GHB (short for gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid) is a sedative that acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, creating a euphoric feeling, dream-like state and muscular relaxation. It became a popular drug of choice among ravers and partiers throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
However, it also soon became popular as a “date-rape” drug, because it is essentially colorless and odorless, making it easy to mix with alcohol without the knowledge of the intended victim. One side effect of GHB use is amnesia, and victims of date rape who have been dosed with the drug often have no recollection of the incident,
GHB is a naturally occurring component in the body, but when synthesized it is commonly found in clear liquid form. It also comes in a white powder with a soapy texture or chalky tablets. It is usually ingested mixed with a liquid such as water or alcohol, but it can also be injected.
The drug works by slowing down brain activity and activating the opioid system which is responsible for reducing pain. In the past, it was used medically to treat conditions that cause loss of muscle control and narcolepsy. It can be incredibly dangerous, especially because it is impossible to determine how a dose of GHB will affect any particular user. People seeking a sense of euphoria and inhibition may instead find themselves suffering from vomiting and seizures. Deaths caused by GHB use or overdosing is often accidental and involve people who never knew they had ingested the drug.
As an illicit street drug, GHB has collected many nicknames over the years. Perhaps the most telling is “Grave Bodily Harm” – a foreshadowing to the possibly deadly side effects. Other names for GHB include:
People using GHB often have a false sense that it is safe and has no lasting effects, because of its history as a widely used medication. This is obviously untrue, as even medications used routinely today can be problematic if abused. Some of the misconceptions about GHB include:
You can’t become addicted to GHB because It’s already in your body. While it is true that GHB is a naturally occurring component within the human body, it is still possible to develop an addiction to the synthesized drug that may require drug rehab for treatment. Addiction to GHB develops easily and quickly because the body does not differentiate between the synthetic GHB and the naturally occurring compound. It merely recognizes an increase of the chemical and adjusts to the new, higher levels.
GHB has a short half-life. That means no withdrawal or detox symptoms. The short half-life of GHB means it does not last long in storage, it does not negate the effects of withdrawal or detoxification. Withdrawal from GHB can be intense and potentially deadly if unmonitored. Symptoms of GHB detox typically last 10 to 14 days.
GHB is called Pink Meth, so it must be like regular meth. GHB and meth have no chemical similarities. Where GHB is a narcotic sedative that slows brain function and activates the opioid system, meth acts as a stimulant, flooding the brain and nervous system with dopamine. The nickname “pink meth” comes from the pink tablet form of GHB and the sometimes similar symptoms of use between the drugs.
It’s not dangerous if I only use GHB occasionally to enhance a party. GHB is dangerous regardless of frequency of use. The first dose can be just as deadly as the one hundredth time, especially because of the unpredictable nature of the dosage. The amount needed to cause the desired effects in a 125-pound 40-year-old woman who has abused GHB for years can kill a 300-pound 25-year-old male athlete using GHB for the first time.
GHB’s most dangerous characteristic is being unable to predict how a person will react to it. Occasional use or limiting yourself to small doses does not guarantee safe use.
Low dosage can still be life-threatening and result in:
Higher doses carry more serious threats, like:
GHB addiction causes changes in the brain’s chemistry that may result in permanent damage. Depression and mood swings are common among sedative abusers and are caused by chemical imbalances that result from prolonged GHB use. Since GHB affects the memory centers of the brain sometimes resulting in amnesia or lapses in memory, addiction to GHB can give way to chronically impaired memory and issues regarding judgement capabilities. Physical symptoms such as slurred speech and vision problems.
Because it is so easy to conceal, addicts can abuse GHB without detection. The drug is often taken in public mixed into a water bottle or soft drink. However, if you’re aware of a few telling signs, it’s possible to identify a potentially serious problem. GHB abusers may complain of severe headaches or migraines, display sudden and seemingly unprovoked mood swings and suffer from depression.
As the abuse continues, their personality may change – someone who was carefree and charismatic becomes angry and pessimistic. Trouble in school or work and sudden difficulty remembering simple things like plans with friends can also be a warning sign of developing dependency. If you recognize these signs, an addiction treatment program may be beneficial to begin recovery.