Updated on April 3, 2024
5 min read

How Do You Identify and Address Phenibut Addiction?

Key Takeaways

Phenibut, or β-phenyl-γ-aminobutyric acid, is a central nervous system depressant. It reduces anxiety and excitability, induces calm, and enhances cognitive function. It can also alleviate tension and promote relaxation post-operation.

While beneficial for anxiety disorders and depression, it's not approved in the US for use in dietary supplements. However, some people buy it as a nutritional supplement online, leading to addiction and dependence.

Is Phenibut Addictive?

You can develop an addiction to phenibut, especially with long-term use. Even in small doses, the substance can get first-time users high.

A phenibut dependence occurs due to its effect on dopamine receptors. Increasing dopamine levels in the brain can lead to feelings of pleasure and euphoria, contributing to addiction and compulsive use.

People who use phenibut as an anxiety reducer, cognitive enhancer, or sleep aid are at risk of becoming tolerant to it. This increases the likelihood of abusing the drug.

What is Phenibut Used For?

Phenibut can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and affect your mental state to treat several conditions, including:

  • Alcohol use disorder 
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • Depression
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Stuttering
  • Vestibular disorders such as vertigo

Is Phenibut Regulated in the United States?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, phenibut is an unregulated substance.1 The United States, Australia, and the European Union have not licensed phenibut.

The FDA has not approved phenibut, and Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has rejected it due to the risk of overdose. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it's not illegal to possess.2,3


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What are the Signs of Phenibut Addiction?

A person addicted to phenibut will keep using the drug despite its negative effects on work, school, and relationships. Their addiction will come before any obligations, and they may start to have financial problems from repeatedly buying the drug.

Other signs of phenibut addiction and misuse may include:

  • Frequent cravings for phenibut
  • Using phenibut in larger doses than initially intended
  • Using phenibut for a longer period than initially intended
  • Spending a lot of money to acquire phenibut
  • Using phenibut as a tool to cope with everyday stressors
  • Experiencing tolerance or withdrawal symptoms
  • Higher incidence of side effects with increasing severity

What are Phenibut’s Side Effects?

Side effects are adverse reactions or unwanted effects that can occur while a person actively takes a medication or substance. If a person exhibits side effects with increasing severity and frequency, it may indicate a phenibut addiction.

Some short-term side effects to take note of include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Impaired coordination
  • Fatigue
  • Sedation

Long-term side effects of phenibut include:

  • Tolerance development
  • Dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Psychotic symptoms during withdrawal
  • Potential exacerbation of depressive symptoms
  • Lack of regulatory oversight and inconsistent product quality

What are Phenibut Withdrawal Symptoms? 

Withdrawal occurs when a person who has developed a dependence on a substance suddenly reduces or stops its use. These symptoms can sometimes last two weeks or longer:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Hyperkinesia/Hyperactivity
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
  • Tremors
  • Psychosis
  • Vomiting

What are Phenibut Overdose Symptoms?

An overdose happens when you take phenibut in very high doses. The most common symptoms of Phenibut overdose are:

  • Excessive muscle relaxation
  • Hypothermia (lowered body temperature)
  • Hypotension (reduced blood pressure)
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sleepiness

Phenibut's high has a delayed onset, making you believe it's not working. This can prompt users to take additional or higher doses, increasing the risk of an overdose.

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Treatment for Phenibut Addiction

Addiction specialists can treat phenibut addiction using different methods, including:

  • Gradual tapering: Involves gradually reducing your dosage to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Inpatient treatment: Involves checking yourself into a rehab facility for 24-hour medical supervision
  • Outpatient treatment: A treatment program where you can leave the rehab facility
  • Detoxification: A medically supervised detox to help remove the body from your system with minimal withdrawal symptoms
  • Medication-assisted treatment: Involves using medication, counseling, and therapy to treat addiction
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Explores the link between thought patterns and substance abuse
  • 12-step programs: Support groups that guide you through recovery and maintain sobriety

It's important to understand that people react to addiction treatment differently. Talk to a healthcare provider to explore different programs that cater to your needs.

​​​Guidance for Caregivers and Family Members

Here are some ways to support the recovery of those struggling with phenibut addiction:

  • Educate yourself about the drug: Research and learn more about phenibut addiction to better understand your loved one's struggles.
  • Encourage treatment: Let them know of your support, accompany them to appointments, or help them find a treatment facility.
  • Be understanding: Be patient and understanding with your loved one as they work towards sobriety and experience setbacks.
  • Avoid enabling behaviors: Avoid giving your loved one some money or making excuses for their behavior.

As you support a loved one through addiction, remember to take care of your well-being and seek support from others if necessary. Taking care of yourself is key to taking care of your loved one too.

Resources for Help and Support

If you or someone you know is struggling with Phenibut addiction, there are resources available to help. Consider reaching out to:

  • National Helpline: 1-800-237-TALK (8255)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Treatment locator
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • Your primary care provider or a mental health professional: Consult them for personalized guidance and treatment options

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Phenibut is a substance that acts as a depressant on the central nervous system. It treats various conditions like alcohol use disorder, depression, and insomnia.

However, it can be highly addictive and have severe side effects if misused or in high doses. It's essential to educate yourself about phenibut, seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, and take precautionary measures to prevent its abuse.

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Updated on April 3, 2024
7 sources cited
Updated on April 3, 2024
  1. Graves et al. "Notes from the Field: Phenibut Exposures Reported to Poison Centers — United States, 2009–2019." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020.
  2. Owen et al. “Phenibut (4-amino-3-phenyl-butyric acid): Availability, prevalence of use, desired effects and acute toxicity.” Drug and Alcohol Review, 2016.
  3. Cohen et al. "Quantity of phenibut in dietary supplements before and after FDA warnings." Clinical Toxicology (Philadelphia), 2022.
  4. Zheng et al. "Phenibut Addiction in a Patient with Substance Use Disorder." Cureus, 2019.
  5. Samokhvalov et al. "Phenibut dependence." BMJ Case Reports, 2013.
  6. Hardman et al. “Acute phenibut withdrawal: A comprehensive literature review and illustrative case report.” Biomolecules and Biomedicine, 2019.
  7. Acosta E & Munguti C. "Acute Psychosis Associated with Phenibut Ingestion." Kansas Journal of Medicine, 2021.

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