead of you for a few weeks in terms of emotional flatness, dysphoria, some anxiety and definitely disturbed sleep. Of course these symptoms will vary from person to person.
Some may experience only one or two symptoms and some people will experience all of them. Decrease your dose by 100 to 300 milligrams every 1-3 days, depending on how you feel.
Usually (not always, but usually), the most dramatic withdrawal symptoms (even while tapering) don’t hit until the 72-hour mark.
For this reason, try maintaining the same dose (eg., gram per day divided in 250mg doses) for three days and then drop another 200 milligrams or so.
All the while, take healthy servings of magnesium bis-glycinate, L-theanine, Ashwagandha and a variety of others to manage anxiety.
Experiment with low-dose NMDA antagonists to ease the withdrawal as well. Eventually, you will get off of it naturally with only fragmented sleep for about 2 weeks after discontinuation.
If you still need help, consider soothing audio tapes like this one to soothe your mind:
A word of caution
This method of slow tapering is not always comfortable.
You could very easily take Klonopin or Baclofen to come off phenibut, but honestly it’s going to be healthier in the long run to tackle it with the same vigor that led you into the black hole of withdrawal.
If you have access to a short acting benzo (eg, Xanax) to get you through the initial 10 days, then use it at low doses and as infrequently as possible. But just be careful and don’t overdo it with benzos. YMMV.
If you’re still reading, then chances are you’ve read some of the horror stories about phenibut dependence.
Think about all the pain that others have had to go through, and learn from their mistakes. Phenibut is a substance that should be treated with respect, the same way you would treat a benzodiazepine.
It is an amazing compound and I do believe it has some therapeutic uses – when used responsibly.
That ‘line’ between use/abuse will be different for people but I hope that these tips help shed some more light on proper ways to use Phenibut.
According to an article published in the Boston Globe in 2015, Phenibut is one of the most common drugs that land 23,000 people in the emergency room each year after taking unregulated supplements.
Phenibut isn’t so much an “addiction” in that users in withdrawal have no desire to stay on; the body is dependent on it and the positive effects people get from reasonable doses have diminishing returns.
In higher doses, it acts as a stimulant and disturbs sleep – even more of a reason to try and get off the drug.
Compare phenibut to drinking: with alcohol, you can develop a tolerance but you inevitably you hit a wall from drunken behavior or unconsciousness.
With phenibut, the same thing doesn’t really occur.
Once dependent, high doses will not give you the initial effects you felt before like motivation, pro-social behavior, and wonderful sleep.
On the contrary, it will break sleep up. And terribly so.
Handle with care
A final note — while the Phenibut comedown can be intense if the drug is misused, phenibut is largely harmless. It is relatively non-toxic and it is not carcinogenic.
If you’d like a more in-depth look at the science of phenibut, check out some of the recent research being done in the US and elsewhere (link to research).