Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a powerful substance that presents a high risk of overdose. Despite its dangers, GHB is gaining popularity as an illicit recreational drug. Someone might try GHB once to experience its euphoric effects and eventually develop a dependence on the drug, using it every day.
GHB addiction is serious and should be addressed by medical professionals. It takes courage to ask for help overcoming any addiction, but an individual is more likely to have a successful recovery with adequate support and high-quality treatment. If you or a loved one struggle with addiction to GHB, we’re here for you at Gateway Foundation.
What Is GHB?
GHB is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies it as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse. GHB has many different names, including liquid ecstasy, liquid X and goop. It’s also used in certain medications to treat narcolepsy. An example of a GHB-containing pharmaceutical is XYREM®.
GHB is produced illegally in domestic and foreign laboratories and is available as a white powder or colorless liquid. It has a slightly salty taste, which is easy to mask with a flavored beverage.
People who use GHB typically mix the substance with alcohol or another beverage and ingest it orally. Many times, people aren’t aware of the dose they are drinking. Combined with alcohol, which is another CNS depressant, GHB is especially dangerous. When GHB is mixed with alcohol or taken at high doses, it can lead to slowed breathing, unconsciousness, coma and death.
Is GHB Addictive?
GHB is highly addictive. After regularly using GHB, a person can build up their tolerance and require more of the drug to reach the desired effect. Someone might become dependent on the substance to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms, such as extreme anxiety, insomnia and hallucinations. Often, people who use GHB do not realize they have an addiction, partly because the drug erases the memory after it’s taken.
Who Uses GHB?
During the 1980s, GHB was available as an over-the-counter dietary supplement. Bodybuilders and dieters used GHB because they believed the drug helped them drop fat and increase muscle. Today, people may use GHB illicitly to lose weight or build muscle.
GHB became popular among young adults and teens as a club drug in the 1990s. Club drugs often refer to illegal substances people use at bars, nightclubs, raves and private parties. Someone might take a club drug like GHB to experience an altered mood, heightened senses and enhanced sexual encounters.
Today, GHB is making a comeback as an inexpensive party drug, and addiction to GHB is on the rise.
Is GHB a Date Rape Drug?
GHB is sometimes used as a date rape drug. Since GHB is easy to hide in a beverage, perpetrators can slip the substance into a victim’s drink without them noticing. Like alcohol, GHB can cause a victim to black out and experience memory loss or decreased inhibition. In some cases, GHB can cause the victim to become unconscious and unable to defend themselves. Once GHB enters their system, a victim is vulnerable to sexual assault and overdose.
What Does GHB Do to Your Brain and Body?
GHB occurs naturally in the central nervous system in very small concentrations and can function as a neurotransmitter in the brain. When taken orally in lower doses, GHB stimulates dopamine release and produces sedative and euphoric effects. Common side effects of GHB include drowsiness, confusion, dizziness and memory loss.
When taken at higher doses, GHB can lead to severe CNS depression. Symptoms of severe CNS depression include slowed heart rate, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting, and loss of consciousness. Also, GHB significantly increases the impact of other CNS depressants, like alcohol.
A person will experience the effects of GHB 15 minutes to 30 minutes after ingestion, and they can last up to 6 hours. Typically, someone who takes GHB experiences reduced inhibition and euphoria. With a higher dose, a person might experience a sudden coma and abruptly awake several hours later. It’s common for someone to become agitated or aggressive before sleepiness or coma set in.
Regarding the long-term effects of GHB use, researchers have discovered it’s associated with brain changes, including negative impacts on memory and IQ. People who regularly use GHB also show increased levels of stress and anxiety.
What Are the Signs of GHB Drug Use?
If you’re concerned that a loved one is using GHB or has an addiction, there are specific signs you can look for, such as:
- Lack of inhibition
- Slurred speech
- Trouble breathing
A GHB addiction may look similar to other types of addiction. However, everyone experiences a substance use disorder in their own way. In general, signs of addiction to any substance include the following:
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- Doing what it takes to obtain the drug, including lying and stealing
- Avoiding friends and family
- Engaging in risk-taking behaviors
- Neglecting responsibilities at work, home or school
- Having trouble controlling addictive behaviors
What Are the Symptoms of a GHB Drug Overdose?
It’s very easy for a person to overdose on GHB because there isn’t a significant difference between a recreational dose and a deadly dose. If you or a loved one experience any of the following signs of a GHB overdose seek medical attention immediately:
- Decreased body temperature
- Severe respiratory depression
- Slowed heart rate
According to an article published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, GHB-induced comas are among the most common symptoms of an overdose. People who use GHB regularly experience an average of over 10 comas related to the substance.
Where Can I Get Treatment for GHB Addiction?
Overcoming an addiction to GHB is difficult and potentially dangerous to do alone. You or a loved one might experience severe withdrawal symptoms if you stop using GHB abruptly. It’s critical to seek help from professionals and address your substance use disorder with a long-term plan. If you live in Illinois and want to stop suffering from a GHB addiction, reach out to us at Gateway Foundation.
At Gateway Foundation, we’ll help you get to the root of your addiction and develop positive habits and coping strategies you can use for life. We offer a range of evidence-based treatment options to help you recover from addiction safely and effectively. If you’re concerned about paying for treatment, know that we also accept insurance and offer flexible outpatient programs so you can get the help you need without putting your life on hold.
If you or someone you care about is ready to find relief from addiction, our team of compassionate, highly skilled medical professionals is waiting to help you. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs or schedule a consultation.