Sold under brand names “Noofen” and “Fenibut,” Phenibut is a medication prescribed by physicians in Russia, Latvia and Ukraine to treat insomnia, depression and anxiety disorders. Phenibut is not available or approved for medical use in the U.S. or European Union countries. However, Phenibut can be purchased online without a doctor’s prescription. It is currently advertised as a “nutritional supplement” although the U.S. FDA states Phenibut does not meet its definition as a dietary ingredient.
History of Phenibut
Originally created in the Soviet Union during the 1960s, Phenibut is currently prescribed in Russia and Ukraine to treat alcoholism, PTSD, Meniere’s disease, tics, and stuttering. In Russia, patients are sometimes given Phenibut prior to surgery to reduce anxiety. A central nervous system depressant taken orally in capsule form or as a powder, Phenibut exerts stimulant or sedative effects depending on the amount taken. Low doses tend to stimulate the body while higher doses provide anxiolytic effects.
Legal Status of Phenibut
Phenibut is not approved for use or sale in the U.S. and EU because of its addictive qualities. Reports of people suffering physical addiction to Phenibut within days of taking the drug are widespread. Tolerance builds quickly to Phenibut, which forces users to need more of the drug to feel its sedative effects.
Hungary and Australia have deemed Phenibut a controlled substance. In Australia, Phenibut is listed as a “schedule 9” drug because of health concerns regarding its addictive qualities and potential for severe withdrawal symptoms or overdose. Hungary has added Phenibut and other similar substances to its standardized list of banned psychoactive substances.
According to Dr. Abby Campbell, several hundred research papers about Phenibut have been published, but most articles are in Russian and deal with animal studies and the effects of Phenibut on rats, mice and cats. In other words, no studies have been done concerning Phenibut’s long-term effects on humans. The severe lack of information about the possibility Phenibut could induce serious harm on humans is why the FDA has not approved Phenibut for medical use in the U.S.
How Does Phenibut Affect the Brain?
Phenibut is a full agonist (stimulator) of brain receptors involved in gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) regulation. Found only in the central nervous system, these receptors are also responsible for the sedative, euphoric effects of alcohol, barbiturates and benzodiazepines.
In low doses, Phenibut increases dopamine levels in the brain. This leads to increased alertness, concentration and focus. Phenibut and Adderall exert similar cognitive effects that benefit college students cramming for exams or have heavy course schedules.
Although scant information is available regarding the pharmacokinetics of Phenibut, scientists do know that Phenibut is easily absorbed by the body and rapidly crosses the blood-brain barrier. Onset of Phenibut’s physical and psychological effects is typically within two to four hours of taking oral Phenibut. Duration of a Phenibut “high” has been reported to last as long as 24 hours.
Side Effects of Phenibut
In addition to euphoria and sedation, Phenibut can also cause:
- Skin rash/hives/allergic reactions
- Loss of coordination/balance
“Coming down” from a Phenibut high has been described as being similar to waking up with a hangover from drinking too much alcohol. This is due to the fact that Phenibut affects the central nervous system the same way alcohol reduces CNS activity.
Phenibut withdrawal symptoms mimic withdrawal symptoms of barbiturates and benzodiazepines:
- Rebound anxiety
- Severe depression
- Visual/auditory hallucinations
- Flu-like symptoms
Signs of a Phenibut Overdose
Since Phenibut is advertised online as a “dietary” or “nutritional” supplement, overdosing on Phenibut is a real concern, especially among people who do not know the addictive qualities of Phenibut. Taking too much Phenibut could cause vomiting, extreme drowsiness/unconsciousness, low blood pressure, delirium, seizures, kidney and liver impairment and abnormally high white blood cell counts.
No clinical antidote exists for a Phenibut overdose. Managing an overdose involves doctors giving victims activated charcoal and performing a gastric lavage (stomach pump). Symptom-based support is also provided, such as anti-seizure medication if applicable. No deaths have been reported by U.S. emergency rooms or hospitals associated with a Phenibut overdose.
Contraindications for Phenibut
Although the FDA has not approved Phenibut as a medicinally safe substance, some published reports state that Phenibut should not be taken by women who are breastfeeding or pregnant, should not be given to children, may cause liver and kidney failure if abused and could promote development of gastrointestinal tract ulcers or lesions.
Phenibut and Weed
While no peer-reviewed articles are available examining how marijuana influences the effects of Phenibut, anecdotal reports claim that mixing phenibut and weed is like taking a mild stimulant that energizes the body and mind without the unpleasant side effects of stimulant use–rapid heart beat, nervousness, sweating and racing thoughts. However, it is never safe to combine addictive substances due to the higher risk of overdose and adverse reactions.
Recreational Use of Phenibut
Phenibut is gaining in popularity as a recreational drug in the U.S. due to its ability to induce euphoria, increase sociability and suppress anxiety. Available for purchase over the Internet, Phenibut is advertised as “Phenibut HCL Powder” or “Phenibut capusles, a “nootropic” compound that is relatively inexpensive.
Phenibut FAA (free amino acid) is the same as Phenibut HCL but claims to be less acidic and not as grainy in texture as Phenibut HCL. Phenibut FAA dissolves slowly in liquids, such as tea or coffee, and is said to take longer to exert its psychoactive effects than Phenibut HCL.
A report describing a user who snorted Phenibut powder says the user suffered swollen nostrils and extreme pain following inhalation of the powder. There have also been unsubstantiated reports of users inserting Phenibut capsules into their rectum.
Treatment for Phenibut Addiction
A Phenibut addiction is a real addiction to a psychoactive substance that has the potential to significantly disrupt a person’s life and cause long-term psychological and physical harm. Treating a Phenibut addiction requires medical detoxification, intensive counseling and other evidence-based protocols used in treating people with a heroin, cocaine or pain pill addiction.
If you or someone you know is abusing Phenibut or struggling to overcome their addiction to Phenibut, call FHE Health today to speak to a caring counselor who can provide you with further information about how to get help.