Is Phenibut Addictive?

2 min read · 3 sections

Phenibut is a prescription medication hailing from Russia. While people may use phenibut to find offer temporary relief from anxiety and stress, its potential for misuse and dependence raises serious concerns.

What Is Phenibut?

Phenibut, a prescription medication in some countries and marketed as a dietary supplement in others, is a central nervous system depressant known for its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. Similar in chemical structure to GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms the brain, Phenibut is often sought after for its potential to alleviate anxiety, improve sleep, and enhance mood. However, due to limited research and potential for misuse and dependence, its safety and efficacy remain a subject of ongoing debate

Effects of Phenibut on the Brain

Phenibut has been labeled as a nootropic and “smart drug.” It is completely unregulated in the United States. BMJ Case Reports explains how it works. The drug is really a synthetic form of gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is also identified as B-phenyl-y-aminobutyric acid or phenyl-GABA.

Physical and Psychological Effects of Phenibut

Over time, phenibut takes the place of the natural neurotransmitter, causing chemical and eventually physical changes in the brain. It’s just one of many psychoactive substances on the rise. World Psychiatry estimates that in Europe, about 5 percent of those 19-24 years old have experimented with psychoactive substances. The effects on a person include:

Tolerance: The first impact on the human body, besides feeling calm and sharper, is increased tolerance. Users of phenibut quickly develop a tolerance to the drug. This requires them to take higher doses to achieve the same effects. The higher the dose, the harder it is to stop using the substance.

Withdrawal: Even for people who want to stop taking it, withdrawal symptoms associated with phenibut can be quite severe. Those taking it often underestimate this fact. Studies have shown these symptoms may appear 3-4 hours after a dose and last as long as 2 weeks.

Consequences of Misusing Phenibut

Depending on the dose taken, for how long, and whether one takes other drugs, abusing phenibut can have dire consequences. People may not think of these consequences because their cognitive performance seems to be improving. Per BMJ Case Report, it might take at least 24 weeks to return to normal activities after withdrawal.

Recovery time is shortened for smaller does, but the neurological changes that occur with long-duration, high-level doses can be quite substantial. Some people try to quit cold turkey, but that can make the effects of withdrawal more severe and last longer.

If you or or a loved one are struggling with addiction, there is help. American Addiction Centers’ network of treatment centers have helped countless individuals take back their lives and get on the road to recovery. Reach out to our knowledgeable and compassionate admissions navigators at to learn more about your treatment options. Recovery is possible, so don’t wait. Give us a call today.

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