Dietary supplements come and go all the time, but when a company decides to pull the plug on one of their most successful products, well, that’s just a sad story! Sure enough, this lately happened to a supplement called SNS Phenibut XT.
Manufactured by Danville, VA-based Serious Nutrition Solutions, SNS Phenibut XT has been successfully used by many to reduce anxiety and get more restful sleep. After being available on the market for several years with lots of positive reviews, Serious Nutrition Solutions has decided to no longer manufacture or sell any phenibut-containing products.
SNS Phenibut XT (both the capsule and powder formulas) has been removed from the company’s website, and most retailers that used to sell it are now out of stock. There may be a few stores that still have some remaining supply, but those too will run out at some point.
The discontinuance of the product came shortly after the FDA declared that phenibut does not conform to their definition of a dietary supplement and cannot be labeled or sold as such. They’ve issued a few warning letters to manufacturers asking them to remove this ingredient from their products, and those who didn’t directly receive a warning letter got the news and decided to voluntarily drop it.
Now, you can call the FDA whatever you want, but in this case there are actually some legitimate concerns about the safety of phenibut, so let me try to provide a general factual review of this substance.
What Exactly is Phenibut?
Phenibut is the common generic name for the chemical compound beta-phenyl-gamma-aminobutyric acid. It was discovered in Russia, where it has been approved for medical use for certain mental disorders.
Phenibut is a synthetic analog of gamma-aminobutyric acid, aka GABA: an amino acid that has some important functions in the body. GABA is synthesized in the brain, where it acts as the major inhibitory neurotransmitter. It slows down neural activity and induces a calming, sedative effect.
When your brain has low levels of GABA, you can experience anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other symptoms.
Anti-anxiety medications, like benzos, work by increasing GABA levels or activity in the brain resulting in an anxiolytic, sedative and hypnotic effect.
By acting as a GABA receptor agonist, phenibut has a potent anxiolytic effect, although it has a different working mechanism and a weaker/milder effect compared to benzos’.
In Russia, phenibut is used as a prescription treatment for anxiety, depression, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, and other health problems.
In the U.S. and other Western countries, phenibut is neither approved for medical use nor regulated. Although it is not a natural substance, it is a derivative of a naturally occurring amino acid: GABA, which should technically qualify it to pass as a dietary supplement in the U.S.
Indeed, many manufacturers have been marketing phenibut as an over-the-counter supplement, mainly for anxiety and sleep problems. That is, until the FDA said no more! They haven’t banned the substance, so it’s still legal to buy, but it can’t be labeled as a dietary supplement.
Many natural supplements can boost GABA activity in the brain to some extent, but what makes phenibut especially powerful is its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and mimic the action of GABA in the brain.
Phenibut can directly and artificially increase GABA levels in the brain, and this comes with some potential risks and side effects. High doses of phenibut can lead to nausea, dizziness, fatigue, sleepiness, headache, hangover, extreme sedation, loss of balance, motor impairment, and others.
While normal dosages at around 500 mg a day can be quite safe, many people have abused this substance leading to serious health risks. For instance, a bunch of foolish Australian schoolboys thought it’d be cool to overdose on this stuff and they ended up in a battle for their lives — here’s the news story! BTW, phenibut has been banned in Australia.
Tolerance and Addiction
Your body may build up tolerance to phenibut with continued use, which can lead you to repeatedly increase the dosage to maintain its effectiveness, and this can be a big problem.
You see, when you artificially inject GABA (in this case a synthetic version of it) into your brain and you do it on a regular/daily basis, this will signal your body to produce less GABA and depend more on the external supply through the drug.
Continued use can lead you to become addicted to phenibut and if you abruptly stop taking it, you may experience some annoying withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, and others. These can last until your body reprograms itself to increase GABA production to normal levels.
Note: Addiction and withdrawal symptoms are more likely to happen in users repeatedly taking a high dosage. This is less likely to happen when the daily dosage does not exceed 1,000 mg. This information is largely based on anecdotal evidence due to the lack of clinical studies.
I am sorry if all of this information seems confusing to you! I just wanted to lay out some of the basic facts about phenibut, which I believe every consumer should be aware of.
You may have been taking phenibut for years and never had any issue with it, nevertheless, it does have serious potential risks.
You probably won’t find an over-the-counter supplement that is as effective as phenibut. This is because this substance is more of a drug than a supplement. It is the closest thing to prescription anxiolytics you can legally buy without a prescription.
If you really need it and you are going to use it responsibly, the pros may outweigh the cons. Just limit your dosage to around 500 mg per day and avoid taking it every day in order not to build up tolerance to it.
What’s The Best Substitute?
After the FDA’s notice, most brands stopped selling phenibut supplements. You can still find it at online shops that specialize in selling nootropic compounds, or cognitive enhancers, and one of the most reputable of these is Nootropics Depot. They carry phenibut in 250 mg capsules as well as in powder jars with varying sizes. I’d recommend you choose the capsules as they more convenient and safer (you’re more likely to overdose on the powder).