Needless to say, I am furious with the FDA! On April 15, 2019 the FDA quietly sent letters to supplement companies telling them they had to stop selling supplements with the ingredient Phenibut in it.
The FDA had decided that Phenibut did not fit their description of vitamin, mineral or amino acid therefore it could no longer be classified as a supplement.
Although I can think of many other things that are sold as supplements that don’t really fit that description. I won’t mention them here because the FDA will target them next.
Phenibut was also sold under the names Anvifen, Fenibut, and Noofen.
With that is quietly slipped from suppliers’ shelves. No warning and no hope for those us who rely on it to help reduce many chronic symptoms.
What is Phenibut?
Phenibut is a chemical similar to a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). It is used as a supplement, recreational drug, and as a medicine in some countries… (thanks to the bozo’s who used it as a drug, now the rest of us are screwed). It is not an approved drug in the United States.
Phenibut is used for anxiety, fear, trouble sleeping (insomnia), tension, stress, fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, alcoholism, and irregular heartbeat. It is also used for improving memory, learning, and thinking.
Phenibut was created in the 1960’s in Russia for use in the soviet space program. It was used to reduce anxiety and sleep issues. It is still available today in Russia with a prescription.
What’s the big deal?
My son was diagnosed with a neurological tic seven years ago which is similar to Tourette’s syndrome. He also has a GAD1 mutation which means his brain does not easily convert glutamates to GABA. Weakness in the GAD enzyme creates an increased amount of Glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter of the nervous system, and in return a relative deficiency of GABA.
This imbalance creates an overstimulated nervous system. This is where the Phenibut comes in. Phenibut acts on the GABA B receptors of the brain which does provide a calming effect. It’s kind of like using the back door when you can’t get in the front. When your brain can’t create the GABA, it needs you can bring it in a different form through the back door.
My son will tell you that the calming effects help him to concentrate and focus in school as well as relieving many of the tic symptom like twitching, blinking, and head jerking. As a child who NEVER slept Phenibut also helped him to relax and sleep soundly at night. Phenibut was somewhat of a saving grace for us and I am not sure what is going to happen when we run out.
As a Holistic Health Practitioner, I have many clients, friends, and family who also will sing the praises of Phenibut, all of them also have GAD1 mutations. They will tell you how much the Phenibut has relieved anxiety, how they are sleeping better and soundly, or how Phenibut gives a calming sense of wellbeing.
I myself am a user of Phenibut and it has also helped me to relieve lifelong anxiety and sleep like champ. The Phenibut products we were using were low dose and contained co-factors to help with better absorption. My family has been using Phenibut products for well over 2 years and have not experienced any side effects or other issues.
Why not just use GABA?
Many people and especially those with the GAD1 mutations convert the synthetic GABA back into glutamates. People with the GAD1 mutation who take GABA will tell you that it makes them feel like their brain is on fire. That is because the glutamate it excitatory! GABA does not work for everyone and that is why the Phenibut was extremely beneficial for them.
Some studies have shown that phenibut can have addictive properties and some people especially those who take high doses may experience withdrawal symptoms. As with anything some people were abusing Phenibut, taking high doses and consuming it with large amounts of alcohol.
The FDA has been pretty quiet about why they targeted and removed Phenibut from the supplement market but I assume that abuse by others is the most likely reason. That and big pharma doesn’t like anything that is helping people that they don’t have their hands on. There are no reports of death linked to Phenibut, however death and abuse of opioids is skyrocketing. Thank you FDA for taking Phenibut but continuing to allow all of the other outrageous abuses.
What do we do with it?
There are some substitutions you can use to help the body create its own GABA which is difficult for GAD1 mutants. Here are a few suggestions to add to your shopping list. These are supplements and herbs that can be purchased at your local health food store.
I am a huge fan of the relaxing effects of L-Theanine. Some people with the GAD1 mutation will tell you that this also makes them feel like their brain is on fire. It does not have this effect on me and I also have the GAD1 mutation. It is something you may have to experiment with. L-theanine, or theanine, is a uniquely relaxing amino acid found in black and green teas.
It helps increase level of GABA and the other major neurotransmitters, serotonin, and dopamine. L-theanine is considered an adaptogen (non-toxic plants that are marketed as helping the body resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, chemical or biological), it can also be used as stress-reliever. I only take it at night because I find the effects to make me drowsy.
Taurine is a GABA booster, and may be a good option for those of you who can no longer use phenibut.
Taurine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in the brain where it acts much like a neurotransmitter by activating GABA receptors. Taurine encourages the release of and formation of GABA.
It is estimated that 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral that is excellent for stress and anxiety. It is hard to get all the magnesium you need from your foods due to magnesium-depleted soils. Other depletors of magnesium include stress, age, medications, and underlying chronic health conditions.
Kava (Piper methysticum), also called kava kava, was originally used in a ceremonial, relaxing tea by people in the South Pacific. Kava is a well-documented herbal remedy for serious stress relief. Kava works in part by increasing GABA levels. Many people like Kava for stress and anxiety relief.
Probiotics have been shown to help increase GABA in the brain especially Lactobacillus strains. They help regulate emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in mice via the vagus nerve. Lactobacillus rhamnosus has been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety, and sleep issues. One way these “mind-altering” probiotics likely act is their ability to produce neurotransmitters. Remember that most of your neurotransmitters are made in the gut.
Although I have great love for Phenibut and what it has done for my son, my family, and my clients. I am hopeful that we will be able to find another option soon. We do follow a fairly strict diet and lifestyle which can help everyone when it comes to relieving stress, anxiety, and sleep issues. I use diet, rest, exercise, stress reduction and supplementation to help my clients get back on the healing path.
The author of this blog encourages you to consult a doctor before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition. No information on in this blog should be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information provided is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.
NO information provided here should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition.
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