Phenibut Addiction: Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment
Phenibut is a synthetic Russian anti-anxiety drug that was developed in the 1960s. It is used to treat symptoms of anxiety and insomnia in Russia but is not approved for medical use in the United States. In America, it is available as a supplement and can be easily purchased online in powder or capsule form. It is not classified as a controlled substance by the DEA and is regulated differently than prescription drugs.
Phenibut is a depressant and the synthetic form of GABA (or gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is a neurotransmitter that is found in the brain. It has been labeled as a nootropic and a “smart drug” because it induces feelings of calmness and focus without the negative side effects of other drugs like caffeine or alcohol. It can increase sociability and may also produce feelings of euphoria when taken in large doses.
People in the U.S. may use phenibut supplements to reduce feelings of anxiety and nervousness in social situations and have more control over their thoughts. Some may also use it to self-medicate if they are suffering from symptoms of drug withdrawal or high levels of social anxiety. It is often also marketed online as a mood enhancer, sleep aid, and exercise recovery booster.
Recreational use of phenibut is often considered safe by many people in the U.S. simply because it is marketed online as such. As a smart drug, phenibut is often touted as a substance that enhances memory and learning ability, helps the brain function under difficult conditions, increases the neuron activity, and has very few side effects. This marketing is very misleading because the misuse of phenibut can cause physical dependence, addiction, and negative side effects.
In Russia, phenibut is sold under the following brand names:
According to the FDA, there are between 50,000 and 80,000 different supplement products that claim to improve or maintain your health. Popular ones like kratom get a lot of news coverage but phenibut is also one of them. Tolerance and dependence can both occur within just weeks of using phenibut for various reasons and long-term use of this drug has negative side effects.
When phenibut is used in high doses it may increase dopamine levels in the brain, which can contribute to compulsive use and addiction. With chronic use over time, phenibut users may feel unable to interact socially or perform mentally without it, leading to more misuse and psychological addiction.
Phenibut is most popular with the younger population of drug users, and although it is marketed as a safe supplement, misuse of phenibut is dangerous and can cause problematic behavioral patterns, psychological damage, and harmful physical side effects such as an increased risk of fatty liver disease, overdose, and serious withdrawal symptoms.
General side effects of phenibut use may include nausea, anxiety, headaches, dizziness, and overall sedation. However, taking high doses of phenibut or misusing it can cause other negative side effects, such as:
- Loss of balance
- Impaired coordination
- Hangover-like symptoms
- Physical dependence
Since the initial effects of phenibut are often delayed, some people may take another dose because they think it didn’t work the first time. Taking too much phenibut in this way can cause an overdose. Phenibut overdose is also more likely if a person is taking the drug with other depressants like opioids, alcohol, or prescription sedatives.
Signs of phenibut overdose include:
- Low blood pressure
- Low body temperature
- Extreme drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness
People who are misusing phenibut may display some or all of the following behaviors:
- Taking higher doses of phenibut than recommended on the label
- Taking more frequent doses of phenibut than recommended on the label
- Self-medicating to cope with alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Using other depressants like alcohol, opioids, or sedatives to enhance the effects of phenibut
If someone is addicted to phenibut, he or she may show some of the classic signs of addiction, such as:
- Having strong cravings for phenibut
- Feeling unable to function normally without it
- Being preoccupied with thoughts about getting phenibut and using it
- Experiencing phenibut withdrawal symptoms
- Needing higher doses of phenibut to experience any effects
- Trying to cut back or quit using phenibut but being unable
- Neglecting personal responsibilities and hobbies as a result of phenibut abuse
A person who has a history of substance abuse may be more likely to become physically dependent or addicted to phenibut.
Some people may develop a physical dependence to phenibut very quickly and build up a tolerance to it. Once a person is physically dependent on phenibut, they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it. Phenibut withdrawal symptoms usually appear within three to four hours of using the drug and may include:
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Muscle pain/twitching
- Depersonalization and derealization (feeling detached from your body or reality)
- Psychomotor agitation (unintentional restlessness and movements such as pacing, toe-tapping, or rapid talking)
Phenibut withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe and uncomfortable, so detoxing in a medical environment is often the safest and most comfortable option. Medical detox also reduces the likelihood that a relapse will occur by providing round-the-clock monitoring, medication-assisted treatment, and clinical counseling to address the psychological symptoms of withdrawal.
Although there is no established withdrawal timeline for phenibut, it is similar to benzodiazepine withdrawal. The severity and duration of phenibut withdrawal will vary from person to person and largely depends on factors like:
- How long they have used phenibut
- Their method of quitting phenibut (taper vs. cold turkey)
- Their typical dosage
- If they are taking any other drugs or supplements
In general, acute physical symptoms of phenibut withdrawal usually subside within a week or two, although some symptoms like anxiety and depression may persist for longer. This is known as post-acute withdrawal. People who take high doses of phenibut are more likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms that are longer-lasting.
