It’s amazing that Phenibut is available over-the-counter, given how powerful the phenibut high can be.
I first become interested in the recreational use of Phenibut in 2011 when I learned about its ability to decrease social inhibitions and anxiety. Indeed, Phenibut is essentially tranquilizer at high doses6.
Something that you should know right off the bat is that people tend to take way more phenibut than they should. You get diminishing returns from phenibut after 2g without any additional benefit. Despite this, there are (admittedly unverified) reports on the internet of people taking as much as 20g, which sounds like it should be a lethal dose.
Recreational Use of Phenibut
If phenibut has recreational value, why would it be available over-the-counter? Often the best substances are heavily regulated or require a prescription.
Despite its unrestricted status, there are a few case reports of phenibut abuse1 in the medical literature and even more anecdotal reports1112. People tend to self-medicate with phenibut for its tranquilizing properties and use it as an alcohol substitute.
A moderate-to-large dose of phenibut feels like being drunk without the intoxication. I know, that sounds a little oxymoronic.
The Phenibut High According To Reddit
Here's an interesting report from one Redditor:
It’s a double edged sword. Shit got me laid last weekend, but I was also blacked out drunk by 12. Started drinking about 7. For reference I never black out even when I get wasted. It’ll cut your tolerance in half.
The other times I’ve done it I’ve only drank moderately. It kind of makes you not notice little details. I mixed them playing poker a few times and would overlook a lot of things I would never miss, even drunk.
It makes my hangover last almost 2 days instead of the usual 1 day. Overall not really worth it.
This is a good cautionary tale about why mixing central nervous system (CNS) depressants – like alcohol and phenibut – is generally unwise for the inexperienced user.
My Journey With Phenibut
Structurally, phenibut looks a lot like GABA and the prescription drug baclofen (used for epilepsy and chronic pain).
Phenibut is one of the best nootropics for social anxiety.
Phenibut feels sort of like a benzodiazepine, but lacks many of the negative effects. You won’t experience the memory impairment and brain fog that is typical of many benzodiazepines.
Phenibut is technically a nootropic drug; it enhances cognitive function in low doses (100-200mg). But this therapeutic dose is well below the recreational, euphoria-inducing dose of phenibut.
One thing that particularly irks me about benzodiazepines (and alcohol) is the amnesia they tend to cause. I like to keep my brain function intact – or better yet, optimize and enhance it. No, I didn’t have tons of friends in high school.
After some experimentation, I found that phenibut can elicit a sense of euphoria. But ultimately, I think phenibut really shines as a sleep aid and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety agent). As someone who has struggled with insomnia, I’m always on the lookout for safe sleep aids that are non-benzodiazepines and aren’t anticholinergic. Phenibut definitely fits the bill.
Let’s Step Back. What the Hell Is Phenibut?
Phenibut is an anti-anxiety nootropic (cognitive enhancer) prescribed in Russia. But since it’s unregulated, it can be legally sold as a dietary supplement. At some point, however, the government is going to shut this down. So you better stock up now.
Phenibut’s recreational potential is related to the fact that it works similarly to benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax). For the pharmacology nerds out there, Phenibut binds alpha2delta calcium channels in the brain, along with GABA-B receptors. Here’s an excerpt from the same paper I just linked:
Phenibut is clinically used anxiolytic, mood elevator and nootropic drug. R-phenibut is responsible for the pharmacological activity of racemic phenibut, and this activity correlates with its binding affinity for GABAB receptors.
I started playing around with phenibut a few weeks ago after reading about it on some forums that I go to. It was grouped under nootropics/’smart drugs’, which I think is inaccurate because phenibut actually has noticeable effects unlike noops which may be nothing more than placebos.
The first thing I noticed is that the phenibut powder tastes TERRIBLE. Super sweet. Nasty. Don’t even think about just dumping it on your tongue and swallowing it or something like that. I just dunk it in some soda and down that which works well. On an empty stomach it gave me a pretty bad stomachache. But enough of the warnings, onto the effects…
After eating a small meal it started to take effect about an hour later maybe? Phenibut’s primary effect is just a sense of well-being with the world, I’m thinking today’s gonna be a good day. I’m also much more talkative and animated on phen, similar to being buzzed or drunk but without being intoxicated in any way. It’s easier for me to jump into conversations instead of just keeping quiet like I usually do.
I haven’t combined phenibut with any other drugs yet, other than cigarettes. I feel that phen dampens the effect of nicotine because I wasn’t getting as buzzed as I usually do (I smoke maybe a pack a week).
Tolerance shoots up on this shit really fast. It even says on the tub of powder, ‘do not take more than 3 days in a row without 2-3 day wash out’. Other than that, I love this stuff.
The Phenibut high is comparable to the recreational effects of gabapentin. Both drugs are GABAergic, decrease anxiety, and can cause sedation in higher doses.
Phenibut feels like a cleaner version of alcohol or benzodiazepines. It’s not quite as intoxicating alcohol (unless you take large doses, which is dangerous).
Interestingly, Phenibut has nootropic (cognitive enhancing effects). How can something be a central nervous system depressant and a nootropic? It sounds like a contradiction. Phenibut tends to improve thinking ability at low doses, whereas the sedative effects kick in at higher doses.
Phenibut also has a mild dopaminergic effect. Dopamine is that neurotransmitter that makes achieving goals and positive experiences feel rewarding. The dark side of dopamine is that it also underlies drug addiction. We’ve compiled a list of dopaminergic supplements, which can be found here.
What is Phenibut Good For?
