GHB, which is short for 4-hydroxybutanoic acid, is a psychoactive drug characterized by depressant effects, euphoria, increased libido, lowered inhibitions, memory loss, and increased capacity for empathy.
It is sometimes used in medical settings for the treatment of narcolepsy and alcoholism, and occasionally as a general anesthetic. However, its most common use is as a recreational intoxicant.
Overdoses involving GHB are considered to be highly dangerous due to the fact that the drug depresses the respiratory system. If too much is consumed, an affected individual may begin to breathe at such a slow and shallow rate (or stop breathing altogether) that not enough oxygen can reach the brain and other essential organs. This can result in coma, brain damage, and eventual death if medical intervention is not reached in time.
GHB can be particularly dangerous in this respect due to its use as a “date rape drug.” This means that it’s been known to be given to people, usually women, without their knowledge for the purposes of lowering their capacity to resist sexual advances or totally incapacitating them. GHB typically comes in a dissolving white powder or salt that can be slipped into alcoholic drinks at bars or parties when a target isn’t looking. This increases the danger of overdose due to the fact that it’s difficult to determine how much of a drug is too much for any given person, particularly if that individual has never tried the drug before. The perpetrator may use too much in an attempt to incapacitate a target or may not be aware of other drugs the target may have already taken.
Another danger comes from the fact that mixing drugs increases the chance of an overdose occurring. In fact, the majority of overdose cases involve more than one drug, though the practice is very common. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 39 percent of all individuals seeking treatment for drug addiction in 2006 took more than one intoxicant regularly. Mixing GHB with alcohol is especially dangerous because they’re both depressants, increasing the chance of respiratory arrest.
Signs of Overdose
When intentionally ingesting GHB, the best way to avoid overdose is to take it slow when starting out. Everyone’s body is different and reacts different to intoxicating substances. However, even when playing it safe, it’s important to be familiar with the overdose signs of any drug being taken so that emergency services can be contacted as soon as possible.
Signs of a GHB overdose include:
- Profuse sweating
- Irregular or shallow breathing
- Involuntary muscle contractions
- Inability to stand
Typical doses during recreational use are between 0.5 and 3 grams. Taking more than that can risk an overdose. It’s also important to keep in mind that GHB is an illicit drug and therefore is likely to be mixed with other substances before being sold.
Improperly manufactured GHB can also be highly toxic even at standard doses.
GHB is also an addictive drug. Taking the substance regularly produces a tolerance to the drug, meaning that higher and higher doses are needed in order to get the same high. Addicted persons may begin to take excessively high doses or mix GHB with other intoxicants in order to try and feel like they did they first time they tried it, increasing their risk of dangerous overdose. If an addiction is suspected, it’s best to seek professional treatment services as soon as possible to avoid these danger
GHB is short for gamma-hydroxybutyrate, and it is a chemical that naturally occurs in the human body. However, when ingested, this drug is a potent sedative. While it was originally sold in health food stores as a supplement that could reduce stress, aid in sleep, improve physical performance, burn fat, and build muscle, it has been found to be a drug of abuse recently, with effects very similar to ecstasy and other club drugs. Now, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists GHB as a Schedule I substance, with no medical benefits.
What Are the Desired Effects from Recreational GHB Use?
People who take GHB want to lower their inhibitions, relax themselves, and experience euphoria, or a high. Some people may take larger doses to induce hallucinations, which can be tactile, visual, or auditory.
However, the effects from GHB do not last long. While the drug kicks in quickly, within about 15-30 minutes, the euphoric experience goes away rapidly too, usually within 3-6 hours. The drug remains in the body, however, and causes side effects, which can be uncomfortable or harmful. These include nausea, vomiting, bad hallucinations, profuse sweating, somnolence or intense drowsiness, uncontrolled shaking or seizures, harm to vision, disorientation, paranoia, and loss of coordination, leading to injury.
What Are the Symptoms of a Comedown from GHB?
This drug increases the amount of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which leads to relaxation, a sense of wellbeing, and hallucinations. Once the drug stops acting on these neurotransmitters, the person is more likely to feel exhausted, depressed, and experience rebound anxiety or paranoia. These effects are more intense when combined with other drugs or alcohol. Dehydration from profuse sweating and intense physical activity can also cause intensified comedown feelings.
Some people use GHB to decrease the discomfort from an amphetamine comedown. Mixing drugs, especially potent drugs like these, increases the risk of serious side effects, overdose, and death. It also increases the risk of a cycle of dependence on stimulants and depressants – for example, MDMA and GHB – to feel normal or happy.
Date Rape and Other Crime
Because GHB induces low inhibitions, relaxation, potential amnesia, and other sedative effects, it is used as a date rape drug. People who abuse GHB recreationally put themselves at a greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, suffering physical harm, and experiencing crimes, ranging from theft to physical abuse.
Interactions with Other Drugs
GHB is lethal when combined with other drugs, including alcohol, marijuana, narcotics, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and other central nervous system depressants. Mixing these classes of drugs increases the risk of slowed or shallow breathing, oxygen deprivation, passing out and causing injury, memory loss, coma, and death.
Amphetamines like MDMA, Molly, and ecstasy all interact with GHB. These amphetamines are popular recreational drugs at raves and clubs, much like GHB. This means a person may consume both GHB and amphetamines, either because they were mixed together or separately to induce a specific high. This is a very dangerous practice, which can cause seizures, heart attack, stroke, respiratory problems, and more.
Antipsychotic drugs interact badly with GHB, and there is also a greater potential for other drugs used in the treatment of mental health problems to interact with GHB.