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Phenibut: Facing the Facts

a person talks to a therapist holding a clipboard about phenibut powder

While well-known addictive drugs like opioids and cocaine still dominate the minds of people across the world, lesser-known substances continue to gain traction. Phenibut is becoming more popular with drug users in some parts of the world. Phenibut powder can cause dangerous side effects and lead to abuse and addiction.

At Northpoint Recovery, we offer comprehensive substance abuse treatment services that can help you or your loved one get on the road to recovery. Our team of experts will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that meets your unique needs. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you or your loved one recover from addiction.

What Is Phenibut?

Phenibut is a central nervous system depressant that produces sedating and anti-anxiety effects in users. It is also marketed as a nootropic—a “smart drug” that improves cognitive function and creativity. Among phenibut users, it is also known as:

  • Party powder
  • Noofen
  • PB

Originally synthesized in the Soviet Union, phenibut was included in the standard medical kits for cosmonauts. Phenibut is prescribed today in Russia, Latvia, and Ukraine. However, it is not approved for medical use in Europe or the United States. But since it is unregulated, it can be legally sold and purchased as a dietary supplement.

Are There Any Legitimate Medical Uses for Phenibut?

For a drug lacking acceptance in most of the world, phenibut powder has a surprising number of therapeutic applications in Eastern Europe. Phenibut, sold under the brand names Noofen, Fenibut, and Anvifen, is prescribed to treat:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscular weakness
  • Alcoholism
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Balance problems
  • Ménière’s disease
  • Tics
  • Stuttering
  • Dizziness
  • Motion sickness

Why Is Phenibut Abused Recreationally?

Phenibut is often abused because it is marketed as producing several purported “positive” effects, including:

  • A mild-to-moderate euphoric high
  • A pronounced sense of well-being
  • Extreme calmness
  • Decreased social anxiety
  • Boosted confidence
  • Increased pro-social behavior as well as a greater desire to be sociable
  • A greater appreciation of music, similar to the effects of ecstasy
  • Heightened alertness
  • Enhanced motivation
  • Better sexual performance
  • Improved memory
  • Faster cognition

These effects are said to last all day, even though phenibut’s half-life is just over five hours. This is because its action on the brain lingers long after the body eliminates it. Websites that sell phenibut focus strongly on promoting its ability to reduce anxiety and enhance cognition. They also highlight that phenibut doesn’t appear on any standard drug test.

Is Phenibut a Performance Enhancer?

Some studies involving phenibut have concluded that it may contribute to improved measurable test scores in certain situations and at low doses. Specifically, phenibut may help cognitive performance in stressful environments and situations. It is unknown at this point whether any supposed improvement is actually due to some positive neurological effect or if phenibut’s sedating effects help eliminate the stress that can interfere with optimal performance.

The Side Effects of Phenibut

Many people claim that phenibut is generally well-tolerated, but there also are several unwanted side effects, including:

  • Increased sedation
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Extremely vivid dreams
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Loss of balance
  • Hangovers

The Dangers of Mixing Phenibut and Alcohol

Retailers strongly caution against mixing phenibut and alcohol, placing explicit warnings on their websites and the product itself. People should avoid this combination because of the brain’s potential over-stimulation of specific receptors. Phenibut and alcohol each individually activate receptors that depress the central nervous system. But when they are used together, the depressive effect can become dangerous. While there have been no reported instances of fatal phenibut-alcohol poisonings, thousands of people die every year from mixing alcohol with other depressants, such as tranquilizing benzodiazepines.

Recognizing a Phenibut Overdose

At high doses, phenibut triggers several concerning overdose warning signs, including:

  • Lethargy
  • Agitation
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A steep drop in blood pressure
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Liver or kidney damage
  • Partial or total unconsciousness
  • Unresponsiveness

There are two significant considerations about phenibut overdoses. First, because phenibut has a delayed onset of action, inexperienced users may feel that they have not taken enough, so they take more. Double-dosing like this can trigger unpleasant side effects or even cause an overdose. Also, unlike opioids, there is no pharmacological solution to a phenibut overdose. Instead, emergency poisonings must be treated in other ways, like stomach pumping.

Phenibut Withdrawal Symptoms

Tolerance to phenibut develops rather quickly, rapidly leading to dependence and addiction. Phenibut withdrawal symptoms can occur upon discontinuation of even short-term uses and may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Emotional distress
  • Agitation
  • Irritation
  • Anger
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Acute psychosis

How Are People Buying Phenibut?

As an unregulated dietary supplement, phenibut is offered openly and aggressively on the internet, promising many benefits. The worst websites are vague about dosing information or scientific studies, relying instead on anecdotal first-person reviews. The average first-time user often has to rely on message boards and social media for information because there are no reliable medical or pharmacological sources. Reputable sites can specify how often and how much of their product should be taken. Phenibut is typically sold in two forms—capsule and powder. When opting for phenibut powder, users can mix the drug with any drink.

Is Phenibut a Concern in America?

Although phenibut is not yet classified as a controlled substance in the United States, there are enough red flags to suggest that this oversight will not always be the case. Legislators may push to control the substance if America starts seeing abuse or overdoses. One current concern is that phenibut isn’t regulated as a supplement. That means that marketers can make any claims—benefits, side effects, dosing guidelines, product purity—with little chance of verification. Just a few minutes of online research highlights this problem.

  • One company says that no more than 2000 mg of phenibut should be consumed in a given day.
  • Another company says up to 3000 mg per day is safe.
  • Both companies say that the total daily dose should be broken into multiple smaller doses.
  • Still, a third company advises a single dose of 750 mg to 1500 mg daily.

You can see that there needs to be a researched, professionally-guided safe dosing guideline.

Addiction Treatment at Northpoint Recovery

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, Northpoint Recovery can help. We offer various evidence-based treatment options tailored to meet each patient’s unique needs. Our caring and professional staff will work with you to create a custom treatment plan to give you the best chance for a sustainable recovery. Contact us today by calling 888.296.8976 to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one get on the path to recovery.