- Promoting sleep. Like Gabapentin, phenibut binds alpha(2)delta calcium channels, which increases slow wave sleep. Slow wave sleep (SWS) is the most restorative stage of sleep.
- Reducing social anxiety, and anxiety in general. Similar to alcohol, phenibut is disinhibiting (i.e., will reduce social inhibition and anxiety).
- Reducing stress. Phenibut elicits a relaxed state, especially if you’re chronically stressed or anxious.
Social anxiety can be debilitating, and Phenibut is regarded as one of the most effective over-the-counter solutions for anxiety.
Consequences of Phenibut Use
- Like benzodiazepines, phenibut is addictive. Regular phenibut use can result in dependence and withdrawal.
- Excessive use may be associated with memory impairment
Read: Phenibut Withdrawal – Mild but Real
I’m a 22 year old male with experience with pretty much any ol’ thang you can imagine. I’ve lived with a pretty constant generalized anxiety for most of my young queer life, and anything I find that will temporarily allay said youthful agitation has the potential to be trouble for me.
I’ve played around with GABAergic agents before, from zolpidem to zaleplon to zopiclone to Xanax and GHB. Never really picked up much of a habit in any of them, aside from heavy nighttime Ambien use a good five years back. I’ve made my mistakes with GHB/GBL, but G intoxication is simply too… intoxicating to make for a good anxiolytic, and it’s too short-acting, at that. I probably messed around with Phenibut for the first time about three years ago, when it had just hit the bulk supplements market. Never impressed me much. The inability to focus my eyes and the general wooziness made phenibut usage unattractive. I realized recently that these negative effects had more to do with overdose – proper, sane dosing allowed me to avoid these effects, and phenibut became, for a couple two-week periods, a daily habit. Between these two-week periods I’d give myself a good break of a month or so, and then some stressor would find me standing in the supplements aisle of some health food store grabbing the 500 mg Phenibut caps again.
My first phenibut withdrawal was completely unexpected and totally subtle. I’d say I’d been using about two to four grams a day, divided dosing. I’d feel the initial effects of the withdrawal maybe two days after my last dose. I’d probably gone through it many times without putting a finger on what was actually going on. The withdrawal was like a sensation of all-over activation. Nothing dramatic – no hairs standing on end, no shakes, no seizures – just an over-all sense of being ‘on’ in an uncomfortable way. Restless anxiety. No pain, in contrast to, say, hydrocodone withdrawal. The first couple times I went through it I thought it was just some bizarre, inexplicable anxiety. It took me a while to actually associate the phenibut with these seemingly domestic symptoms. This restlessness would last about a week, and would be accompanied by a sort of depression and primal fear. After a week and a half I’d be back to the normal me – easily excitable, someone anxious, but also quite happy and energized, the upshot of my peculiar little-dog syndrome.
Conclusion? Phenibut withdrawal is real. I’ve been through it a couple times, and each time, I forget about it and never really see it coming. Two to four grams of phenibut a day, for me, is barely noticeable and always has been. These are not large, intoxicating doses for me. Fair warning, though, that while phenibut might not pack a huge wallop in its initial effects, the subtle UGH of its withdrawal is a bitch. If you recognize it for what it is, you can ride it out in confidence that you’ll equilibrate eventually. If you don’t know what it is, it just feels like everything’s wrong and you have no idea why. Good luck, and be careful!
The Phenibut High – Megadosing Phenibut
Megadoses of Phenibut (e.g., >2 grams) can result in Phenibut intoxication, characterized by slurred speech, impaired coordination, amnesia and other effects reminiscent of alcohol and benzodiazepines.
Taking megadoses of Phenibut is obviously risky. Many people have been hospitalized as a result of Phenibut overdose. Emergency room departments have reported that the number of people visiting the ER seeking treatment for Phenibut intoxication has been increasing.10
Since Phenibut is legally sold as a nutritional supplement, it is easy to overlook that Phenibut is a potent drug with serious side effects, including withdrawal, dependence and all of the other deleterious effects of substance use.
Conclusions on the Phenibut High
Phenibut has many negative side effects, e.g., the Phenibut hangover, with limited recreational potential. Individuals self-medicating with Phenibut for social anxiety, insomnia, or other disorders that involve neuronal hyperactivity will get better mileage from seeing a psychiatric and being formally evaluated. Nighttime Phenibut use for insomnia often results in a Phenibut hangover and headaches the following day. Phenibut withdrawal and dependence has been characterized in the literature.
Tianeptine is probably the best substitute for Phenibut because it has anxiolytic properties without directly affecting the GABA system. Tianeptine is a mood brightener primarily due to its activity at the mu-opioid receptor (in addition to other neuronal targets). This is the same receptor involved in the “Runner’s High.”
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Ziablintseva EA, Pavlova IV. [Influence of GABA agonist phenibut on the neuronal activity and interaction in hippocampus and neocortex in emotionally negative situations]. Rossiiskii fiziologicheskii zhurnal imeni I.M. Sechenova. 2009; 95(9): 907-18. ↩
Shul'gina GI, Ziablitseva EA. [Effect of the GABA derivative phenibut on learning]. Vestnik Rossiiskoi akademii meditsinskikh nauk. 2005; (2): 35-40. ↩
Lapin I. Phenibut (beta-phenyl-GABA): a tranquilizer and nootropic drug. CNS drug reviews. 2001; 7(4): 471-81. ↩
Downes MA, Berling IL, Mostafa A, Grice J, Roberts MS, Isbister GK. Acute behavioural disturbance associated with phenibut purchased via an internet supplier. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2015;53(7):636-8. Link ↩