GHB Street Names: G, Sodium Oxybate, Xyrem, Grevious Bodily Harm, Georgia Home Boy, Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid X, Liquid E, GHB, GBH, Soap, Scoop, Easy Lay, Salty Water, G-Riffick, Cherry Menth, and Organic Quaalude.
Description: GHB is a sedative used both as a sleep-aid and as a recreational intoxicant. It is known for its ability to induce a short (several hour) coma-like sleep at high doses. A number of GHB-related deaths in combination with its addiction potential led to it being controlled by Federal law in 1999.
Caution: GHB’s dose/response curve is similar to that of alcohol : At higher doses, users fall unconscious and are temporarily unable to be awakened (coma). It may also dangerously depress breathing. Avoid mixing with alcohol.
What is GHB?
γ-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), also known as 4-hydroxybutanoic acid and sodium oxybate (INN) when used for medicinal purposes, is a naturally occurring substance found in the central nervous system, wine, beef, small citrus fruits, and almost all animals in small amounts. It is also categorized as an illegal drug in many countries. It is currently regulated in Australia and New Zealand, Canada, most of Europe and in the US. GHB as the sodium salt, known as sodium oxybate, is sold by Jazz Pharmaceuticals under the name Xyrem to treat cataplexy and excessive daytime sleepiness in patients with narcolepsy.
GHB has been used in a medical setting as a general anesthetic, to treat conditions such as insomnia, clinical depression, narcolepsy, and alcoholism, and to improve athletic performance. It is also used as an intoxicant (illegally in many jurisdictions) or as a date rape drug. GHB is naturally produced in the human body’s cells and is structurally related to the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate. As a supplement/drug, it is used most commonly in the form of a salt. GHB is also produced as a result of fermentation, and so is found in small quantities in some beers and wines. Succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase deficiency is a disease that causes GHB to accumulate in the blood.
GHB affects the release of dopamine in the brain, usually causing effects ranging from relaxation to sleep at low doses. Overall, the effect characterization is extremely similar to alcohol, with the duration slightly longer, the hangover effects (for most people) slightly less, and the unpleasant and dangerous overdose effect of possibly causing temporarily unrousable sleep (coma) at doses just over those that some people enjoy ingesting.
The effects of GHB are heavily affected by one’s body weight, interactions with other chemicals, and one’s individual reaction. Some people find GHB to be useful for treating insomnia, others use it as part of the process of breaking alcohol addiction, some find it a pleasant alcohol replacement. Many people who try GHB don’t like its somewhat drowsy, slightly dizzy, alcohol-like character.
A low dose of GHB (usually from .5 to 1.5 grams) often causes effects similar to those of 1-3 drinks of alcohol. Users can feel a mild relaxation, increased sociability, slightly decreased motor skills, sometimes mild dizziness, and other effects similar to mild alcohol intoxication. Even at low doses it is improper and dangerous for GHB users to drive or operate heavy machinery.
A medium dose of GHB (usually from 1 to 2.5 grams) increases the relaxing effects and the physical disequilibrium experienced. Some people report an increased appreciation for music, dancing, or talking. Many people report positive mood changes. Some slurring of speech, silliness, and slight incoherency are also common. Others report increased feelings of nausea and grogginess. Some users of GHB report pro-sexual effects: an increase in tactile sensitivity, relaxation, increased male erectile capacity, and heightened experience of orgasm. Some women report that GHB makes orgasms harder to achieve.
A heavy dose of GHB (from 2.5 + grams) can increase feelings of disequilibrium in many people to point of feeling quite ill. Many people accidentally move from Medium Dose to Over Dose, only passing through Heavy Dose for a few minutes. One reason that GHB has gained notoriety as a Club Drug is that some people experience extremely positive feelings on Heavy Doses of GHB. Reports of euphoria, feeling music deeply, joyous dancing, and other very positive effects are common among aficionados. People who report these effects also describe how difficult finding one’s personal dose range can be to achieve these effects. An extra quarter (.25) gram can be the difference between euphoria and vomiting.
