Anti-Anxiety Drug Causes Mass Overdose

Designer drug phenibut was initially developed in Russia in the 1960’s. It was intended to be a new anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) medication that has cognitive-enhancing properties. It was originally developed for the use of cosmonauts in space flight, since it can reduce stress. Phenibut used to be included in the cosmonauts’ medical kits during their space missions and they are typically used to enhance cognition and as a tranquilizer.

Since then, the drug has attracted a considerable number of students after claims surfaced that it can boost memory recall and cognitive performance during examinations. However, phenibut is  still considered a dangerous substance in many countries, and is banned from public distribution and consumption.

Recently, in Australia, the drug caused a mass overdose among high school students. The police believe that the students took multiple doses of phenibut. In just a matter of hours, the students began complaining of dizziness, nausea, and a gradual slowing down of bodily functions. They were taken to the hospital some time afterward, and some became so ill that they had to be place on life support in the intensive care unit. The drug was believed to have been purchased by one of the students online, before it was shared with the rest of his schoolmates.

Effects of Phenibut on the Human Body

Phenibut is also commonly known as noofen, pbut, and party powder. It is a psychotropic drug, because it significantly affects the mental state of the user. Its structure is very similar to a neurotransmitter known as GABA, which is known to reduce anxiety and excitability. This neurotransmitter also plays a role in improving euphoria and cognitive function. Phenibut activates a similar reaction to GABA when consumed. Once it reaches the brain, phenibut reduces anxiety and social inhibition. Because of its GABA-like properties, phenibut is also used as mood elevator and tranquilizer.

In countries where it can be legally prescribed, phenibut is used as treatment for anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and vestibular or balance disorders like vertigo. However, it is not licensed for commercial use in the EU, Australia, and the US. In Australia, specifically, it is classified as a Schedule 9 prohibited substance after their drug regulation agency found that phenibut can lead to a considerable risk of harm, including overdose. Nonetheless, many people use it recreationally even in these countries in order to reduce social anxiety or induce feelings of euphoria.


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