Phenibut (brand name “Noofen”) is a neuropsychiatric drug originally synthesized in St. Petersburg, Russia by a team of researchers at the Department of Organic Chemistry of the Herzen Pedagogic Institute. By the 1960s, phenibut was introduced as a pharmaceutical agent in Russia for the treatment of various medical conditions including: anxiety, insomnia, and PTSD. Since its initial approval, phenibut gained popularity as an adjunct: antidepressant, preoperative anesthetic, postoperative analgesic, and anti-stuttering agent.
These days, phenibut remains widely utilized throughout Russia as a pharmacological intervention to combat alcohol withdrawal, anxiety disorders, and other stress-related conditions. Although its mechanism of action is principally GABAergic, it differs from benzodiazepines in that it bolsters cognitive performance (rather than impairs it); hence its labeling (by some) as a nootropic. Due to the fact that it remains an unregulated substance in the United States, many biohackers, psychonauts, and individuals with refractory anxiety purchase phenibut online without a prescription.
Some users may find phenibut initially effective, but realize that similar to other GABAergics, tolerance onset is rapid. With consistent phenibut usage, dosage increases are necessary to maintain anxiolytic, cognitive enhancing, and therapeutic efficacy – especially over a long-term. As a result of tolerance and/or unwanted adverse effects, many users cease phenibut usage, vastly underestimating the severity of potential withdrawal symptoms.
Phenibut Withdrawal Symptoms (List)
Included below is a list of withdrawal symptoms that you may experience when discontinuing phenibut. Keep in mind that the number and severity of discontinuation symptoms experienced is subject to individual variation; some users may report many severe symptoms, while others may not notice any. The most common phenibut withdrawal symptoms include: anxiety, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, and poor sleep.
Agitation: For the first several days (or weeks) of stopping phenibut, you may notice extreme agitation. It may feel as if your internal arousal has reached an all-time high and that no matter what you do, you cannot relax. This agitation may prompt the urge to move around and/or compromise your ability to sit still. To combat the internal agitation, you could exert energy via exercise (e.g. go for a walk) or tone down internal activation via relaxation (e.g. meditation).
Anxiety: The most commonly reported phenibut withdrawal symptom is anxiety. While not everyone feels an increase in anxiety when stopping phenibut, most users do. This anxiety may be extreme, especially if you were taking high dosages of phenibut and/or were using phenibut to treat an underlying anxiety disorder. The cause of this anxiety is likely related to changes in GABAergic transmission. It’ll take some time for your brain to restore normative, homeostatic GABA function.
Appetite reduction: After discontinuing phenibut, some individuals report appetite loss. This loss of appetite may be indirectly related to dysfunctional GABAergic (and possibly even dopaminergic) activity following phenibut. The GABAergic dysfunction may spike anxiety and stress hormones, thereby suppressing appetite. Another theory of appetite suppression may be related to dopamine. Since phenibut increases dopamine metabolism, discontinuation may slow dopamine metabolism in certain brain regions, leading to appetite reduction.
Cognitive deficits: Although phenibut may enhance cognition via its effects on GABA and dopamine, many users report difficulty focusing upon discontinuation. Some report extreme cognitive deficits and “brain fog” that lasts for several weeks after their final phenibut dosage. If you notice that your clarity of thought is poor, your quick-wit has slowed, and cognitive skills have declined – it’s likely a result of the withdrawal. Markedly imbalanced neurotransmission may directly contribute to cognitive deficits and indirectly impair cognition as a result of increased anxiety/stress.
Depression: A less common, yet still reported discontinuation symptom of phenibut is depression. If your mood suddenly plummets and you feel extremely depressed, it may be related to GABA and to a lesser extent, dopamine. This depression is usually considered low-grade and/or mild and accompanied by negative thoughts. Some users report feeling an anxious-depression stemming from increased anxiety upon phenibut cessation. Assuming you weren’t depressed prior to taking phenibut, your mood should improve within several weeks of your last dose.
