Did you know phenibut is added to every Russian astronaut’s medical kit? Following its discovery in the 1960s, phenibut was used to reduce stress and anxiety.
Russian astronauts definitely have stressful jobs. But they aren’t allowed to use traditional tranquilizers. So, starting in 1975 phenibut was added to astronaut’s medical kits.
Today, phenibut is sold in many nutritional supplements around the world.
Gamma-aminobuytric acid (GABA) is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Its job is to calm–or inhibit– neuron activity. Phenibut is naturally derived from GABA, but it has one major difference: phenibut’s chemical structure has a phenyl ring. This ring allows phenibut to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Although it’s not an approved pharmaceutical in the U.S., Russians have been using phenibut as a neuropsychotropic drug for years. It is used to treat the following ailments:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Some evidence suggests phenibut also enhances thinking, learning, and memory.
Just as Russian astronauts are still exploring space, researchers are exploring phenibut.
What does it do? Some research shows phenibut relieves anxiety and improves sleep. But more and better research is definitely needed.
Is phenibut safe? Once again, the research fails to provide solid answers. However, reports from people who’ve used phenibut suggest this substance may cause severe withdrawal symptoms.
Finally, should you use phenibut? At this point, there isn’t enough information and too much potential risk. Until better research surfaces, you may be better off trying natural substances such as valerian root and hops.
Since GABA relieves anxiety and improves mood, scientists set out to discover if phenibut has the same effects. Unfortunately, most studies were performed on animals and are written in Russian. There are two problems with this:
First, animal studies–although insightful–don’t show how phenibut affects humans. Second, unless you are fluent in Russian, information on phenibut is limited.
Fortunately, some research has been translated to English and here’s what it shows:
Phenibut activates dopamine receptors and suppresses phenylethylamine, which is a natural stimulant. As a result, phenibut has a calming, mood-enhancing effect. Researchers describe it as anxiolytic and nootropic. Anxiolytics treat anxiety and nootropics enhance cognitive functioning.
Animals were given phenibut and then exposed to threatening or negative situations. Those given phenibut experienced less stress and anxiety than the animals who weren’t given anything[3,4,5]
A group of human volunteers was separated into three groups and exposed to a threatening environment. Two groups were given phenibut combined with other medications and the third group received a placebo. The group given phenibut and obsidian was more stable and tolerated the environment better.
Phenibut may cause drowsiness. This could be good or bad; depending on how you look at it. If you have insomnia, phenibut may help you sleep better. If you’re on a road trip, drowsiness is an unwelcome companion.
Other than drowsiness, the available research suggests phenibut does not cause side effects. But this doesn’t mean phenibut users are in the clear. After all, the only information we have comes from minimal research and poorly-designed studies on rabbits and rats.
Humans did take phenibut in one Russian study. But the translated information I found doesn’t say how long they took it, if side effects occurred, or what the long-term effects were.
Russians started using phenibut in the 1960s and they still use it today. Does this mean it’s safe to take phenibut? Not necessarily.
Phenibut has been known to interact with MAO inhibitors and epilepsy-control drugs. If you take these medications, you should not use phenibut. It may reduce the effectiveness of prescription drugs and stimulants, and enhance the effectiveness of opiates.
If you want know how safe phenibut is for you, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor.
So, you take phenibut and no side effects occur. But what happens when you stop taking it?
People can and have developed a tolerance to phenibut. When they stop taking it, nasty withdrawal symptoms occur. These symptoms haven’t occurred during research, but they are reported on blogs and online forums. Just search “phenibut withdrawal” and see what comes up
One man took 250 mg of phenibut, 3-4 times a day for its “psychoactive properties.” After a while, he stopped taking phenibut and three days later found himself in the hospital. He had to be sedated for three days! The man experience withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Feeling easily annoyed and irritated
- Poor appetite
- Heart pounding and racing
Other people have reported similar withdrawal symptoms after they stopped taking phenibut.
Getting the right dosage is a delicate balancing act. Take too much and you’ll get hammered by side effects. Take too little and you won’t feel any difference; positive or negative. What is an ideal phenibut dosage?
Based on the limited research, this seems to be the general recommendation:
- 250-1,500 mg, twice a day
- If you want to reduce insomnia, most sleeping pills with phenibut contain about 250-400 mg
- One study suggests taking 250 mg, twice a day is effective and does not cause side effects
I don’t know about you, but I was hoping for something more specific. This broad range makes it very difficult to find an ideal dosage. Hopefully these facts will narrow it down for you:
It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor. He or she can help you find a good dosage based on your age, gender, and health.
-  Lapin, Slava “From the Inside” 2009.
-  Lapin, I. “Phenibut (beta-phenyl-GABA): a tranquilizer and nootropic drug.” CNS Drug Reviews. 7.4 (2001): 471-81
-  Ziablintseva, EA, and IV Pavlova. “Effect of GABA receptor agonist phenibut on behavior and respiration of rabbits in the negative emotional situation.” Zhurnal Vysshei Nervnoi Dieatelnosti Imeni. 57.4 (2007): 479-88
-  Talalaenko, AN, GK Krivobok. “Neurochemical mechanisms of the dorsal pallidum in the antiaversive effects of anxiolytics in various models of anxiety” Neuroscience and Behavioral Physiology. 36.7 (2006): 749-54.
-  Ziablintseva, EA “The effect of GABA derivative phenibut on defensive conditioning and internal inhibition.” Zhurnal Vysshei Nervnoi Dieatelnosti Imeni. 56.2 (2006): 236-41.
-  Makarov, VI, IN Tiurenkov, et al. “Experimental bases of the use of pharmacologic agents aimed at higher heat resistance of humans as means of individual protection.” Meditsina Truda I Promyshlennaia Ekologiia. 5. (1997): 35-8.
-  Odujebe, OA, RS Hoffman, and LS Nelson. “Phenibut Withdrawal – A Novel “Nutritional Supplement” Clinical Toxicology. 46.7 605.
-  Shulgina, GI. “On neurotransmitter mechanisms of reinforcement and internal inhibition.” Pavlovian Journal of Biological Science. 21.4 (1986): 129-40.