Phenibut Addiction: Risks, Signs & Symptoms, and Help

Medically Reviewed

Phenibut dates back to the early 1960s when Russian scientists first synthesized the substance. Known as a nootropic drug, it stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain and, in turn, creates feelings of happiness. The most common uses of phenibut are to treat anxiety, alleviate depression, and improve sleep.

Phenibut has yet to be approved for medical purposes by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It can be purchased legally online, however, in most parts of the world. It is often marketed as a dietary supplement that can promote positive feelings rather than treat disorders such as anxiety. Many people who use phenibut are self-medicating feelings of anxiety and depression or using it as a recreational drug to gain a sense of euphoria.

Very little scientific research has been conducted on the short-term and long-term effects of phenibut use. Users of phenibut, however, have shared their experiences in online forums. Many people report experiencing various pleasant effects, such as:

  • Greater sense of calm
  • Increased sociability
  • Euphoria
  • Increased alertness
  • Heightened sense of general well-being
  • Mental clarity
  • Improved memory

In addition to the above positive effects shared by many people who use phenibut, adverse side effects are also experienced. Those include:

  • Headache
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Seizures

Many of these adverse side effects are experienced when excessive dosages are taken or when phenibut is used too frequently. Experts warn against using the drug on a daily basis. Only small amounts of the drug need to be taken to gain its desired effects. Because phenibut is an unregulated substance, it is difficult to determine what a safe dosage is for each individual.

Risks for Addiction

Like most mind-altering substances, phenibut use comes with the risk of addiction. Many people are unaware of how quickly tolerance to phenibut can develop. Because it is an unregulated substance, dosage amounts are not tracked, and people tend to use the substance to self-medicate. When self-medicating, people may not realize how much of the substance they are really using and do not notice when they begin to use increasing amounts of it.

Like many drugs, the risks associated with taking phenibut increase with prolonged use. The longer people take phenibut, the more likely they are to develop a tolerance to and dependence on the drug. Phenibut works on the central nervous system and puts people at risk for central nervous system depression, delirium, seizures, and overdose.

Phenibut has a high risk for addiction partially due to the accessibility and affordability of the drug. It can easily be purchased online at cheap prices. Most people have little understanding of how the drug actually works and what the potentially dangerous side effects are. People enjoy the calming and mood-enhancing effects of the drug and often fail to notice how quickly the body becomes adapted to it.


One of the greatest risks for developing an addiction to phenibut is how quickly tolerance develops. Initially, low doses of phenibut are very effective at producing the desired results. Within a short period, however, dosage levels must be increased to still experience the desired therapeutic effects. As tolerance builds, so do the chances of experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms once phenibut use is stopped or greatly reduced.

People may decide to reduce or end their phenibut use once they realize their body has built up a tolerance to it. Quitting the drug may not be so easy, however, as withdrawal symptoms can be severe and hard to manage on your own. Reported withdrawal symptoms from phenibut include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Reduced appetite
  • Decreased cognitive performance
  • Depersonalization
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle tension
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Primal fear

Many of these withdrawal symptoms are issues people aim to treat with phenibut use. During withdrawal, they can return even stronger than before.

Not everyone will experience all of the above symptoms, as there are many factors that affect the severity of withdrawal. Your history of phenibut use, such as how long you have been using it and in what size dosages and the rate at which you are trying to quit using phenibut are two important factors. The use of any other medications, as well as your physical and mental health, will also affect how severe the withdrawal process might be.

Signs of a Phenibut Addiction

Due to the mind-altering nature of phenibut and the relative ease of developing tolerance to the drug, addiction is possible. Signs of phenibut addiction are similar to the signs of addiction to any substance. There are likely to be physical, behavioral, and psychological warning signs that you are struggling with a substance addiction.

Physical signs of a drug addiction include but are not limited to weight changes, tremors, slurred speech, impaired coordination, and poor hygiene. Behavioral symptoms of a drug addiction include:

  • Changes in friendships
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Getting into legal trouble
  • Financial problems
  • Bizarre behavior
  • An increase in drug tolerance
  • Using drugs to avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Inability to stop using drugs
  • Continuing to use drugs despite the negative consequences; and
  • Living a life that revolves around drug use

Psychological signs of an addiction include anxiety, paranoia, fearfulness, low motivation, sudden mood swings, irritability, angry outbursts, and any other unexplainable changes in personality.

In general, people with a drug addiction do not act like their usual selves. To friends and family members close to the individual, the person’s behavior may appear odd and can’t be explained by any other events happening in the person’s life. Additional behaviors that can be signs of a drug addiction include:

  • A lot of time spent alone
  • No longer spending time with family and friends
  • Loss of interest in once favorable activities
  • Failure to engage in self-care
  • Continually appearing tired and in a bad mood
  • Fast speech that doesn’t always make sense
  • Sleeping at odd hours
  • Neglecting appointments and responsibilities
  • Experiencing problems at work or school

If someone you know is exhibiting a combination of the above behaviors, it is possible that they could be struggling with a drug addiction. An addiction to phenibut requires the same attention as an addiction to any other drug. It can be difficult to overcome, but with the right supports and behavioral treatment, breaking free from the addiction is possible.

Treatment Options

No evidenced-based treatment options have been developed specifically for the treatment of phenibut addiction, but standard treatment for addiction applies. Medically assisted detox followed by behavioral therapy is a very effective combination for treating issues with substance abuse.

In general, substance abuse professionals who are familiar with phenibut addiction recommend tapering off of the drug rather than quitting cold turkey. Tapering off phenibut, like any substance, allows your brain and body to adjust to the substance that it has become chemically dependent on leaving the system. Tapering will reduce the likelihood of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. A tapering schedule should be established by a physician, as it must be adjusted appropriately for each individual.

A general guideline for long-time phenibut users is to reduce use by 10 percent each week. This number can be increased or decreased based on the personal reaction to the taper — that is the severity of withdrawal symptoms you experience. If a person does not experience many difficult withdrawal symptoms after reducing use by 10 percent, it may be reduced by a greater amount the following week. Likewise, if withdrawal symptoms are too severe, the tapering process may be extended by only reducing use by 5 percent each week.

With medical detox, treatment professionals can monitor physical withdrawal symptoms as well as the psychological symptoms that can be very challenging to deal with during the withdrawal phase. Studies have found that people who participate in medically assisted detox experience more positive treatment outcomes than those who do not receive medical help during this process. They are more likely to complete their rehab program, as well as maintain sobriety once treatment ends.

Following a safe detox or tapering period, behavioral therapy is recommended to learn healthy coping skills to maintain long-term sobriety. Detox alone does little to promote long-term recovery. Participating in personal therapy reinforces healthy physical and emotional living skills, and it helps the individual gain understanding of what led to their drug abuse in the first place. This understanding can help individuals recognize triggers as they arise in the future and identify strategies to help them respond to those triggers in ways that do not lead to substance use.

Through a combination of detox, medication, behavioral therapy, treatment of any co-occurring disorders, and a thorough plan for relapse prevention, individuals see many positive outcomes following treatment.

Is Phenibut Safe?

Ultimately, there is little scientific evidence available to support the safe use of phenibut. In most countries, it remains an unregulated substance that many medical professionals are unfamiliar with. When used in small doses, phenibut seems to promote mental clarity, reduce anxiety and depression, and increase feelings of happiness. Dosage requirements increase quickly, however, and can be risky for people who are medicating on their own.

Whether being taken for medical or recreational purposes, phenibut must be used with caution, as severe side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and even overdose are possible. Until more evidence-based data on phenibut use and abuse is gathered, it is wise to avoid use of this relatively unknown substance.

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