Depersonalization: Don’t be surprised if you feel depersonalized for a few days or weeks after your last phenibut dose. Whenever discontinuing a potent pharmacologic agent (especially one that influences GABA), depersonalization may ensue. Usually depersonalization is caused when an individual consciously reflects upon their current state and realizes that they feel “unlike” their normative self. This can increase anxiety, which in turn can further exacerbate depersonalization. Assuming you can minimize withdrawal-related anxiety, depersonalization should eventually subside.
Dizziness: Phenibut is sometimes used to treat vestibular conditions which may manifest as vertigo, inability to balance, and dizziness. It mitigates dizziness likely by agonizing GABA receptors, but when discontinued, it may disrupt vestibular processes. For this reason, you may notice severe dizziness when you stop taking phenibut. The dizziness may be extreme for several days, but should improve significantly within 2-4 weeks.
Fatigue: Do not be surprised if you feel physically and mentally fatigued (or “burnt out”) during phenibut withdrawal. Former users have reported extreme lethargy for the first week or two of withdrawal, but note that energy usually returns after several weeks. This fatigue may be difficult to cope with, especially among those that need to be at their best (in terms of energy) for work, school, and/or athletic performance. To combat fatigue, do your best to: keep stress low, get proper sleep, and rest when necessary to help your body/mind recover.
Hallucinations: In rare cases, phenibut users may experience hallucinations following abrupt discontinuation from high doses. One clinical report has surfaced of a somatically healthy individual in his mid-20s who took phenibut for 2-months at elevated dosages (~20 grams per day). On his third day of phenibut withdrawal, this individual reportedly experienced intermittent visual hallucinations of “patterns on the walls” and “people in the room.” By the fifth and sixth days of phenibut cessation, this individual also experienced auditory hallucinations. That said, hallucinations during phenibut withdrawal are unlikely unless you have a preexisting neuropsychiatric disorder, history of substance abuse, and/or were taking supratherapeutic dosages.
Heart palpitations: It is common to notice changes in the rhythm of your heartbeat upon discontinuation of phenibut. Specifically, many individuals report experiencing palpitations or disconcerting flutters in their heartbeat during withdrawal. For some individuals these palpitations may be perceived as loud, and when accompanied by anxiety, may lead a person to speculate that there may be something seriously wrong with their heart (e.g. a heart attack). Palpitations may be exacerbated by anxiety and sympathetic pathways. Engagement in relaxation and activation of parasympathetic pathways should decrease incidence of palpitations.
Insomnia: A symptom that a majority of phenibut users report during discontinuation is an inability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep throughout the night. You may notice that you feel physically tired, but realize that no matter how long you lie in bed, your brain just won’t “shut off” or transition from wakefulness to sleep. This is likely a result of an imbalance in the neurotransmission of GABA, which could take awhile to correct. Additionally, if you don’t actively take steps to combat this withdrawal-induced insomnia via reducing sympathetic arousal, it may persist for much longer than expected. Strategic, temporary supplementation with an agent such as melatonin may prove helpful for sleep induction/maintenance, as could altering neuroelectrical activity to an alpha and/or theta state.
Irritability: Since you’re no longer getting the GABA(B) agonism from phenibut, you may find it difficult to stay calm or simply “chill out.” You may notice that you feel more restless than usual and have accumulated a lot of internal angst. As calm as the phenibut made you feel while taking it, you may feel irritable to an equal-opposite extent (or perhaps to a greater extent) upon discontinuation. Be cognizant that this is a common discontinuation symptom that should improve within several weeks. If you find yourself wanting to angrily lash out at a friend, co-worker, boss, etc. – realize that it’s withdrawal, take some deep breaths, go for a walk, and/or consider relaxation-inducing supplements to take the edge off.
Muscle tension: It is well-understood that the GABA system is responsible for inducing relaxation of musculature. Hence, the reason many “muscle relaxants” function by enhancing endogenous neurotransmission of GABA. Phenibut administration is conducive to muscle relaxation, but some individuals may notice that during discontinuation, their muscles become increasingly tense. This tension may be exacerbated by psychological anxiety, but should gradually subside over a period of several weeks. Consider getting a massage, doing some foam rolling, or engaging in progressive relaxation to combat this tension.
