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What Are the Side Effects (Good & Bad) of a Phenibut High?

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Phenibut is a drug that was created in Russia to help cosmonauts deal with their trip to space. It was then used as a prescription for anxiety.

It is known as a nootropic, a type of brain-enhancing pill or “smart drug.” It is common for phenibut to be marketed as a solution to people who want to improve their ability to focus. 

In some parts of the world, such as the United States, it is sometimes used to treat sleep disorders or help people focus. Still, some people use phenibut to get high.

The high you can get from phenibut can result in both good and bad sensations. It is easy to become tolerant of this supplement, and this encourages people to increase the amount they take. Its legality around the world is a subject of debate in many governments. Phenibut has raised concerns even in places that allow its sale. 

How Phenibut Is Used

Phenibut is usually sold as a capsule or powder. According to the Maryland Poison Center, the drug is usually used in the following dosages, measured in milligrams (mg): 

  • A therapeutic dose is 250 mg to 750 mg
  • A low to medium dose for recreational purposes is 1,000 mg to 1,500 mg
  • A medium to high dose for recreational purposes is 1,500 mg to 2,000 mg
  • A higher-risk dose is 2,000 to 3,000 mg
  • An extremely high-risk dose is 3,000 mg or more

Beyond 3,000 mg, you are more likely to feel adverse side effects or a bad high.

More research is needed to learn about how phenibut’s effects start to set in. Some people report that they start to feel phenibut’s effects after two to four hours. It is reported that phenibut’s full effects start to take place after four to six hours, and they can last for 15 to 24 hours. 

Some people take phenibut with coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Others take it on an empty stomach to absorb it faster. 

It is sold as a hydrochloride salt (phenibut HCl) or in its pure form, as an amino acid. It is bitter when taken as an amino acid, and it takes longer to dissolve in this form. The amino form of phenibut can be snorted, swallowed, or inserted into the rectum. 

Why Some People Use It

More data is needed to understand why people use phenibut specifically, but nootropics are generally taken for the same reasons.

Caffeine is one of the most popular proven nootropics. It helps people concentrate. It can result in some level of dependence, as some people may experience mild withdrawal symptoms when they go without it.

Nootropics are particularly popular in high-pressure environments, such as intense workplaces and college campuses. People often use nootropics to: 

  • Improve their focus. Nootropics are touted to help people think more clearly or give them the sensation that they can. 
  • Boost their mood. A better mood can assist with concentration. Mood-enhancing nootropics can decrease anxiety and deliver chemicals that make users feel happier. 
  • Enhance creativity. Some people have jobs where they must think creatively to solve large problems. Nootropics can help them feel more creative and improve their reasoning skills. 
  • Fight fatigue. College students and people in demanding careers may be attracted to nootropics so they can keep working for extended periods. 
  • Feel pleasure. Phenibut is often taken to fight anxiety. Its pleasurable effects and risk of tolerance causes people to use it for nonmedical reasons. 
  • Reduce stress. Some people have reported that phenibut allows them to feel calm. These feelings of relaxation can improve memory, making people feel like their brain is enhanced after taking the substance.

Side Effects

Like any other drug, phenibut can cause side effects in some people, such as: 

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Erratic behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Slow breathing

In rare cases, seizures have been reported from using phenibut too often. Phenibut is sometimes used as a sedative, and it can cause the central nervous system to become depressed.

Using phenibut consistently can result in tolerance, which can cause symptoms of withdrawal and may lead to misuse to avoid withdrawal. The following symptoms, though not common, are possible:

  • Fatigue
  • Psychosis
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Fast heartbeat (tachycardia)

Positive Experiences 

More research is needed to know the exact effects of phenibut, but many users report positive experiences with it. There are various self-reported positive effects of a phenibut high. These include:

  • Improved retention of information
  • Clearer memories
  • Tranquility
  • Euphoria
  • Feeling at peace or boosted overall well-being
  • Increased alertness

Negative Experiences  

Some users say the chances of negative experiences increase if phenibut is taken at higher levels, in amounts of 3,000 mg or more. Negative symptoms could include:

  • Dependence
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Delirium

Phenibut is often taken to relax, but adverse experiences often cause anxiety or stress levels to remain high. 

Risks of Overdose

Phenibut is sold as a dietary supplement in some countries. It is said to improve or increase the effects of other drugs, such as tranquilizers, neuroleptic medications, and narcotics. This may make people think it is OK to take more than the recommended dosage or to take it as often as they would like. Though rare, phenibut has been linked to overdoses in Queensland, Australia, according to ABC News

The Guardian mentioned that the teenagers who overdosed accidentally took several doses of phenibut in a period of a few hours. They experienced dizziness and nausea, and they slowly lost control of their motor skills.  The availability of phenibut online puts people at greater risk of having an overdose. This may cause people to visit the emergency room, and it could even cause them to need care in an intensive care unit (ICU).

There are certain signs of overdose to watch out for, including: 

  • Decrease in body temperature
  • Muscle spasms
  • Visual problems
  • Sleepiness
  • Increased sweating
  • Irregular breathing patterns
  • Memory lapses

Doctors or emergency room staff may treat a phenibut overdose with benzodiazepines to decrease anxiety. People who seek treatment for phenibut abuse may receive baclofen over a series of weeks so that they can slowly decrease their dependence on the substance. 

Concerns About Use 

Though phenibut has been a cause of concern in several countries, it has not been linked to any serious complications. People are encouraged to stop taking it if:

  • They have repeated cravings for the substance.
  • They need higher and higher doses to feel the same positive effects.
  • Their negative experiences while taking the substance increase.

It is also important for people not to mix phenibut with other substances. Data on how they could interact with prescriptions, alcohol, or other drugs are not widely available. Since phenibut could cause the central nervous system to slow down, it is best to avoid taking it with other depressants or prescription medication.

Sources

(August 2017) Phenibut—Wonder Drug or Unsafe Supplement? Maryland Poison Center. from https://www.mdpoison.com/media/SOP/mdpoisoncom/ToxTidbits/2017/August%202017%20ToxTidbits.pdf

(January 2018) Classification of Phenibut. New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority. from https://medsafe.govt.nz/profs/class/Agendas/Agen60/5.5.1-Phenibut-submission.pdf

(April 2018) Is Phenibut a Smart Drug to Take? Tennessee Poison Center. from https://ww2.mc.vanderbilt.edu/poisoncenter/52585

(February 2018) Drug used by cosmonauts may have caused Queensland students' overdose. The Guardian. from https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/feb/23/banned-anti-anxiety-drug-phenibut-may-have-caused-gold-coast-students-overdose

February 2018) What is Phenibut? The cosmonaut drug that may have caused a school overdose. ABC News. from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-23/what-is-phenibut-the-drug-suspected-in-school-overdose/9475814

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

(August 2017) Challenges in GC-MS analysis: Case studies on phenibut and ethylphenidate. Forensic Science International. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28651175

(April 2018) Phenibut (β-Phenyl-γ-aminobutyric Acid) Dependence and Management of Withdrawal: Emerging Nootropics of Abuse. Case Reports Psychiatry. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29854531

(June 2017) Effect of Phenibut and Glufimet, a Novel Glutamic Acid Derivative, on Respiration of Heart and Brain Mitochondria from Animals Exposed to Stress against the Background of Inducible NO-Synthase Blockade. Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28726197

(May 2015) What Are Nootropics? Why Successful People Are Using Them for Focus. Elite Daily. from https://www.elitedaily.com/money/nootropics-successful-people-using-focus/1021500

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