In case you missed the news, Kavinace Ultra PM has been discontinued after the FDA send out a warning letter (1) to the manufacturer, NeuroScience, demanding that they remove one of the ingredients from the supplement.
The problematic ingredient is 4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid HCl, which is more commonly known as phenibut. The FDA has stated that phenibut does not meet their definition of a dietary supplement, and so manufacturers are not allowed to use this ingredient in their formulations. (2)
Both the Ultra PM and the ordinary formulas of Kavinace contain phenibut and both have been discontinued.
The FDA has also sent similar warnings to other brands that contain phenibut, which all had the same fate as Kavinace!
What is Phenibut?
Phenibut, or more scientifically 4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid, is a synthetic form of a naturally occurring amino acid called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Phenibut is a phenylated version of GABA, and it’s also known as beta-phenyl-GABA.
In the human body, GABA has a few important functions. Most notably, it is the principal inhibitory neurotransmitter that is responsible for slowing down and calming your brain. Higher levels of GABA in the brain result in sedation, relaxation and calmness. Adversely, low levels of brain GABA result in anxiety, agitation, restlessness, insomnia, and other symptoms.
GABAergic drugs that are used as sedatives and anxiolytics work by boosting GABA in the brain. Phenibut is a GABAergic substance, more specifically it is a GABA receptor agonist, and it works by mimicking GABA, thus increasing the concentration of this neurotransmitter in the brain resulting in a sedative and relaxing effect.
GABA on its own can be taken as a dietary supplement, but since it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, it won’t affect GABA levels in the brain and so it’s not an effective anxiolytic, but it may have other benefits.
Phenibut (phenylated GABA) does cross the blood-brain barrier, and so it artificially injects more GABA into your brain.
What’s Wrong With Phenibut?
Phenibut is used as a prescription medicine for anxiety and other mental disorders in some parts of the world. In Russia, where phenibut was developed, it is sold in local pharmacies under different brand names.
In the U.S., phenibut has not been approved by the FDA for medical use. But it is also not a scheduled or banned substance, so supplement manufacturers thought they could get away with adding it to their formulas, and they did for a while.
What probably prompted the FDA to take action against phenibut is that it does come with some serious safety concerns.
This is an addictive substance. Your body can quickly develop tolerance to phenibut, which means you will have to keep increasing the dosage to maintain its effectiveness. And quitting isn’t an easy option!
People who quit phenibut after they have been taking it on a regular basis will likely suffer from withdrawal symptoms, and these may include: insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, fatigue, and others.
Withdrawal symptoms often occur in users who abuse phenibut by taking more than 2,000mg (2g) a day. But this may also happen with standard doses at around 500mg a day.
Phenibut addiction and abuse is a serious issue, (3) and there have been calls to ban this substance, which still remains unregulated and legal to buy over the counter.
Getting Off Phenibut/Kavinace
If you noticed you have become extremely anxious and unable to sleep after you stopped taking Kavinace Ultra PM (or the non-PM formula), then those may be withdrawal symptoms resulting from your brain having been dependent on phenibut to get its GABA fix.
Common phenibut withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, agitation, brain fog, insomnia, fatigue, depression, imbalance, and others.
You probably had no idea about the addictive nature of this supplement when you first started taking it, did you? So, now what to do?
You have two options: continue taking phenibut for as long as it works for you, or, get off of your addiction and find a more natural alternative!
If you choose the latter, the following are some general guidelines for tapering off phenibut:
Please note: This information is based on personal experiences of other users. Since phenibut is not an approved drug in most countries, very little professional information about it is available.
- You will need phenibut powder (preferably) and a milligram scale. You can get phenibut from Nootropics Depot and a digital scale from Amazon.
- You should start tapering down from the dosage you normally take/took. Now, both Kavinace formulas are proprietary, so one can only estimate the amount of phenibut each capsule contains.
- It is estimated that the Ultra PM formula contains about 500mg of phenibut per serving (1 capsule), while the non-PM formula contains about 600mg per serving (2 capsules). Again, this is just an estimation as the manufacturer did not disclose the exact amounts.
- Once you figure out how much phenibut you have been taking per day, start reducing the dosage by 10% every week. Some suggest a slower tapering pace with 10% dose reduction every 2-3 weeks.
- Do not take phenibut more frequently than you took Kavinace. For example, if you took Kavinace day on/day off, then do the same with phenibut.
By slowly and gradually decreasing your phenibut intake, you will give your brain the chance to adjust to decreasing GABA levels, which will prompt it to increase its own production of this neurotransmitter instead of being dependent on an external source.
Note: Not everyone develops a phenibut dependence, especially at dosages lower than 1,000mg. It is possible that experiences of anxiety and insomnia are related to another cause, but if you strongly believe it’s phenibut withdrawal and it’s preventing you from functioning properly, you can consider tapering off.
What’s The Alternative to Kavinace?
If you want the exact same effect you had with Kavinace or Kavinace Ultra PM, then you’ll need to get phenibut! After all, this was the most effective ingredient in the formula.
So, after learning about its potential risks (addiction and withdrawal), if you still want to continue using phenibut, you can buy it as a nootropic compound. Nootropics Depot is a reputable vendor that sells this stuff.
But, if you are looking for safer substitutes, then you can find several worthy natural supplements that might just do the trick for you.
The following are some of the most popular and effective natural aids that may help with sleep trouble, anxiety and stress:
- Melatonin: This hormone is responsible for regulating sleep. Supplementation may benefit individuals with sleep problems. (4)
- Glycine: An amino acid that promotes sleep and improves cognition. (5)
- Ashwagandha: A popular herbal remedy used to reduce stress and anxiety. (6)
- L-Theanine: An amino acid found in green tea that has anti-stress and anxiolytic effects. (7)
- Valerian: One of the most popular herbal supplements used to improve sleep quality. (8)
- Lemon balm: An herb of the mint family that promotes calmness, mood and cognitive functions. (9)
- Magnolia: An herb used in traditional Chinese medicine for anxiety and sleep problems. (10)
You can buy these and other quality sleep supplements from PureFormulas.