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A surprising number of medications that are misused in the United States and elsewhere are not at all regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Phenibut1 is one example of an unregulated drug that’s readily available online and often purchased for reasons other than its label.

Phenibut is a medication used in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety. However, Phenibut is currently only approved for medicinal use within Russia and some Eastern European countries. Those in the United States might find Phenibut sold online for various purposes, such as a health aid to improve sleep quality. This is considered a legitimate use based on foreign research into Phenibut, but the issue is that some people will misuse Phenibut.

Just like all medications, there is a risk that Phenibut can lead to side effects, dependence and eventual addiction. Here’s what you need to know about this drug and the dangers it poses to non-medical and recreational users.

What Is Phenibut?

Phenibut is the generic name for betta-phenyl-gamma-aminobutyric2, sold under the brand names of Phenybut, Fenibut, Noofen and Citrocard. Chemically, Phenibut is similar to some other drugs, like baclofen and pregabalin. Phenibut functions as a central nervous system depressant, which does not mean it induces depression. Rather, when used correctly, Phenibut helps suppress neuron firings within the central nervous system, which can help relax the body. That makes Phenibut useful for people suffering from anxiety and insomnia, along with various other conditions.

Structurally, Phenibut is very similar to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter found naturally within the body. By mimicking the effects of GABA, Phenibut can enhance cognition and initiate sleep, among many other purposes. Phenibut is currently only in use medicinally in Russia and some Eastern European countries. However, you can find Phenibut online where it’s sold as a sleep aid, anxiety aid or cognitive enhancer.

Phenibut is not a controlled substance in the United States, which means it’s not regulated at all by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This means importing, using and selling Phenibut is entirely legal. However, that does not mean that it is safe to use or misuse Phenibut. While the DEA has not compiled enough evidence of its risks to put it on a controlled substance list, Phenibut does present certain dangers.

How Does Phenibut Impact the Body?

There are no reliable numbers on how many people use Phenibut in the United States, but it is readily available to purchase online. Given the ease at which people can get their hands on Phenibut, it does pose a great potential for misuse. Recreational use of Phenibut would most likely involve taking the medication in large doses, exceeding that which is typically prescribed for medical reasons. This poses a risk of addiction and overdose.

To understand how Phenibut affects the body, it’s important to understand why it’s used. The beneficial side effects of Phenibut include a reduction in stress and anxiety3, increased deep sleep and improved attention and concentration. However, the most beneficial effects of Phenibut are limited to low doses. As a person begins increasing their dose, they’ll begin to see negative side effects. Even a moderate dose can lead to extreme lethargy.

One of the few studies that are available regarding Phenibut use has shown that tolerance can develop rapidly even at low doses. This is dangerous, as it encourages an individual to continue increasing their dose to continue experiencing the same effects. An increased dose also puts a person at a higher risk for developing dependence and addiction. Once dependence is formed, simply “quitting” Phenibut isn’t possible.

Recognizing Phenibut Misuse

Because Phenibut is not a controlled substance according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and not subject to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are no regulations controlling its purity, potency, dosage or applications. This is dangerous, especially since a person can quickly develop tolerance to Phenibut. Even someone taking Phenibut to help with sleep, anxiety or another medical purpose can end up misusing it because of the rapid tolerance and likelihood of dependence.

Recognizing Phenibut misuse and potential addiction begins with looking for the signs of substance use. Often, a person will not show any side effects of substance use until they use it regularly and develop a dependence on the drug. Once dependence forms, withdrawal symptoms are often the first to be spotted.

Withdrawal symptoms can occur within hours of the last dose, so you may spot them when hanging out with a person who is misusing Phenibut or another substance when they are trying to be “clean” or not under the influence of drugs. Those symptoms can include shakiness, trouble concentrating, irritation, agitation and so on.

Beyond withdrawal symptoms in between uses, you might also notice a person giving up commitments to other activities or spending significant time trying to get more Phenibut. They may find it difficult to control their use of Phenibut, like for using it for longer than intended or taking more of it than intended. In between uses, they may crave Phenibut. On a day-to-day basis, they may turn to Phenibut to cope with stress. Additional signs someone may be misusing Phenibut extend to issues at work or school, increasing distress, problems managing relationships, mental and physical health issues, financial problems and frequent daydreaming.

Addictions become very apparent when a person continues to take Phenibut despite knowing that it’s causing them problems. For instance, if it’s hampering their work or social life, that’s a known consequence that users irrationally ignore. While their higher mind tells them that continuing to use Phenibut is unwise, by that point, chemical changes in their brain and body are telling them they must take it again.

A person who displays at least two of these symptoms would be diagnosed with a substance use disorder. A substance use disorder can only be formally diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional, but friends and family should try to recognize the signs so they know when someone needs help. Once you recognize that someone has a Phenibut dependence or addiction, you need to get them into treatment where they can participate in medical detox to help them through the withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawing From Phenibut

A person who has become dependent on Phenibut will experience severe withdrawal symptoms as soon as a few hours after their last dose. Withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks, and they can be life-threatening. Once dependency is formed, the only medically safe way to stop Phenibut use is to participate in detox where the dosage is gradually reduced and the person is monitored for side effects and complications.

