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Do Phenibut and Xanax Work The Same for Anxiety?

Both Xanax and phenibut are used to address anxiety.

Xanax is an FDA-approved prescription medication, whereas phenibut is a nootropic supplement that is not controlled by the FDA.

Xanax

Benzodiazepines such as Xanax were invented in the 1960s. They provided a new way for psychiatrists to treat anxiety in patients. Later research proved that benzodiazepines are effective but addictive. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that when a person misuses substances, their dopamine levels may rise. This puts them at risk of becoming addicted to the substance because it produces feelings of pleasure. 

Though misuse of benzodiazepines is on the rise, a prescription is required for Xanax, and that makes its use slightly safer.

Phenibut

Phenibut is a nootropic, or “happy drug,” according to Men’s Health. It is currently sold as a nootropic supplement and not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

In some cases, it is marketed as a concentration enhancer, but it was specifically invented to fight anxiety.

Similarities

Like Xanax, phenibut was also invented in the 1960s to deal with anxiety.

According to The Conversation, it is still used in Russia as a legitimate anxiety and insomnia medication. However, it became popular in areas that do not regulate it, such as Australia, the UK, and the US. 

People who live in these countries tend to buy phenibut online, where they subject themselves to the risks of taking something unregulated.

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Phenibut has the ability to depress the central nervous system (CNS) to help people who deal with anxiety, insomnia, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

Xanax is a benzodiazepine that is a Schedule IV substance in the United States, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). You need a diagnosis and prescription to be able to buy and possess Xanax. Despite this, recreational use of Xanax has been well documented. 

The Mayo Clinic says that benzodiazepines like Xanax are commonly abused in the following ways:

  • Taking it ways not intended by the prescribing doctor
  • Crushing pills to snort or inject them
  • Using someone else’s prescribed drugs
  • Finding ways to obtain prescription medication illicitly (doctor shopping or buying them online)

Like phenibut, Xanax can also slow breathing and cause sleepiness. Both of these medications can cause overdose, and mixing them with other substances is not recommended. 

Xanax and phenibut can also cause withdrawal. Both have the potential for misuse.

Phenibut’s Unregulated Status

Men’s Health states that phenibut is dangerous because it can be bought online since it is still legal. This may prevent people from seeking help for legitimate medical issues. After all, a person who buys phenibut is probably self-diagnosing.

Phenibut is also popular with students who want a leg up in difficult classes or who otherwise want to feel happy without the added hassle of talking to a doctor. 

Differences 

Phenibut and Xanax relieve anxiety differently.

Xanax and other benzodiazepines cause the brain to become flooded with dopamine, per NIDA. Psychology Today states that dopamine is involved in feelings of pleasure.

Dopamine makes your brain focus on rewards and even incentivizes you to achieve your goals so it can feel satisfying. Dopamine can also cause you to take more risks, as it allows you to seek more rewards.

Phenibut instead acts on your GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) receptors by relaxing them. This does not cause the same reaction as increasing dopamine, but it does help you calm down. 

Xanax is a scheduled drug, and people who are caught using it without a prescription may face criminal penalties. Phenibut does not carry criminal consequences at this time.  

Statistics on Misuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that benzodiazepine prescriptions increased by 67 percent between 1996 and 2013. 

These medications are dangerous on their own, but NIDA found that 23 percent of people who died because of an overdose on an opioid also had benzodiazepines in their system. Despite this, many patients use both medications concurrently. 

These overdose rates prompted the FDA to ask pharmacists not to distribute opioids and benzodiazepines at the same time. 

  • Between 1999 and 2015, overdoses on benzodiazepines alone rose eightfold, according to a June 2018 report on VICE.
  • Xanax can cause you to experience withdrawal between doses even if you follow the prescription instructions.

Phenibut is not yet regulated, but it has been linked to overdoses, according to The Conversation.

The Journal of Substance Abuse mentions that phenibut can cause withdrawal symptoms that necessitate treatment and medical care.

Which Is More Desirable?

Both Xanax and phenibut can help people with anxiety, but they come with their risks and benefits.

Phenibut is more widely available, but it is not yet regulated. 

Despite Xanax’s risks, its use is always supervised by a doctor who can weigh how it may benefit you. You can also reach out to a doctor if you want to stop taking Xanax, so they can help you taper off benzodiazepines. 

If you have anxiety and are curious about the best ways to control it, speak to your doctor. It’s not recommended to take any unregulated substance like phenibut without medical supervision.

Sources

(February 2018) Weekly Dose: phenibut –the Russian anti-anxiety drug linked to Gold Coast teens’ overdoses. The Conversation. Retrieved March 2019 from https://theconversation.com/weekly-dose-phenibut-the-russian-anti-anxiety-drug-linked-to-gold-coast-teens-overdoses-92339

(December 2017) What Is Phenibut? Inside the Controversial "Happy Drug" That's Making Waves on the Internet. Men’s Health. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19545413/what-is-phenibut/

(June 2013) Psychotic symptoms during phenibut (beta-phenyl-gamma-aminobutyric acid) withdrawal. Journal of Substance Abuse. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262799429_Psychotic_symptoms_during_phenibut_beta-phenyl-gamma-aminobutyric_acid_withdrawal

Dopamine. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/dopamine

Prescription Drug Abuse. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20376813

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Controlled Substance Schedule Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/#define

(April 2012). Well-Known Mechanism Underlies Benzodiazepines' Addictive Properties. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2012/04/well-known-mechanism-underlies-benzodiazepines-addictive-properties

(March 2018) Benzodiazepines and opioids. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids

(June 2018) This is Why Xanax is Blowing Up in America. VICE. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/pavx5g/this-is-why-xanax-is-blowing-up-in-america

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