Phenibut is a central nervous system depressant. It’s long been used in countries like Russia and Ukraine as a prescription treatment for insomnia and anxiety. Phenibut isn’t currently used clinically in the U.S. However, it can be purchased online. It’s marketed as a supplement and as a nootropic. Nootropics are various chemical and herbal supplements that some claim have brain and cognitive-related benefits. Phenibut is similar to the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which is why it can have a relaxing effect on people who take it. In countries where phenibut is used as a prescription pharmaceutical, it’s given to patients for depression treatment, alcoholism, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and Meniere’s disease, along with its uses for insomnia and anxiety.
For the most part, phenibut side effects are fairly minimal, but they do exist. Side effects of phenibut can vary depending on whether someone is taking small or large doses. When looking at the side effects of phenibut, there’s no way to know with certainty how someone will react. Everyone reacts differently to certain substances. Since phenibut isn’t regulated in the U.S., one person may have a completely different response than someone else. There is also the potential to use a dangerous dose of phenibut since there are no standardized dosage guidelines. Possible side effects of phenibut at lower doses can include:
- Irritability and agitation
- Allergic reactions
At higher doses, side effects of phenibut can include:
- Motor impairment
- Loss of balance
For most people, phenibut has a relaxing effect. It may suppress symptoms of anxiety and, in particular, social anxiety. For some people, phenibut can make them sleepy, or it can be sedating. Phenibut may also produce feelings of euphoria when used recreationally. All of the phenibut effects are the result of it being a GABA analog. Structurally, phenibut is very similar to GABA, which is a calming brain neurotransmitter. Phenibut can also cross the blood-brain barrier because of its structure. In terms of prescription drugs, phenibut is similar to pregabalin, gabapentin and baclofen. Phenibut effects tend to create more euphoria at higher doses, and the effects of phenibut are also long-lasting for most people. For some people at lower doses, phenibut can create oppositional effects, meaning they contrast what you would expect. For example, at low doses, phenibut effects can include mild stimulation and wakefulness.
Other phenibut effects can include some level of respiratory depression. While respiratory depression isn’t profound with phenibut, it can be when this is mixed with other depressant drugs. Pain relief may occur, as can increased blood pressure, dehydration, and for some people, stomach cramps. Cognitive effects along with the ones listed above can include increased sociability, the ability to focus or concentrate for longer periods of time and disinhibition.
One of the big risks associated with phenibut is the formation of dependence. For some people, this isn’t even a long-term effect. Some people develop a dependence on phenibut after using it only once. Phenibut withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and difficult to deal with. Some phenibut withdrawal symptoms may include rebound anxiety and depression, headaches, agitation, and cognitive deficits often described as brain fog. Even without dependence, phenibut long-term symptoms can include depression and fatigue. With long-term, heavy use of phenibut, people may also develop complications related to their liver and blood, such as fatty liver disease and eosinophilia.
Experiencing a phenibut overdose is possible. Symptoms of a phenibut overdose can include nausea, vomiting, extreme drowsiness, lowered blood pressure and renal impairment. At doses of more than 7 grams, a person may experience something called fatty liver degeneration. Other phenibut dangers, particularly when too much is taken, can include tonic-clonic seizures, delirium and unconsciousness. On its own, a phenibut overdose can be dangerous but isn’t often deadly. When phenibut is combined with other central nervous system depressants such as sedatives, opioids and alcohol, a phenibut overdose can be much more dangerous. Phenibut potentiates other CNS depressants, meaning it makes their effects more significant. The risk of phenibut dependence is also something people should consider.
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