The Overdose range for GHB can be as little as 2 grams, based on body weight and individual sensitivity. One major problem with GHB as an underground recreational substance is that it has a sharp dose-response curve, which can be difficult to manage with the various non-standard preparations available to the uninformed buyer. Another major problem is that uninformed users often mix GHB with alcohol, which drastically increases the chance of vomiting and unconsciousness. An overdose can consist of mild to extreme nausea and dizziness, and vomiting. It can also be characterized by a strong drowsy feeling followed by an temporarily unrouseable sleep (sometimes characterized as a type of coma) for 1-4 hours. Some Overdoses of GHB mix vomiting with unconsciousness which is an extremely dangerous combination for obvious reasons. When using GHB (or any substance), it is important to remember to let someone who is with you know what you’re doing, so if you experience Overdose effects, they can react appropriately and let any health professionals who become involved know what substance was involved.
We’re defining a level dosage above Overdose in order to highlight the effects of extreme overdoses. While many Overdoses consist mainly of heavy sleep, some are life-threatening. GHB Poisonings are characterized by very low breathing, convulsions or twitching, vomiting, complete non-responsive even to ‘deep pain’, fixed pupils, etc. GHB poisoning victims should receive medical care immediately.
GHB Side Effects:
Some people feel drowsy, sleepy, or groggy after the effects wear off or the next day after ingestion. The hangover from low and medium doses of GHB is usually mild or non-existent, although some people report feeling slightly ‘fuzzy headed’ the next day. Some people also report feeling refreshed, happier, and more alert the day after use. For some people, using GHB more than once a week causes significantly increased negative after effects.
Long Term Effects of GHB
GHB addiction, over time, can cause serious, even fatal, health complications. These long-term GHB effects include:
Tremor or seizures
Potentially fatal respiratory problems
GHB was associated with more than 2,000 emergency-room visits in 2004, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network.
Synthesis of the chemical GHB was first reported in 1874 by Alexander Zaytsev, but the first major research into its use in humans was conducted in the early 1960s by Dr. Henri Laborit to use in studying the neurotransmitter GABA. It quickly found a wide range of uses due to its minimal side-effects and short duration of action, the only difficulties being the narrow therapeutic dosage range (despite an unusually high LD50) and the dangers presented by its combination with alcohol and other central nervous system depressants.
GHB was widely used in France, Italy, and other European countries for several decades as a sleeping agent and an anesthetic in childbirth but problems with its abuse potential and development of newer drugs have led to a decrease in legitimate medical use of GHB in recent times. In the Netherlands, GHB could be bought as aphrodisiac and euphoriant in a smartshop for several years, until several incidents caused it to become regulated which no longer made it possible to buy it at smartshops. The only common medical applications for GHB today are in the treatment of narcolepsy and more rarely alcoholism. In the typical scenario, GHB has been synthesized from γ-butyrolactone (GBL) by adding sodium hydroxide (lye) in ethanol or water. As of late, GBL has become controlled in many countries and more circuitous routes have to be taken, such as those starting with tetrahydrofuran (THF).
A popular children’s toy, Bindeez (also known as Aqua Dots, in the United States), produced by Melbourne company Moose, was banned in Australia in early November 2007 when it was discovered that 1,4-butanediol (1,4-B), which is metabolized into GHB, had been substituted for the non-toxic plasticiser 1,5-pentanediol in the bead manufacturing process. Three young children were hospitalized as a result of ingesting a large number of the beads, and the toy was recalled.
In multiple studies, GHB has been found to impair spatial and working learning and memory in rats with chronic administration. These effects are associated with decreased NMDA receptor expression in the cerebral cortex and possibly other areas as well.
Pedraza et al. (2009) found that repeated administration of GHB to rats for 15 days drastically reduced the number of neurons and non-neuronal cells in the CA1 region of the hippocampus and in the prefrontal cortex. With doses of 10 mg/kg of GHB, they were decreased by 61% in the CA1 region and 32% in the prefrontal cortex, and with 100 mg/kg, they were decreased by 38% and 9%, respectively. It is interesting to note that GHB has biphasic effects on neuronal loss, with lower doses (10 mg/kg) producing the most neurotoxicity, and higher doses (100 mg/kg) producing less.
Pretreatment with NCS-382, a GHB receptor antagonist, prevents both learning/memory deficits and neuronal loss in GHB-treated animals, suggesting that GHB’s neurotoxic actions are mediated via activation of the GHB receptor. In addition, the neurotoxicity appears to be caused by oxidative stress.