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Club Drugs: Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB)

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
 
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Club Drugs: Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB)

What Is GHB?

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is often used as a club drug for its euphoric, hallucinogenic, and sedative effects.

GHB, which is an anabolic steroid, acts as a powerful central nervous system depressant. In the 1980s, GHB was sold in health food stores and used by many bodybuilders and athletes to lose fat and build muscle. GHB has been given nicknames such as Grievous Bodily Harm, G, Liquid Ecstasy, and Georgia Home Boy.

In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of GHB except under the supervision of a physician. This was in response to reports of severe side effects, including those similar to the effects experienced after taking Rohypnol (the "date rape" drug). GHB has also been associated with sexual assaults.

Despite the ban on use, GHB is illegally created and used as a club drug. GHB is made as a light-colored powder that easily dissolves in liquids or as a pure liquid. In liquid form, it is clear, odorless, tasteless, and almost undetectable when mixed in a drink.

What Are the Effects of GHB?

The average dose of GHB (1 to 5 grams) takes effect in 15 to 30 minutes, and its effects last from 3 to 6 hours.

At doses up to 2 grams, GHB can cause:

  • Relaxation
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing rate
  • Impaired motor coordination and balance
  • Interference with blood circulation

At doses of 2 grams and higher, GHB can cause extreme difficulty with motor and speech control. It can also bring on a very deep coma-like sleep, which requires intubation to wake the user.

When mixed with alcohol, the depressant effects of GHB are enhanced. This can lead to severely decreased breathing rate, unconsciousness, coma, and overdose.

Other side effects include:

  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Decreased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Tremors
  • Delusions
  • Depression
  • Vertigo
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Amnesia
  • Coma

With excessive use of GHB, a person can become addicted, and therefore experience withdrawal symptoms when they don't have the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can occur within 1 to 6 hours of the last dose. These symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, tremors, and episodes of abnormally fast heart rates (tachycardia). These symptoms may last for many months.

Resources

Club Drugs.org
http://www.clubdrugs.org

Partnership for a Drug-Free America
http://www.drugfreeamerica.org/

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
http://www.samhsa.gov/

National Institute on Drug Abuse
http://www.drugabuse.gov/

Sources

Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB). Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse.
Available at: http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/factsht/
Accessed September 19, 2003.

Rohypnol and GHB. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Available at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/Infofax/RohypnolGHB.html
Accessed September 19, 2003.



Last reviewed September 2003 by Richard Glickman-Simon, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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