Is Phenibut Legal? The Debate Surrounding this “Wonder Drug”

phenibut powder

Claims about the supplement phenibut have led some people to believe that it’s an effective way to treat sleep problems, anxiety, and attention disorders, while also increasing cognitive abilities. However, research does not fully support these claims, leaving many people wondering whether phenibut is effective, safe, or even legal in the U.S.

What is Phenibut?

Phenibut is a designer drug and a central nervous system depressant. It was developed in Russia in the 1960s and is used medically in other countries to treat a variety of issues, such as anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, depression, stuttering, ADD and more. Cosmonauts (Russian astronauts) also used the drug to treat anxiety and insomnia. While it was not intentionally taken by the cosmonauts as a performance-enhancing drug, it functioned that way in one instance and also improved their cognitive and problem-solving abilities.1

The common dosage form for phenibut is a crystal powder or capsule and it can be purchased online. Common street names or slang terms for phenibut are pbut, noofen, or party powder.

In the U.S., phenibut has a reputation for decreasing anxiety, fatigue, and fear, and improving memory, learning, and thinking, among other things. It’s often referred to as a “smart drug” for these reasons. However, there is not enough evidence to sufficiently prove that phenibut is effective for these uses.2

Some experts and researchers believe phenibut is a potentially dangerous product because several cases of phenibut overdose have occurred and it mimics the effects of prescription drugs, yet anyone who does a quick Google search can easily get some.3

How Phenibut Works

According to WebMD, phenibut is very similar to a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA. It affects the mental state of the user by binding to GABA sites in the brain and producing a sedating and relaxing effect.2

Phenibut has been referred to as the “Russian wonder drug” and is also often promoted as a nootropic drug.4 Nootropic drugs are substances are referred to as “smart drugs” or “cognitive enhancers” because they may improve cognitive functions like concentration, motivation, attention, and memory.

Despite the many claims about Phenibut’s wondrous properties, it has not been approved by the FDA to treat related disorders such as ADD and there are questions about its safety as an herbal supplement. There is some research detailing the drug’s effects on animals like rats and dogs, but more research needs to be done on humans before we can actually say whether phenibut is effective for medicinal purposes.

Currently, phenibut is not an FDA-approved medication and has no clinical use in the U.S.5 Although it is not a regulated drug, you can still purchase it online as a nutritional supplement. Some people in the U.S. purchase phenibut online to use a supplement for bodybuilding or to reduce anxiety and promote sleep, but there is no direct evidence that this actually works. There are many potential side effects.

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    Is Phenibut Addictive?

    There is no definitive answer to the questions “Is phenibut addictive?” but the drug does have qualities similar to other addictive substances. For example, there are reports of dependence in patients who misuse phenibut and some evidence also suggests that long-term use of the drug can result in increased tolerance and dependence.5

    Anyone using phenibut recreationally or for medical purposes should be wary of the risks of tolerance, dependence, and addiction, as well as the potential side effects.

    Side Effects of Phenibut

    Common side effects of phenibut use and abuse may include:

    • Headache
    • Depression
    • Lowered body temperature
    • Muscle relaxation
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Poor balance
    • Fatigue
    • Feelings of electric shock in the arms and legs
    • Respiratory problems
    • Unconsciousness7

    Phenibut Withdrawal Symptoms: More Severe than Most Anticipate

    Since phenibut is advertised and sold as a nutritional supplement, people who use phenibut recreationally may not anticipate the severity of the potential withdrawal symptoms. When used on a regular basis, phenibut can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms in users.

    Common phenibut withdrawal symptoms include:

    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Muscle aches
    • Anxiety
    • Agitation
    • Sleeping problems
    • Decreased appetite
    • Hallucinations
    • Muscle pain
    • Twitching
    • Heart arrhythmia
    • Sensitivity to sound and light
    • Seizures8

    The Phenibut Debate: Is it a Helpful Drug with Benefits or an Addictive Substance that Should Be Regulated?

    The claims about phenibut being a “smart drug” or a “wonder drug” should be taken with caution, as researchers still have a lot of work to do to determine the efficacy and safety of the drug.

    If you or a loved one is using phenibut for recreational purposes and you are unable to control your usage habits or you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, you may need professional help to overcome your phenibut dependence.

    A medical detox program can provide round-the-clock medical supervision and tapering assistance to gradually bring you back down into a stable state of sobriety. Medical detox can also provide treatment for uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, so you don’t have to suffer to get sober.

    If you’re interested in learning more about medical detox for phenibut, call Briarwood Detox Center today to speak with an admissions representative.


    1. https://theconversation.com/weekly-dose-phenibut-the-russian-anti-anxiety-drug-linked-to-gold-coast-teens-overdoses-92339
    2. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1184/phenibut
    3. https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(14)00284-8/fulltext
    4. https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/phenibut-is-neither-proven-nor-safe-as-a-prosocial-wonder-drug/
    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5952553/
    6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3604470/
    7. https://www.opss.org/faqs/phenibut-it-okay-use-%E2%80%9Csmart-pills%E2%80%9D-or-anti-anxiety-dietary-supplements-contain-phenibut

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