Phenibut Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options
Recent statistics show that 21 million Americans suffer from drug addiction. The amount of substances people become addicted to is ever-growing as the nation deals with a drug epidemic. One of the lesser-known substances that people become addicted to is phenibut, which is particularly popular in Eastern Europe but still abused in the United States.
In this post, we’ll detail what phenibut is, the symptoms of addiction, phenibut withdrawal, and how to seek help. Are you or a loved one struggling with phenibut addiction? Recovery is possible with Zinnia Health. Contact us today to learn more.
What Is Phenibut?
Phenibut is a drug that’s traditionally been used by doctors in Russia to treat symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. It’s becoming more common in the United States and is sold online as a supplement and nootropic — a chemical that claims to offer cognitive benefits. Nootropics are commonly marketed as “smart drugs.” To be classified as a nootropic in the U.S., a substance must meet the following criteria:
- It must enhance memory and learning ability.
- It must help the brain function under less-than-optimal conditions.
- It must increase neuron activity.
- It must produce little to no side effects.
Nootropics fall into three categories:
- Prescription drugs
- Dietary supplements
- Synthetic compounds
Phenibut is sold under the brand names of:
The drug is used to treat the following conditions:
- Fear and anxiety
- Social anxiety
- Sleep problems
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Alcoholism, Alcohol Use Disorder, and Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
- Irregular heart rate
It’s important to note that phenibut is not FDA approved for any of these uses in the U.S., and no clinical studies prove its effectiveness. This is why phenibut is sold as a supplement in the U.S. and must be purchased online. It’s sold as a powder or capsule form in the U.S.
Phenibut’s structure is similar to gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is commonly used for stress and sleep. Phenibut is characterized as a GABA analog as it’s believed to activate the brain’s GABA receptors, similar to how Baclofen does.
GABA is a calming neurotransmitter. Since phenibut works as an analog to GABA, researchers believe it produces a calming effect, particularly when taken in small doses.
Side Effects of Phenibut
The side effects of phenibut, which is a central nervous system depressant, include:
- Allergic reactions
- Cognitive and motor impairment
- Loss of balance
- Cravings and hangovers
- Physical dependence
Long-term use of phenibut also increases the risk of developing fatty liver disease and eosinophilia.
What Is the Connection Between Phenibut and Alcohol?
It’s quite common for people to mix phenibut with other substances. Some people use it as an alcohol enhancer.
Some side effects of mixing phenibut and alcohol include:
- Extreme sedation
- Feelings of euphoria
- Mood swings
- Slurred speech
- Slowed speech
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Impaired judgment
- Impulsive behavior
- Blacking out
Is Phenibut Legal?
In Russia, Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine, phenibut is legal for medical use. But, in the United States and European Union, it is neither prescribed by doctors nor prohibited by law — this is why people resort to purchasing the substance online. Just because you can purchase phenibut online does not mean you should. Since it is not FDA-regulated, there’s no telling what’s in the substance and how accurate the dosage is. It’s also easy to become addicted to phenibut, and it has been identified as a drug with a number of overdose side effects and a withdrawal syndrome when used chronically.
Does Phenibut Produce a High?
Yes. Phenibut can produce a high, especially when taken in higher doses. People who have just started taking the substance may experience feelings of a “high” in small doses. Other feelings that phenibut has been reported to produce include:
- Greater sense of calm
- Increased sociability
- Increased alertness
- Increased feelings of well-being
- Mental clarity
- Improved memory
Is Phenibut Addictive?
As users continue to take the drug, their tolerance builds. Over time, phenibut can replace the brain’s natural GABA neurotransmitters. Once this happens, users can start to display signs of addiction and, ultimately, withdrawal.
Addiction to phenibut happens because of how the substance stimulates dopamine receptors and GABA receptors in the brain. When dopamine is released in the brain, a cycle of addiction can follow.
Signs of Phenibut Addiction
Unfortunately, tolerance to Phenibut can build in as little as two weeks of occasional use, which leads people to increase how much of the drug they take — which also increases the likelihood they will experience severe withdrawal symptoms.
People who are misusing the substance will typically begin to display the following symptoms of phenibut dependence:
- Needing higher and higher doses of the drug to elicit the same feelings.
- Taking higher doses than what the label recommends.
- Taking phenibut more frequently than what the label recommends.
- When tolerance builds, beginning to use other forms of depressants, like alcohol and opioids, to enhance phenibut’s effects.
When an addiction to phenibut develops, the classic signs of addiction may present, such as:
- Strong cravings for the drug.
- An inability to function properly without it.
- Feeling preoccupied with thoughts about getting phenibut and taking the next dose.
- Experiencing phenibut withdrawal.
- Trying to quit or cut back but failing to do so.
- Neglecting all other work, school, and personal obligations.
- Spending a lot of money on phenibut.
- Having financial problems related to the cost of phenibut.
- Continuing to use it despite problems the phenibut causes at home, work, school, and in interpersonal relationships, etc.
- Changes in relationships and difficulty maintaining them.
- Spending a lot of time alone.
- Getting into legal trouble.