Nausea: Some users may notice an increase in nausea during the first week of phenibut discontinuation. Usually this nausea isn’t extreme enough as to provoke vomiting, but may be disconcerting in that it could interfere with your appetite. Realize that if you happen to be one of the unlucky ones that feel nauseated after stopping phenibut, it’ll likely subside within a week or two. Nausea could also be a sign from your body that you tapered too quickly, essentially serving as a physiologic backlash, letting you know that it had expected another dose of phenibut. If your nausea is extreme and has provoked vomiting, a slower taper should be considered.
Primal fear: A variety of phenibut users report an internal feeling of “primal fear,” almost as if they’re in nature and faced with a hungry Saber-toothed tiger. Don’t be surprised if you notice an upregulation in unconscious threat-detection and defense responses within your brain. In other words, you may notice that you become more sensitive to stimuli, are scanning your environment for things that may provoke anxiety, and you may feel physical surges of adrenaline (epinephrine). As long as you don’t allow yourself to become preoccupied and obsess over this feeling, it should gradually dwindle over a period of days/weeks after your final dose. Some users have reported that chamomile tea helps significantly.
Rapid heartbeat: A common physiologic response that occurs upon discontinuation of many CNS depressants is that of an increased heart-rate. If you notice a rapid heartbeat, along with palpitations, and/or other irregularities, be conscious of it. Obviously if you have a history of heart problems, you’ll want this monitored by a medical professional. That said, noticing changes in heartbeat after stopping phenibut may provoke additional anxiety, which increases your stress response to make your heartbeat even more rapid. Acknowledging your rapid heartbeat and taking proactive steps to lower your stress response should ameliorate this symptom.
Restlessness: Don’t be surprised if you feel extremely restless during your first week without phenibut. Restlessness is likely associated with decreased transmission of GABA, as well as an increase in physiologic arousal and anxiety. To cope with this restlessness, you can either put the extra internal energy to work such as via going for a run, hitting the gym, etc. – or you can decide to calm the restlessness with relaxation exercises. Typically the restlessness should subside on its own after a week or two of functioning without phenibut.
Sleep disturbances: If you used phenibut to help treat insomnia, expect insomnia to return in full-force when discontinuing. That said, even if you never had sleep disturbances prior to using phenibut, it is likely that you’ll experience some difficulties falling asleep and/or staying asleep upon cessation. This is usually related to an increase in arousal, activation of the sympathetic nervous system, as well as insufficiencies in GABA activation. Don’t expect normative sleep patterns until you’ve been phenibut-free for several weeks.
Tremors: Another very common GABAergic reaction that occurs when discontinuing phenibut is that people experience uncontrollable tremors or shakes. If you notice that your body feels shaky and you’re unable to sit still, it’s a sign that you’re experiencing phenibut withdrawal. In most cases these tremors are intermittent, but may be concerning. To avoid excessive tremors, you may want to conduct a slower taper – tremors often become most severe when titrating/tapering down too quickly.
Vomiting: Only in extreme cases will an individual experience such severe nausea upon phenibut discontinuation that they vomit. If you vomit after stopping phenibut, it’s likely because you quit cold turkey from a supratherapeutic dose. For most users, vomiting can easily be avoided by tapering at a slower rate (e.g. 10% per month) and/or by using another supplement or pharmaceutical to aid in the neurophysiologic transition off of phenibut.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23717928
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20841974
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23391959
Note: It is important to recognize that the number and severity of aforestated symptoms is subject to individual variation. Should you be concerned about any symptoms that emerge during your withdrawal, do not hesitate to conduct a medical professional.
Variables that influence Phenibut withdrawal symptoms
It is understood that severity and number of withdrawal symptoms that you’ll experience when quitting phenibut is subject to individual variation. Variables that influence phenibut withdrawal symptoms include: term of administration, dosage, tapering speed, whether you’re still taking other drugs/supplements, and other personalized factors (e.g. stress level). It is the combination of these variables that usually determines withdrawal difficulty, as well as how long symptoms last after your final dose.
