You’ve heard about the purported effects of phenibut on social anxiety, its potential to support relaxation, or the research on its ability to improve sleep. While there are some great phenibut studies, there is still much to discover.
But as a nootropics researcher, you want to make sure that you buy phenibut legally. So you’re probably wondering:
Is phenibut legal?
In this article, we’ll provide you with an informative guide on the legality of phenibut. We’ll address the following questions:
- What is phenibut?
- What are phenibut side effects?
- Is phenibut dangerous? Is phenibut safe?
- Is phenibut legal in the USA?
- Is phenibut legal elsewhere?
While we do our best to ensure that the information in this guide is accurate and up-to-date, please note that we are not attorneys, and that nothing in this guide is intended as legal advice. If you have a specific legal question, please consult a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.
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What Is Phenibut?
What actually is phenibut?
Phenibut was originally developed in 1963 in the former Soviet Union . It has been reported that Soviet astronauts were given phenibut as a way of battling anxiety and insomnia during their space missions.
At the time, the potential secondary effects of phenibut, such as increased cognitive function and concentration, were not considered. Over time, research has provided evidence that phenibut can have cognitive-enhancing effects—at least for some people in some contexts .
Biology of phenibut
Phenibut (also referred to as B-phenyl-y-aminobutyric acid and phenyl-GABA in more scientific terms ) is a synthetic (or chemically designed) form of GABA. Phenibut works by binding to GABAB receptors (and GABAA receptors at high concentrations), which leads to a general reduction of stress and anxiety.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a naturally occurring amino acid that is produced in the brain and works throughout the nervous system. It is called an inhibitory neurotransmitter due to its ability to block brain signals and decrease nervous system activity.
What does that mean? Well, if you think of neurons as switches that send electrical signals, GABA’s role is to “turn off” the switch. It stops the neurons from sending signals.
In other words, GABA acts as a central nervous system depressant. That does not mean it causes your test subjects to feel depressed (quite the opposite). GABA temporarily depresses or slows down how some neurons work.
Because it reduces the signals from neurons, phenibut has a relaxing effect on the nervous system, helping to calm the body down. These calming effects make phenibut a central nervous system depressant.
Because of these effects, phenibut is used in several countries as an anxiolytic—a medication to treat anxiety. Research suggests that it also may also be useful in treating a number of other conditions. For example, in Russia, it has been used to relieve tension, improve sleep, treat PTSD, and as a therapy for vestibular disorders [1, 2].
Here are some of the effects that your study participants may experience [1, 3, 4]:
- Alleviate alcohol cravings
- Reduce fatigue
- Enhance mood, possibly by upregulating dopamine levels
- Alleviate anxiety or help one feel more relaxed during challenging social situations
- Improve sleep
- Reduce nervousness in social settings
- Experience greater control over one’s feelings and thoughts
- Reduce negativity
Length of effects
Phenibut is most commonly ingested in the form of pills, crystals, or powder. It can also be used intravenously, although this is rare.
Once in the blood, its half-life is just over 5 hours. This means that it takes the body about 5 hours to metabolize or eliminate half of the phenibut dose taken.
As for the length of phenibut’s effects, participants can feel the residual effects of the drug for up to 24 hours after consumption .
Is Phenibut Legal? | What You MUST Know
If you’re a nootropics researcher, you can readily buy phenibut in most countries across the world.
Phenibut is approved for medical use in several former USSR countries, including Russia and Belarus . In these countries, it is often used as an anxiety medication and a sleep aid. It is also used to treat or relieve depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and motion sickness, among other conditions .
As of 2022, the only countries where phenibut is classified as a controlled substance, or is prohibited, are Hungary, Lithuania, France, Italy, and Australia.
If you are in any of these countries and you’re looking to purchase phenibut for research purposes, you’ll need to consult a local lawyer to find out if you can legally purchase phenibut for your research.
Phenibut and the FDA
The United States Food and Drug Administration, among its many other roles, reviews and approves drugs for particular medical uses in the U.S. The FDA new drug approval process involves multiple stages, including three phases of clinical trials.
Phenibut is a “New Drug” under the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), meaning it has not gone through the FDA’s review process and has not been approved for any use as a medical treatment. That means phenibut cannot be marketed or sold as a pharmaceutical drug in the United States.
Phenibut Legality in the USA
Is phenibut legal in the USA?
Yes. Phenibut is not classified as a controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Provided you’re a qualified researcher, you can legally purchase phenibut online.
Note, however, that phenibut has not been approved for use as a drug or a prescription medication. That means you will not find it in a retail pharmacy like Walgreens or CV.
Seeing as the FDA treats phenibut as a “New Drug,” it cannot meet the FDA’s definition of a dietary ingredient. Accordingly, it is unlawful for a supplement company to list phenibut as a dietary ingredient as part of a supplement . That said, steer clear of “phenibut supplements,” as these are not authorized for sale in the United States.
To summarize: qualified individuals can legally purchase research-grade phenibut in the United States. But researchers should be wary of phenibut that is misbranded as a dietary ingredient as part of a “supplement.”
Phenibut Legality in Canada
Like in the U.S., phenibut is legal to buy and use in Canada for research purposes, but researchers must be careful with how much they purchase.
While there are no laws preventing phenibut’s use or possession, there are rules about its distribution as a health product. It is not permitted to be a commercial importer without a license. In practice, if a resident of Canada orders more than a 90-day supply of phenibut for a single individual, then this would likely be considered unlawful distribution in Canada.
Nootropic researchers may therefore wish to keep their phenibut orders to under a 90 day supply. A 90-day supply is about 180 capsules (of 250 mg).
