Phenibut is a nootropic supplement. Nootropics are sold as brain enhancers that are meant to improve your focus and concentration. While they can sometimes be found easily online, they are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some people refer to phenibut and other nootropics as “smart drugs.”
Nootropics, in theory, shield the brain’s neurons and increase oxygen and blood flow to the brain. This is supposed to increase your ability to concentrate. An entire culture of people who experiment with nootropics exists. They call themselves noonauts and work to increase capacity in their brains, much like an athlete tries to improve their stamina. Phenibut is widely used in Russia to treat issues such as anxiety and fear.
According to BMJ Case Reports, some people report becoming tolerant of phenibut. They need larger doses of the supplement to continue feeling the same way.
Potential For Tolerance and Abuse
People become tolerant of a drug because their bodies and brains adapt to it. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the brain decreases cells in the reward system that react to a drug. This causes a person to feel a diminished high whenever taking the same dosage of a given substance. Plus, drug tolerance may make a person less interested in activities they once enjoyed because their reward system does not react to them as it did in the past.
Many drugs cause the body to secrete dopamine, a hormone that allows us to see rewards and try to work hard to get them. Dopamine even has a role in your ability to pay attention. It makes people feel satisfied, and it has a distinct role in addiction.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia recommended that phenibut becomes a scheduled drug. Part of their reasoning includes reports from past users that some people have been using it to treat anxiety, which could be better treated with professional help. TGA also found that consistent phenibut use could result in an intentional or accidental overdose. Phenibut is only regulated in Russia, but TGA wants to make phenibut available through a prescription only in Australia.
Phenibut users often report increased tolerance depending on the dose taken. This often prompts users to take increasingly higher dosages.
Who Uses Phenibut?
More data is needed to understand who uses phenibut for recreational or medical reasons. A 2012 study in the Journal of American Health shows that about 66 percent of college students have used prescription nootropics recreationally by the time they graduate. The same study showed that women were less likely to continue using nootropics at high levels compared to men in the study. Racial minorities were less likely to use nootropics at all.
Phenibut has been known to cause people to feel withdrawal. Most cases of this have been observed individually, and there are not enough group studies to provide a lot of data. Still, reported symptoms of withdrawal include:
- An intense desire to keep using phenibut
According to a case published in BMJ Medical Reports, withdrawal symptoms were treated with baclofen. This prescription medication is similar to phenibut, and it took nine weeks to gradually reduce the dose of baclofen. After this, the patient was no longer using phenibut.
The patient profiled in this study was a 35-year-old man. He previously had a pattern of using alcohol almost every day for several years. The man initially bought phenibut so he could wean himself off alcohol. For alcohol addiction, professional help is needed to safely detox from alcohol. Individuals should not attempt to use phenibut to self-medicate.
What to Look For When Trying to Detox From Phenibut
Though it might not be the case for everyone who misuses phenibut, some people may use it to manage a mental health issue. If this is the case for you, it is important to choose a treatment facility that can help people who have a dual diagnosis. As you attempt to quit use of phenibut, you will also address any co-occurring issues, such as anxiety or depression, that led to your abuse of the substance.
Inpatient and outpatient services should include the following to be effective, according to the National Institutes of Health:
- Intake and questioning to identify any underlying issues, such as trauma or mental health problems
- The ability to monitor drug abuse
- Clinical assistance and care
- Treatment plans, tailored to the person’s needs
- Group therapy sessions
- Psychological and psychiatric help
- Continued care and monitoring
Treatment should include medical assistance during the detox process, as needed.