Term of Administration (Short vs. Long-Term)
Generally, the longer the duration over which you’ve regularly administered phenibut, the greater the severity your withdrawal symptoms are likely to be. With consistent (daily) long-term usage, your neurophysiology, particularly your neurotransmission, becomes habituated to receiving the GABAergic boost derived from phenibut. Over a long-term, it is of high likelihood that various receptors and neurotransmitters will become desensitized to the effects phenibut and may exhibit downregulation.
This means that once you’ve completely discontinued phenibut after a long-term, a greater number of neurological adjustments (e.g. resensitization and upregulation) will need to occur before homeostasis is restored. If you had only taken phenibut for a short-term, less neurophysiologic habituation will have occurred and recovery time should be shorter. Understand that if you’ve used phenibut for days or a few weeks (short-term) and discontinue, you’ll likely have milder symptoms than someone that’s been using for months or years (long-term).
Dosage (Low vs. High)
In addition to the cumulative time over which you’ve consistently administered phenibut, it is necessary to consider how the dosage may impact withdrawal symptoms. Those taking a low dose of phenibut (e.g. 100-500 mg) are unlikely to experience significant and/or long-lasting discontinuation effects when quitting. However, individuals that were taking supratherapeutic level doses (e.g. 1-3 grams), withdrawal may be severe and potentially dangerous (if discontinuation is abrupt).
The higher the general dosage of phenibut that you were taking, the more severe (and possibly long-lasting) you should expect your discontinuation symptoms. At lower dosages, less neurophysiologic changes will have been induced, making it easier to recover. However, at high doses, more substantial neurophysiologic alterations will have occurred, making for a more debilitating withdrawal.
Cold Turkey vs. Tapering
Since phenibut is a GABA analogue that functions as a GABA(B) (and to a lesser extent GABA(A)) receptor agonist, abrupt discontinuation is never recommended. All regular users of phenibut, especially those at high doses, should be aware of potentially deleterious implications associated with abrupt “cold turkey” discontinuation. If you quit taking phenibut cold turkey, expect harsher withdrawal symptoms than if you had conducted a gradual taper.
A tapering rule followed by many long-term users is to decrease phenibut dosage by 10% each month. This means that if a user were taking 1 gram, and wanted to quit, they’d drop to 900 mg the next month, and 810 mg the month thereafter. If the 10% tapering speed is too slow or too quick, you can always make adjustments in tapering percentage and/or of intervals at which the tapering is conducted (e.g. 2 weeks rather than 4).
Those who gradually taper off of phenibut are less likely to experience severe, protracted discontinuation symptoms. This is because a tapering process allows the brain to gradually recalibrate itself to functioning with less phenibut over a prolonged period. Cold turkey discontinuation, on the other hand, doesn’t give the brain any time for adjustment – it’s akin to ripping a bandage off of an open-wound prior to the actual healing.
Even if two individuals taking phenibut had administered the same dosage, for the same duration, and discontinued on the same day – withdrawal symptoms may differ between the two users. Therefore, it is necessary to consider individual factors that may influence severity and number of phenibut discontinuation symptoms. Individual factors to consider when contemplating phenibut withdrawal include: whether a person is taking other supplements/drugs, stress level, dietary intake, sleep quality, genetic expression, exercise, social support, etc.
One individual discontinuing phenibut may exercise regularly, manage stress (e.g. meditate), eat a healthy diet (to restore neurotransmitters), and may be taking supplements that promote neurophysiologic recovery. The other individual may not exercise, fail to manage stress, eat junk food, and not know of any supplements to aid in restoration of homeostasis. It’s a no-brainer that these factors – especially the usage of other drugs/supplements – have a major influence on phenibut withdrawal symptoms.
How long do Phenibut withdrawal symptoms last?
