"May you live in interesting times" is allegedly an old Chinese curse. Yeah, I know, it doesn't sound like much of a curse, not really on par with some old woman in a headscarf spitting on your Timberlands and telling you that your penis will shrivel up and fall out of your pant leg while you're doing walking lunges.
Still, if you think about that Chinese curse for minute, you'll see that it's meant to be used ironically and it really does have some teeth. "Interesting" times are characterized by war, social upheaval, or mayhem in general, whereas un-interesting or boring times are usually prosperous and unmarred by trouble or strife.
So yeah, living in interesting times is definitely a curse and, unfortunately, that curse has kicked in, big-time. We're understandably worried about pestilence, the health of our loved ones, our jobs, and the economy in general, and most of us don't even have use of the gym anymore as a pressure release valve.
I, for one, don't mind occasional pharmaceutical help with my anxiety, but I'm not talking about some Jack D or even prescription chill-pills as both of those slow down my brain so much that TC get very sleepy, TC take nap and drool on pillow.
What I need is something that calms me down while making my brain work better. That something is the oddly named chemical, phenibut.
Cosmonauts Be Chillin'
Phenibut, aka noofen, pbut, or beta-phenyl-gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a psychotropic drug (any drug capable of affecting the mind, emotions, or behavior) first developed by Russian scientist Vsevolod Vasilievich in the 1960s.
The drug was quickly glommed onto by the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, who included it in the medical kits used by cosmonauts on Russian space flights, right next to their powdered Tang-ski. The scientists like the drug because, in smaller doses, it enhanced cognition while also offering some relief from anxiety, whereas slightly larger doses let the cosmonauts nod off until their next space walk.
In the years that followed, Russian doctors prescribed it to civilians to treat anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and even post-surgical malaise in heart surgery patients. Double-blind studies have since confirmed it to be a nootropic drug – something that increases smarts while simultaneously reducing fatigue.
While the drug isn't approved for clinical use in the U.S. or most parts of Europe, its use as a supplement is, well, tolerated. You see, the FDA doesn't much like phenibut because for one, it works well, and two, people who are drug and supplement kamikazes might take way too much, way too often.
There isn't much available info on phenibut's potential side effects, but the drug has pharmacological properties similar to other anxiety-reducing compounds, so it stands to reason that it might conceivably cause some of the same problems like nausea, irritability, dizziness, headache, etc.
Overdosing, however, can definitely lead to the same kinds of nasty side effects seen with any number of anti-anxiety drugs or supplements, so if you're one of those morons who takes 8 capsules of something when the label says to take 4, go away, phenibut isn't for you.
How Does Phenibut Work?
When we're stressed, the brain is subjected to an uninterrupted flow of stimulatory neurotransmitters that cause restlessness and irritability. When things go right, a naturally produced inhibitory neurotransmitter known as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) puts the kibosh on these stimulatory neurotransmitters, thereby allowing the body to relax.
Here's the pertinent thing: Phenibut is a derivative of GABA. It not only acts like GABA, but it causes the body to release more GABA, thereby providing a two-fisted attack on anxiety and, in sufficient doses, sleeplessness.
What Will I Feel After Taking Phenibut?
If you have a drink or two when you're stressed, alcohol will blunt your nerves and feelings, hence its categorization as a depressant. Phenibut's not like that. Take a small amount and it's like the demons were exorcised, the in-laws left, the snakes were driven out of Ireland, or the guy with smelly feet left the gym.
Take a larger amount, though, and you'll nod off to restful sleep and wake up without the characteristic "sleeping pill" hangover.
Think of it this way: Take a small amount if you want to be calm yet capable, like when you're about to climb into an X-wing to destroy the Death Star. Taking more, however, would allow you to sleep blissfully through the noise caused by the destruction of the Death Star.
What Kind, How Much?
While phenibut usually works well enough on its own, Biotest's phenibut product, Z-12™, contains two other calm-inducing sidekicks, 5-HTP and L-theanine.
Both of these compounds have been shown to increase levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that's associated with feelings of well-being and happiness, among other things.
- To relax after a stressful day, take 1, maybe 2 capsules of Z-12™, preferably on an empty stomach. Wait 30 minutes and commence to chilling.
- To use Z-12™ for sleep, take 2-4 capsules on an empty stomach 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Wake up rested and, hopefully, more mentally prepared to cope with these interesting times.
- Cheung, J., Penn, J., "Phenibut – the Russian anti-anxiety drug linked to Gold Coast teens' overdoses," The Conversation, February 26, 2018.
- Farmakol Toksikol, "Differences and similarity in the interaction of fenibut, baclofen, and diazepam with phenylethylamine," 1985 Jul-Aug;48(4).
- Lapin I, "Phenibut (beta-phenyl-GABA): a tranquilizer and nootropic drug," CNS Drug Rev. 2001 Winter;7(4):471-81.
- Neumyvakin IP, Krupina TN, Polevoĭ LG, Semeĭkina LA, "Principles for making up pharmaceutical kits to supply cosmonauts with drug packs," Kosm Biol Aviakosm Med. 1978 May-Jun;12(3):27-31.
- Edijs Vavers, et al, "The neuroprotective effects of R-phenibut after focal cerebral ischemia," Pharmacological Research, Volume 113, Part B, November 2016, pages 796-801.