The quick onset of initial withdrawal symptoms can occur as soon as four hours after the last dose. The overall course of detox can last between two to four weeks, and it can be accompanied by additional late-stage symptoms. Based on anecdotal research, the most common symptoms of Phenibut withdrawal include:

  • Heightened anxiety, stress, irritation and agitation, often as rebound (which means the things the medication was dampening or controlling within the body will return as the medication leaves the system).
  • Significant emotional symptoms including depression, depersonalization, hallucinations and a strong fear or dread without any specific cause.
  • Physical symptoms including loss of appetite, muscle cramps, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, sweating, fever, chills and tremors.
  • Withdrawal can also lead to insomnia and cognitive deficiencies, like trouble concentrating or difficulty remembering things.

The withdrawal and detox process is an uncomfortable transition, but it’s a necessary step for anyone who has developed substance dependence. In the case of Phenibut withdrawal, there is not a lot of clinical information out there regarding the specific symptoms and timeline, but medical professionals can provide close monitoring and therapies that will help ease any side effects as they occur.

During medical detox, a person will be kept as comfortable as possible while a team works to minimize their distress and help them get through their withdrawal symptoms more easily. Some medications may be given during the detox to help reduce severe symptoms, like insomnia or anxiety. In general, medical professionals will suggest a gradual tapering off from Phenibut rather than temporarily replacing it with a weaker alternative, as they do in the treatment of opioid addiction.

Case Studies on Phenibut Withdrawal

Because of a lack of clinical research regarding Phenibut, especially in the United States, there is no established protocol for managing Phenibut withdrawal. However, the British Medical Journal4 documented one case study on Phenibut addiction recovery where medical professionals tapered off the dose of Phenibut while prescribing Baclofen as well.

In the case study, the person received Baclofen and a tapered dose of Phenibut over a nine-week period. Once the individual was completely off Phenibut, they were then given Balcofen for another twelve weeks. While successful, this strategy proved quite complicated. The individual had to receive high amounts of Baclofen throughout detox, suggesting 10 milligrams of Baclofen for each gram of Phenibut the individual was accustomed to.

It’s important to note that this particular case study was written on the treatment of an individual who had been misusing multiple substances, including Phenibut, Kratom, alcohol and others. He also had a history of depression and anxiety, which would have likely worsened the rebound anxiety, depression and other emotional symptoms of Phenibut withdrawal.

Another case study on Phenibut withdrawal can be found in the Journal of Substance Abuse, where medical professionals monitored an individual withdrawing from Phenibut who began to develop hallucinations and delusions. In that instance, the researchers described the Phenibut withdrawal syndrome as being like that of benzodiazepines and alcohol withdrawal. In that study, the individual received a tapered dose of Phenibut along with a tapered dose of benzodiazepines.

While these case studies are beneficial in guiding Phenibut withdrawal, they represent a tiny sample size with a preponderance of anecdotal evidence. What it tells us is that medical detox is necessary to ensure safety during Phenibut withdrawal. It also helps individuals interested in trying Phenibut for sleep, anxiety or another issue see that Phenibut is very much not understood and that seeking an alternative route to treatment is ideal.

The Phenibut Recovery Process

Given the limited amount of research into Phenibut misuse in the United States, it’s expected that additional side effects of use and withdrawal symptoms will be uncovered in the coming years. However, one thing is already certain: A person cannot overcome Phenibut dependence on their own. Not only is quitting Phenibut without medical supervision dangerous, but it’s also nearly impossible because of the intense side effects and cravings a person will suffer as they try to stop taking Phenibut for good.

The withdrawal symptoms that Phenibut induces are enough to not only drive a person to relapse, but they can be so upsetting that they threaten mental health. For instance, the severe dread, fear, depression, stress and anxiety that can be induced by stopping Phenibut can lead to long-lasting conditions that require medical intervention to manage properly. That’s why starting off on the right foot is important, and seeking out an addiction recovery center is the right way forward.

Admission and Assessment

Whenever a person is suffering from dependence on a substance, the first step in recovery is admitting there’s a problem. This means stepping into a recovery center where you can be assessed by a team of professionals who know first-hand what it takes to overcome substance use.

While there’s minimal clinical information on Phenibut, addiction specialists will use their knowledge of other substances and techniques to come up with a personalized treatment plan that will guide your recovery. Each program is backed by scientific research, but tailored to the individual to improve the likelihood of long-term success.

Withdrawal and Detox

Once an individual has been assessed for their Phenibut and substance use, along with physical and mental health markers, a custom pathway will be laid out for them to detail the next steps. The next major step is entering the detox process, which is when the person will see their Phenibut dose tapered off with time. Other medications may be introduced in small amounts to help minimize withdrawal symptoms.

The detox process can last for many weeks, depending on how much Phenibut an individual was taking and whether they were using any other substances. Co-occurring mental health disorders, like anxiety or depression, may lead medical professionals to taper their dose more slowly to minimize rebound. In general, symptoms will peak within the first week.


As an individual nears the end of their detox period, they’ll transition into rehabilitative care. The detox is the big first step to get an individual safely off of Phenibut, but the rehabilitative treatment ensures they never get back on it. Rehabilitation is completely tailored to the individual, but it might include talk therapy, peer support groups, wellness classes, and life planning.

At the end of the rehabilitation period, structured treatment ends, but the care does not—especially when you choose Windward Way Recovery. We believe that continuing care following structured treatment is paramount to avoiding relapse and ensuring ongoing success as our clients pursue a fulfilling life after addiction.

Are you interested in learning more about Windward Way Recovery and our approach to substance use treatment? Contact our caring team today to get answers to your questions and learn about the first steps to a brighter future.

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