Phenibut is classified as a dietary supplement. It is similar in its structure to the neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA).
It has anecdotal evidence to suggest that it might be useful in improving problems with falling asleep, but it also has significant downsides to its use.
The chemical name for phenibut is β-Phenyl-γ-aminobutyric acid, and it may go by many different brand names.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration currently does not list phenibut as a controlled substance. It is not prescribed in the United States, but it is available through various online sources.
How Does Phenibut Work?
Phenibut has a similar chemical structure to the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) and the drugs baclofen (brand name: Lioresal) and pregabalin (brand name: Lyrica).
Different sources classify it differently, but it is most often classified as a tranquilizer or sedative. Some sources also classify it as a nootropic or cognitive enhancer. This means that the substance may possess both sedating and stimulating properties.
It is believed to stimulate the effects of GABA as well as increase dopamine and perhaps other neurotransmitters when it is taken.
The substance may be sold under various brand names, such as Phenybut, Fenibut, Noofen, and Citrocard. It is generally not available in health food stores, but it is most often purchased online.
The drug s available in other countries such as Russia as a prescription to address anxiety and insomnia, and as a cognitive enhancer.
Phenibut as a Sleep Aid
There appear to be relatively few controlled research studies that have thoroughly investigated the use of phenibut as a potential sleep aid.
Much of the evidence for its use comes from a 2001 study published in the journal CNS Drug Reviews. The study discusses its use in Russia but does not provide controlled research evidence that the drug is an effective sedative.
While it does appear to have the potential to help individuals fall asleep, when taken in higher doses, the substance may actually interfere with the quality of sleep, particularly REM sleep. This is similar to alcohol use as a sleep aid, which also has a similar mechanism of action.
Thus, it may help individuals to fall asleep, but it may also interfere with the quality of their sleep.
Many anecdotal reports posted online suggest that phenibut is efficient at inducing sleep and maintaining the quality of sleep; however, this type of evidence is suspect for many reasons. These anecdotal reports may not even be genuine and may be fabricated by sources trying to market the substance. They are not part of controlled research studies and, therefore, are subject to numerous forms of contamination. Anecdotal reports are notoriously unreliable.
Other Reported Uses
Like many substances marketed without FDA approval, phenibut has a variety of claims suggesting that in addition to helping with sleep, it can:
- Treat anxiety
- Relieve depression.
- Treat other psychiatric issues, such as PTSD
- Treat alcohol withdrawal
- Reduce stress
- Combat fatigue
- Improve memory
- Treat issues with irregular heartbeat
None of these claims have sufficient research evidence to endorse their use
Potential Side Effects
Phenibut is associated with the following side effects:
- Dizziness and headache
- Irritability and agitation
- Potential allergic reactions
- Hangover effects
Potential Physical Dependence and Toxicity
Although there appears to be a scarcity of controlled research studies investigating the use of phenibut as a sleep aid, many reports (mostly case studies) suggest that phenibut use can lead to physical dependence, and taking too much of the drug can be toxic and perhaps even fatal.
Withdrawal symptoms associated with phenibut include:
- Significant issues with anxiety, including potential panic attacks, and irritability
- Fatigue and sleep difficulties (insomnia)
- Muscle cramps, irritability, jitteriness, and anxiety
- Nausea and vomiting
- Irregular heartbeat
- Potential psychosis (delusions and hallucinations)
- Dissociative effects (feeling detached from one’s body or reality)
- Cognitive deficits
The onset of symptoms can appear within four to six hours after discontinuation; the half-life of phenibut is about five hours. Withdrawal symptoms appear to last between two and four weeks.
The research suggests that chronic use of phenibut is associated with a significant potential for abuse.
Abusers may combine phenibut with other substances, which can result in untoward interactions that can be dangerous.
Because the substance is not regulated, it is possible that products marked as phenibut could also contain other potentially toxic substances.
Coupled with the potential for a person to develop a physical dependence on phenibut, this makes it a potentially dangerous substance of abuse.
Discuss the drug with a physician before taking it.
Phenibut is marketed as a dietary supplement and appears to have sedative-like properties. Its use may relax individuals and help them fall asleep; however, it has significant dangers associated with its use that may include the development of physical dependence and the potential for toxic effects.
The drug should only be used under the supervision of a licensed physician.