Phenibut dependence and addiction are two of the primary risks of using this drug, but treatment is available for those that need it. A long-term rehab program that lasts 90 days or longer may be the best option for someone who is suffering from severe addiction to phenibut and can provide adequate care for co-occurring disorders like social anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Although every rehab program is different, most will include a variety of evidence-based addiction treatment methods such as:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Educational lectures
- Fitness regimen and nutritional guidance
- 12-Step Program work (or similar recovery programming)
- Specialized therapies like pet therapy, art therapy, and music therapy
During rehab, clients work with addiction treatment professionals to address the underlying causes of their substance abuse, learn how to cope without drugs, and prepare for and prevent relapse. Drug rehab also helps to prepare clients for ongoing treatment by providing life skills development, peer support, and encouraging H&I meetings that aim to show them what a life in recovery can look like.
As is mentioned earlier, no two rehab programs are exactly alike and there are many different types of drug rehab programs that cater to individuals with different levels of addiction and co-occurring disorders.
Two common types of drug rehab are inpatient programs and outpatient programs. While each type is designed to cater to clients with varying needs, both are equally recovery-focused and provide solid treatment for substance use disorders.
Here is a simple side-by-side comparison of residential drug rehab programs and outpatient drug rehab programs.
In residential rehab, clients:
· Live at the rehab center in gender-specific group housing while they complete their program
· Adhere to a structured daily schedule and treatment regimen
· Attend daily therapy sessions
· Participate in recovery-focused activities, therapies, and family workshops
· Have immediate access to medical and clinical care services on-site
In outpatient rehab, clients:
· Commit to attending a series of group therapy sessions hosted at a safe, clinical location
· Complete homework assignments independently outside of group sessions
· Continue working, attending school, and maintaining other personal responsibilities and commitments while enrolled in drug rehab
· Have limited access to medical and clinical care services
In general, a residential drug rehab program may be best for those who are struggling with severe, long-lasting phenibut addiction or who also require complex medical and/or clinical care for co-occurring disorders. An outpatient rehab program is a great option for continued care after residential rehab or for those who have a stable and sober living environment and a moderate addiction to phenibut.
The cost of a drug rehab program can vary depending on factors like:
- The location of the rehab center
- The type of treatment services/specialized therapies offered
- The rehab center’s amenities
- The facility’s payment options/insurance accepted
Fortunately, there are many ways to pay for drug rehab and options for reducing its costs. A few common ways people pay for drug rehab include:
- Health insurance benefits
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
- Financed healthcare loans
- Credit cards
- HSA funds
Just like any other drug addiction, phenibut addiction cannot be “cured” or overcome without continued work and support. Fortunately, there are several options for continuing care that can help you maintain your sobriety after rehab and successfully re-enter society as a sober person.
Sober Living Programs
If you do not have a sober and supportive home environment to return to after rehab, a sober living program may be ideal for you. Sober living homes offer enhanced recovery support by providing safe, sober, gender-specific living spaces for people in all stages of recovery.
Many sober living homes also offer additional recovery support services such as:
- Regular drug and alcohol testing
- Tiered recovery programming
- House managers and staff that live on-site
- Group activities
- Employment and education assistance
- A peer-guided personal monitoring program
These recovery support services act as a protective umbrella to help clients adjust to a life of sobriety, gradually take on more personal responsibilities, and successfully transition back into society after rehab. Sober living programs also greatly reduce the likelihood of relapse and help clients get back on track if and when a relapse does occur.
The cost of a sober living program will vary depending on its location, amenities, and the recovery support services that are offered. However, payment is most often collected once a month, as rent would be.
Aftercare is another type of continuing care option that is designed to help rehab alumni successfully navigate life in recovery, even when they are faced with difficult circumstances.
Aftercare is most often comprised of a series of weekly meetings during which people in recovery discuss sobriety-related issues. Many people also use aftercare meetings as a weekly check-in to remain accountable to their sober peers.
Group discussions during each aftercare session are designed to be safe, supportive, and encouraging. This type of program is ideal for people who have already completed rehab and who need continued support to maintain their recovery throughout transitional stages of life, such as a new job, a move to a new city, or the loss of a loved one.
If you or a loved one is struggling with phenibut addiction, you are not alone. A caring professional is waiting to take your call and help you get the treatment you deserve. Call (512) 605-2955 to speak with a Nova Recovery Center representative today.
- Gender-specific treatment
- Evidenced-based treatment
- 12-Step immersion
- 90-day residential treatment
- Family program
- Full continuum of care
- Insurance and private pay
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