Gamma Hydroxybutyrate, or GHB is a central nervous system depressant that is commonly taken recreationally because of the disinibiting and enhanced sensuality the drug invokes. Also known as Liquid Ecstacy, Fantasy, Liquid X and G, the drug is typically comes as an odorless, colourless liquid or a crystalline white powder. The physical effects of the drug can last between 1 to 4 hours or more, depending on the dose.
The drug has varied potency and care should be taken when ingesting this drug. It has a significant number of associated dangers, especially in regards to overdosing or combining with other drugs. GHB has been found to be an addictive and habit forming drug with notable withdrawal symptoms. These may include a difficulty in sleeping, anxiety, chest pain, muscle and body aches and mental dullness. These symptoms can occur between a few days to a few weeks.
GHB was first synthesized in the 1960’s and was successfully used as a treatment for insomnia and alcoholism, as a general anesthetic, and an aid for childbirth. GHB was a widely available over-the-counter supplement up until 1990 when it was banned by the FDA.
Effects of GHB
The effects of GHB are varied and users often take the drug because of the positive pleasurable feelings the drug can invoke. These include feelings of tranquility, emotional warmth, euphoria, relaxation and well-being. Repeated dosing of the drug is common but can lead to an increase risk of overdosing or poisoning from the drug.
Negative effects of the drug are significant and use of the drug may cause intense drowsiness, abrupt sedation, incoherent speech, clenching of jaws, lack of coordination, vomiting, labored breathing, and weak pulse. Using the drug without support from other people could potentially lead to injury or death.
Dangers of GHB Use
GHB has a significant number of dangers associated with its use. The most important one is that the drug should not be combined with other depressants, especially alcohol. GHB use can cause unconsciousness and vomiting, suppress the gag reflex, cause convulsions and may dangerously suppress breathing.
GHB poisoning, overdosing and GHB induced coma are very common side effects of the drug. GHB poisoning refers to the situation where a person ingests too much GHB and as a result may fall unconscious, vomit, convulse and have changes to breathing. GHB poisoning can refer to the unintended consumption of GHB in the case of drink spiking. Overdosing relates to the intentional consumption of GHB and the unintentional side effect of falling into unconsciousness or vomiting. A GHB coma refers to a very common side effect where a person falls into a very deep, unrousable sleep from taking GHB.
GHB has been found to be a dependence forming drug. Users may initially begin to use the drug on a weekly basis, to attend parties or events on the weekend. This casual use may increase, and change to more frequent dosing with the drug. The sedative effect of the drug may encourage some users to begin to use the drug to induce sleep or relaxation.
Physical dependence on the drug can occur because of prolonged regular use, and the effects of withdrawal can be painful. Tremors, panic attacks and anxiety, muscle spasms, body pain, headaches and nausea are some of the reported symptoms of withdrawals. Benzodiazepines have been found to be beneficial in treating the symptoms of GHB addiction.
Use of GHB by Athletes
The drug reportedly has benefits as a growth hormone and GHB is popular drug for athletes and bodybuilders. Athletes found an increase in lean body mass and strength and believe that there was also associated weight loss. Athletes also found the sedative effects of the drug were beneficial for their sport and health as it enabled them to get significant amount of REM sleep that is necessary for muscle recovery.
GHB as Date Rape Drug
GHB has been linked to a number of reports regarding date rape. These reports have made note of the fact that the drug is odorless, colorless and can be easily added to a drink to drug someone could successfully be used as a tool for committing rape or sexual assault as the drug. The drug can cause people to be weak, confused and unrousable which an person could use to their advantage. Unfortunately, it is difficult to establish whether this is a real problem or simply based on anecdotal evidence. GHB is difficult to detect in urine samples after a few hours and the victim may not be aware of the rape due to the sedative effect of the drug.
If someone suspects that they or someone they know has been drugged or assaulted, they should endeavor to get assistance from a friend, family member or the police immediately. Caution should be taken when in nightclubs, bars or at music events and drinks should never be left unattended. Drinks should not be accepted from strangers or people outside your group of friends.