- Living a life that revolves around drug use.
- Failing to take care of yourself.
- Sleeping at odd hours.
- Neglecting appointments.
Phenibut Withdrawal Symptoms
It is possible to overdose on phenibut, particularly because of the drug’s delayed onset. Because of the time it can take for the drug to start producing effects, people often take additional doses under the impression their initial dose is not working.
People who become physically dependent on the substance will experience severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking phenibut. These symptoms can appear as soon as a few hours after their last dose.
Phenibut withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Rebound anxiety
- Extreme drowsiness
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Renal impairment
- Low blood pressure
- Low body temperature
- Brain fog
- Fatty liver degeneration
- Muscle tension
- Loss of consciousness
- Psychomotor agitation (restlessness and movements that are not intentional, such as toe-tapping, pacing, and fast-talking)
Although there is no officially established withdrawal timeline for phenibut, the withdrawal is similar to benzodiazepine withdrawal, and the symptoms can last for weeks and can even be life-threatening. The severity and duration of phenibut withdrawal vary from person to person. Withdrawal often depends on the following factors:
- How long they’ve used the substance.
- Their method of quitting — whether they attended detox or quit cold turkey.
- Their dose of phenibut.
- Whether they’re taking other drugs and supplements.
Although no evidence-based treatment options have been developed specifically to treat addiction to phenibut, standard addiction treatment can do the trick. The best course of action for substance abuse is medically-assisted detox followed by behavioral therapy.
Once a dependency on phenibut has formed, the only medically safe way to stop using the substance is to take part in a medical detox program. In medical detox, the dosage will be gradually decreased while the patient is monitored by a team of medical staff around the clock for dangerous side effects and complications.
The process of withdrawing and detoxing from phenibut is quite uncomfortable, but detox is necessary for anyone who has become addicted to the substance.
During detox, the patient is kept as comfortable as possible while their medical team works to minimize the distress and side effects of phenibut withdrawal so they can properly detox without feeling as if the only way to stop the side effects of withdrawal is by using the drug.
Detox from phenibut generally takes two to four weeks, and late-stage withdrawal symptoms can pop up, which is why monitoring and supervision are so key to making a full recovery. The most common symptoms patients experience while undergoing phenibut detox include:
- Physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, cramping, vomiting, nausea, fever, chills, and tremors.
- Emotional symptoms such as depression, depersonalization, auditory and visual hallucinations, and a sense of dread.
- Heightened stress, anxiety, and irritation.
- Cognitive deficiencies, such as difficulty concentrating and remembering things.
Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is an important component of medically-supervised detox that allows the patient to take medication to help counter the effects of phenibut addiction and withdrawal. These medications include:
During detox, tapering the dose of phenibut is another common option. During tapering, you will receive smaller and smaller doses of the drug until it is tapered completely. This approach allows the brain to adapt without sending the body into shock when it suddenly stops receiving a substance it has grown dependent on.
During detox, it’s important to cope with stress in healthy ways, such as exercise and staying busy, to reduce cravings and anxiety. To learn more about healthy ways to break free from the chains of phenibut addiction ,Zinnia Health is here for you. Learn more about our substance use programs here.
Phenibut Addiction Treatment at Zinnia Health
After successfully completing a phenibut detox program, ongoing treatment programs are available for people who need more support, such as:
- Inpatient rehab: Patients live at a treatment facility where they receive around-the-clock care and counseling and benefit from a structured daily regimen.
- Outpatient rehab: Patients can continue living at home, working, and attending to personal obligations while they attend therapy sessions multiple times per week at the recovery center.
- Individual therapy: A patient meets one-on-one with a licensed therapist to get to the root of what’s causing their addiction and any other mental health, behavioral health, or substance abuse issues they are experiencing.
- Group therapy: Patients receive therapy in a group setting and benefit from peer support and the chance to connect with other people who are going through similar situations as they are.
- Family therapy: The patient and their family members meet with a licensed therapist to talk about the cause of the addiction and any triggers that may be contributing to it, and how to create a safe home environment conducive to recovery.
- 12-step program: 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, teach people suffering from addictions steps to incorporate into their daily lives to fight their cravings, triggers, and addictions.
- Art therapy: Patients use art to express their emotions and feelings and learn healthy ways to channel any resentment or other overwhelming feelings they may experience.
- Music therapy: Patients experience the therapeutic effects of music by listening to and making music, as well as dancing and interpreting lyrics.
- Sober living programs: Sober living facilities help patients adjust to life after rehab by providing them with a supportive and sober environment. These facilities provide regular drug and alcohol testing, live-in house managers, group activities, and employment and education assistance.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT works to address the underlying causes of addiction while teaching the patient how to replace their self-destructive behaviors and negative thought patterns with healthy alternatives. Patients learn how to handle stress effectively without needing drugs and/or alcohol.
To learn more about phenibut addiction programs at Zinnia Health, and how we can help, contact us at (855) 430-9439. We want to assist you with your healing journey and ensure that you get the peace of mind you deserve regarding your car. Our admissions counselors are available 24/7 to connect you to the help you need.