Phenibut Legality in Europe
Phenibut is not treated equally across Europe.
Generally, phenibut continues to be legal to use for research purposes in most European countries. Here are the rules that we’re aware of, on a country-by-country basis:
- Belarus: It’s approved for medical use with a prescription.
- France: It has been on a list of banned psychoactive substances since September 2020.
- Hungary: It has been on a list of banned psychoactive substances since December 2019.
- Italy: It has been on a list of banned psychoactive substances since August 2020.
- Kazakhstan: It’s approved for medical use with a prescription.
- Latvia: It’s approved for medical use with a prescription.
- Lithuania: It has been on a list of banned psychoactive substances since November 2018.
- Russia: It’s approved for medical use with a prescription.
- Ukraine: It’s approved for medical use with a prescription.
- United Kingdom: It’s illegal to sell or supply it, but it’s legal for personal use as long as you buy it from a company that operates in a country where it can be legally sold (like the US).
In countries not listed above, it’s generally not licensed to be sold as a prescription medication, but it is legal to purchase and use phenibut for research purposes. Make sure to check your country’s laws before placing an order.
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Phenibut Side Effects and Safety
First off, research on phenibut has found that it is generally well-tolerated by healthy adults . It has been used since the 1960s in several countries as a medical treatment .
As long as your test subjects are using phenibut in low doses and not taking too much of it at once, the existing research suggests that severe adverse effects are rare. However, there has been at least one report of a death from a U.S. poison center in which phenibut was the only drug or agent involved , suggesting that there is the potential for phenibut to be deadly if used improperly.
Test subjects should be aware of the following:
- There is a potential to experience adverse side effects or allergies.
- Test subjects may experience negative effects from overdosing, including potential death.
- There can be withdrawal effects if one develops a phenibut dependence and then abstains from using it .
Let's look at each of these in more detail.
Side Effects and Allergies
Virtually all substances can cause adverse side effects or allergies if taken improperly. Phenibut is no exception.
Possible phenibut side effects include [8 in Russian]:
It is also possible for test subjects to be allergic to phenibut . If test subjects experience allergic reactions, like itching, swelling, or a rash, they should be advised to see a medical professional.
Ensure test subjects follow a phenibut protocol that begins with a low dose and that they have access to a doctor if they experience any side effects.
Also, since phenibut has nervous system depressant effects that are similar to those of alcohol, benzodiazepines, and anticonvulsant medications, it should not be consumed at the same time as these.
It is also possible to take too high a dose of phenibut and this can have negative effects.
Overdose effects can include :
- Increased severity of side effects
- Tolerance and withdrawal
- Visual hallucinations
- Sensations of a hangover
- Balance and coordination impairment
- Sensations of electric shock
- Severe drowsiness
- Fatty degeneration of the liver
- Impaired renal function
Guidelines from Russia that are included when phenibut is used as a medication state that an individual should not take more than 750 mg of phenibut at a time or 2.5 g in a single day . That guidance is for when it’s used for medical treatment prescribed by a doctor .
However, in nootropic research, test subjects should probably stay well below that maximum to avoid overdose effects.
Finally, it’s possible to develop a tolerance to phenibut—and even withdrawal symptoms [3, 4, 6, 8].
Withdrawal occurs when a person drastically reduces or ceases the use of a drug for which they have developed a dependence. To try to compensate, the brain stops producing as much of its own GABA.
Then, when test subjects stop taking phenibut, their brains continue to produce a reduced amount of GABA, so they have much less of it than they should. The lack of GABA causes withdrawal effects.
With phenibut, withdrawal can be experienced at different levels of severity [3, 5, 9]. Some of withdrawal symptoms involve [3, 5, 9, 10]:
- Heightened anxiety
- Heightened irritability and anger
- Fatigue and sedation
- Muscle tensions and muscle aches
- Sensitivity to light
- Heath arrhythmia or increased heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Psychosis 
- Decreased mental clarity or “Brain fog”
Test subjects can avoid phenibut withdrawal symptoms. Ensure that your research protocol does not include high doses or long-term phenibut use.
Consider developing a research protocol in which test subjects:
- Consume phenibut two times a week or less;
- Do not take more than 2 grams a day; and,
- Cycle off for a month every once in a while.
These precautions may help avoid test subjects developing withdrawal symptoms.
Is Phenibut Dangerous? | What You MUST Know
Phenibut does not appear to be dangerous if it is used correctly . It is widely considered to be well-tolerated by most people.
However, to ensure that test subjects are using phenibut safely, it’s important to understand the side effects listed above, the consequences of overdose and that it can be addictive if used regularly.
Using the following precautions in your research protocol may help support the safety of your research subjects:
- Use less than 750 mg in one dose
- Use less than 2 grams a day
- Use less than 2 times a week
- Prohibit use with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or anticonvulsant medications
- Prohibit use for test subjects who have a phenibut allergy
- Prohibit use for test subjects who are pregnant, breastfeeding, children, or have liver issues.
The main thing is for test subjects not to use too much phenibut, and to not consume it more than a couple of times per week. If your test subjects can follow these guidelines, they can reduce the risk of adverse effects.
Phenibut Legalities | Verdict
So, after all that…
Is phenibut legal?
Yes, it’s legal to purchase for nootropic researchers in most countries, including the United States and Canada.
At this time, we know that phenibut is illegal to buy in at least the following five countries: Italy, France, Lithuania, Hungary, and Australia.
Laws differ from country to country, so please see an attorney if you have questions specific to your case.