GHB Drug – Side Effects, Addiction, and Treatment

Despite the common belief that GHB is more of a date rape and club drug, the truth is, it is a highly dangerous and addictive substance that may cause fatality even at small doses. It is an illegal substance and is classified as a Schedule I drug. Therefore anyone caught possessing it would face incarceration and a $100,000 penalty.

What is GHB?

GHB Drug

Sold as liquid or powder, GHB, also known as Gamma-hydroxybutyrate, is a highly intoxicating substance that acts as a depressant. When the drug was first developed in 1960, it was used for anesthetic purposes due to its ability to sedate the human body. The drug was also used to relieve different forms of pain.

Misled by false advertisements, some people think GHB is a safe sleep-inducing drug that can regularly be used to achieve sufficient rest. Unfortunately, even the smallest dose of the substance can cause the most petrifying results.

Despite its abundance on the black market, it does also exist in a legal form. Branded under the title ‘Xyrem’, GHB’s sodium salt equivalent, is legally allowed in a patient restricted-access program that follows physician-supervised protocols. Xyrem is not available at regular retail pharmacies. When found to be illegally commercially sold, its status changes from a Schedule III drug to a Schedule I, thereby acquiring the legal consequences of the latter’s misuse.

Additionally, GHB is not necessarily purchased and used in its primary form. People can take products containing the drug, or the ingredients in GHB such as 1,4-butanediol and Gamma-Butyrolactone. Then these substances are converted by the body into GHB producing the same effects.

Effects of Using GHB

Ten to twenty minutes following the intake of the drug, the user experiences varying effects that depend on the dosage, mood, and particular circumstances. The GHB high often lasts up to 4 hours, but may be extended when used with other similar drugs. Users commonly experience an increase in energy, stamina, and sensuality. They feel euphoric, happy, playful, relaxed, and sexually enhanced.

On the other hand, GHB users also experience loss of muscle coordination, headaches, nausea, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, amnesia, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and vomiting. In large doses, GHB use may result in sedation, decreased heart rate, loss of self-control, slurred speech, seizures, inability to move, coma, and even death.

What are the Negative Effects?

Negative effects of using the drug include:

  • loss of muscle coordination or an altogether inability to move
  • headaches and dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • difficulty concentrating
  • amnesia
  • difficulty breathing
  • loss of self-control
  • sedation
  • decreased heart rate
  • slurred speech
  • seizures
  • coma
  • death

Using it over a long period leads to the development of certain levels of tolerance, as well as dependency no matter the routine at which the drug is taken.

Dangers of GHB Use

GHB use should be a cause for alarm, regardless of the amount being taken, or the frequency of use. Because it is a known club drug, Gamma-hydroxybutyrate is often mixed with alcoholic beverages. This common practice in rave bars and parties is very dangerous and may cause bad effects such as coma, seizures, respiratory failure, and death.

GHB, when combined with alcohol, paralyzes the human body and the respiratory system. Anyone who passes out due to the drug should be given immediate medical care.

How GHB is Abused?

The Date Rape DrugGHB Drug

Among the most well-known forms of GHB abuse is its misuse as a “date rape” drug, or as a sedative used by sexual predators. In most cases, because GHB is an odorless and colorless drug, it may be combined with alcohol and given to unsuspecting victims prior to sexual assaults. Its taste may at times be soapy or salty, but is often concealed by the flavor of drink it’s mixed with. Due to the sedative effects of GHB, victims are incapacitated to the point of being unable to resist their sexual assailants. Their motor coordination, ability to move, and speech may be greatly impaired. The after effects of GHB on the victim can be loss of consciousness and therefore an amnesia about the events that transpired.

Other Uses

Other groups that commonly abuse GHB are high school and college students, as well as people who attend raves, music nightclubs, and events perceived to heighten and enhance the effects under the influence of the intoxicant. Additionally, GHB has been found to be misused by bodybuilders. This preference is due to the believed-to-be anabolic effects of the drug through protein synthesis. This enables an increase in muscle growth hormone production and fat reduction.


GHB use has been found to be low in terms of the general population. Over time though, usage has risen; from 1994 to 2000 the number of ER visits caused by this drug grew from 56 to 4,969, as cited in one report on the topic. Other studies have found that misuse among youth is actually decreasing over time. Eighth, tenth and twelfth graders in the early 2000s reported use at 1.2, 1.4, and 2 percent respectively, while in 2010 the numbers were just 0.6, 0.6, and 1.4 percent. In 2015, it has been estimated by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, that 136,000 people used GHB, with the vast majority being over the age of 26, and is overwhelmingly male. Nevertheless, despite statistics and specific population use, there is no safe way of using GHB outside of prescribed needs and physician supervised methods.

GHB & Pregnancy

Just as in general with all people, pregnant women should not use GHB. The effects on pregnancy itself by GHB are not known. It’s urged that anyone who is attempting to become pregnant, thinking about it, or already pregnant and using GHB find the advisement of a healthcare provider, as soon as possible.

Is There a Safe Dosage for GHB use?

No, there is no safe dosage of GHB. Ingestion of any amount of GHB is cause for alarm as it can have harmful effects on the body such as seizures or respiratory failure and can even result in a coma or death.

GHB can cause an overdose anytime, depending on the type of formula taken, and the person’s tolerance. A certain dose may not cause adverse reactions for one but may be lethal to another. A user may not experience an overdose with a particular amount of GHB at one time, but may not have the same tolerance the next. Alcohol, food, and other drug intake affect the degree by which the drug sedates the body.

Another danger of taking the drug is addiction. Once a person is addicted to it, he or she will experience severe withdrawal symptoms that may last years. Dependency on the drug can develop within a few weeks of using it, even in the smallest doses.

How Long Does it Take to Develop GHB Addiction?

In just a few short weeks of somewhat regular use, a person can develop a GHB addiction. An addict normally takes a dose of the drug every hour or so, with larger doses during the night. If the person overcomes the addiction, withdrawal symptoms may last for years.

GHB addiction is characterized by the compulsive taking of the drug, the inability to sleep and function properly without taking it, and weird behavior. Anyone who is addicted to GHB may experience head twitching after 15 minutes of taking a dose, but will not be able to remember doing so.

Treatment: Where to Go in Case of Addiction and Abuse


Even without addiction, using GHB may pose extreme risks on the lives of the users. Young girls are at risk of being raped while teenage boys may not have full control over their actions. Anyone who tries a single dose of the drug may not have the ability to metabolize the substance the way others can. Death is just around the corner because of illegal drugs.

If you are using or addicted to GHB, or know of anyone who is, make sure to get medical and professional help without delay. Various addiction treatment facilities offer particular GHB treatment, which includes inpatient rehabilitation programs for those who want long-term results.

Inpatient treatments begin with medically supported ‘weaning off’ from the drug. Using proven techniques in alleviating withdrawal symptoms, the patient is given sufficient help in overcoming the most challenging ones that will appear a few hours after taking the last dose.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, as well as other types of psychological therapies, is also given to the patient to help surmount the reasons for taking the drug. He or she will develop the ability to avoid circumstances, people, and places where GHB use may be inevitable based on past experiences.

Support from the facility, the patient’s family, and friends, as well as highly trained medical professionals, will make sure that he or she does not relapse in the future. An inpatient rehabilitation program allows each patient to focus on rebuilding his or her life and start anew without the dangers that are brought about by drugs.

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