GHB Drug Facts | A Center for Addiction Recovery

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Information provided below is courtesy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

GHB Overview

GHB Addiction TreatmentGHB (Xyrem) is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 for use in the treatment of narcolepsy (a sleep disorder). This approval came with severe restrictions, including its use only for the treatment of narcolepsy, and the requirement for a patient registry monitored by the FDA. GHB is also a metabolite of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA). It exists naturally in the brain, but at much lower concentrations than those found when GHB is abused. GHB and Rohypnol are available in odorless, colorless, and tasteless forms that are frequently combined with alcohol and other beverages. Both drugs have been used to commit sexual assaults (also known as “date rape,” “drug rape,” “acquaintance rape,” or “drug-assisted” assault) due to their ability to sedate and incapacitate unsuspecting victims, preventing them from resisting sexual assault. GHB is usually ingested orally, either in liquid or powder form, while Rohypnol is typically taken orally in pill form. Recent reports, however, have shown that Rohypnol is being ground up and snorted. GHB is also abused for their intoxicating effects, similar to other CNS depressants. GHB also has anabolic effects (it stimulates protein synthesis) and has been used by bodybuilders to aid in fat reduction and muscle building.

GHB Signs of Abuse

There are ways to notice whether or not an individual is struggling with GHB/club drug abuse. There are certain effects that the drug has on the body that others can take note of. The subjective effects of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) are reported as:

  • Changes in personality or behavior
  • Feelings of relaxation
  • Increased sociability
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Sense of wellbeing
  • Heightened sexual interest
  • Restful sleep

There are also wide individual differences in response to the drug so some may experience adverse side-effects even at low dose. Central nervous system (CNS) depression is the hallmark of GHB ingestion. Deaths have occurred where individuals have been 'left to sleep it off'. Individuals tend to come to medical attention as a result of adverse effects or overdose. Diagnosis is usually based on history (typically third party or collateral information from paramedics, etc.) and on clinical examination.

Effects of GHB Abuse

GHB acts on at least two sites in the brain: the GABAB receptor and a specific GHB binding site. At high doses, GHB’s sedative effects may result in sleep, coma, or death. Coma and seizures can occur following use of GHB. Combined use with other drugs such as alcohol can result in nausea and breathing difficulties. GHB and two of its precursors, gamma butyrolactone (GBL) and 1, 4 butanediol (BD), have been involved in poisonings, overdoses, date rapes, and deaths.

GHB Withdrawal Symptoms

Repeated use of GHB may lead to withdrawal effects, including insomnia, anxiety, tremors, and sweating. Severe withdrawal reactions have been reported among patients presenting from an overdose of GHB or related compounds, especially if other drugs or alcohol are involved.

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