Everyone wants a clear-cut answer regarding the precise duration phenibut withdrawal symptoms will last. The problem with giving an exact answer is that a particular timeline and/or checkpoint may be highly inaccurate for one person based on their physiology. If they fail to recover by the normative recovery “checkpoint,” they may mistakenly perceive something more serious is wrong, when in reality, it’s likely their withdrawal symptoms.
In fact, since phenibut acts as a GABA(B) agonist, it is plausible to hypothesize that a post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) may be endured by some long-term, high dose users. Some literature indicates that phenibut withdrawal symptoms are likely to persist for around 2 weeks after discontinuation. That said, this “2 week” period of recovery is simply a hypothesis based off of available anecdotal reports.
Case studies of high-dose phenibut users have documented full-recovery as taking up to 24 weeks (for certain users). This indicates that phenibut discontinuation could theoretically take up to 6 months, which makes sense based on the fact that recovery from benzodiazepines could take up to a full year (or longer) for certain users. Realize that duration of severe discontinuation symptoms will likely be contingent upon the “factors” discussed above, as well as your coping strategies.
- Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=ZYqoBgAAQBAJ
Strategies to reduce Phenibut withdrawal symptoms
Fortunately, even if you are a high dose long-term phenibut user, you’ll be able to mitigate the severity of discontinuation symptoms by taking a strategic approach to withdrawal. Strategies to reduce the intensity of phenibut withdrawal include: gradually tapering, substituting phenibut with another medication, taking certain supplements, and most importantly – proactively reducing your stress.
- Taper: The easiest way to avoid severe discontinuation symptoms associated with phenibut is to conduct a gradual taper. This means gradually reducing your dosage by around 10% every 2-4 weeks. If you were taking 1000 mg, your first taper down should be to around 900 mg, then next taper to 810 mg, etc. If this is too slow of a pace, you can speed things up, but beware that the faster you decrease phenibut dosing, the increased likelihood of unwanted withdrawal symptoms. Tapering slowly gives your brain a chance to gradually adjust to changes in neurotransmission, guiding it in the right direction.
- Substitution: Another strategy that has been implemented for certain high-dose phenibut users is to substitute phenibut with a similar, yet less problematic substance. The theory of this strategy is to replace phenibut with another drug, stabilize on the new drug, and then taper off of the new drug. Although this can be effective, it is necessary to work with a medical professional and make sure that you’re not transitioning to an even more addictive and/or problematic substance; you don’t want to simply replace one drug for another of equal potency.
- Supplement: An effective withdrawal symptom mitigation strategy is to supplement. There are an array of supplements you may want to consider taking to help restore normative neurotransmission and/or to mitigate the withdrawal symptoms of phenibut. I’ve written an article about the best supplements for antidepressant withdrawal, some of which may prove beneficial for those discontinuing phenibut. Examples of some supplements to consider include: chamomile tea, magnesium, taurine, L-theanine, melatonin, and rhodiola rosea. Talk to your doctor about what’s safe to take based on your unique medical circumstances and be aware of contraindications.
- Stress reduction: The single most important step to take (besides a slow taper) is to reduce your stress. High stress can exacerbate many of the symptoms experienced during phenibut withdrawal. To combat the stress experienced during withdrawal, you could: take certain supplements, exercise regularly, practice deep breathing, use the emWave2, stay busy, etc. Keeping stress low will ensure the fastest possible recovery based on your unique circumstances.
Have you experienced Phenibut withdrawal symptoms?
If you recently discontinued phenibut, mention whether you experienced any withdrawal symptoms in the comments section below. Discuss when you first noticed the onset of these symptoms after discontinuation, the specific symptoms you experienced, as well as the respective severity of each symptom. If you experienced a symptom that wasn’t mentioned in the article, be sure to report it in your comment.
To help others get a better understanding of your situation, mention how long you had used phenibut, your daily frequency of usage (e.g. 3 times per day), and whether you were taking other medications and/or supplements. If you’ve successfully discontinued phenibut and no longer experience any withdrawal symptoms, document how long it took for them to subside. Realize that for most regular phenibut users, symptoms are speculated to last between 2 to 4 weeks after a final dose.