What Is Phenibut?

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 31, 2016: Russian astronaut spacesuit in Moscow space museum.
©Ruslan Gilmanshin/123RF.COM

Phenibut is a compound that has been used for a number of years as a central nervous system depressant with anxiolytic effects. It is used to treat insomnia and anxiety amongst other conditions. 

Chemically, phenibut is similar to the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which reduces the excitability of brain cells.

Phenibuthas been used by some unscrupulous manufacturers of slimming aids as a dietary ingredient. The FDA in 2019 sent letters to three manufacturers of such products asking them to stop mislabeling and particularly misbranding their dietary supplements that contained this particular chemical.

Phenibut is known from the FDA web-site as:-

  • fenibut
  • phenigam
  • PhGaba
  • Phenigamma
  • Phenygam
  • 4-Amino-3-phenylbutanoic acid
  • β-(aminomethyl)benzenepropanoic acid
  • beta-(Aminomethyl)hydrocinnamic acid
  • β-phenyl-γ-aminobutyric acid

The FDA warning letters were issued at the same time as those sent to manufacturers who were using DHMA (A.K.A. Octodrine). The warning letters were sent to producers stating they had violated section 201(ff)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) [21 U.S.C. § 321(ff)(1)] which defines what a dietary ingredient happens to be.

Phenibut is sold under a variety of brand names including Anvifen, Fenibut and Noofen. 

The compound was first developed in the Soviet Union for its medical benefits in the 1960s. It was  included in the medicine kits of Russian cosmonauts as drug to help them remain calm during periods of great stress. 

It is not approved for use in the USA and much of Europe except in Russia and the Ukraine, Latvia and Belarus.

Side effects include:

  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • agitation
  • irritability
  • sedation
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