As a synthetic central nervous system depressant, GHB works directly in the brain to as an inhibitor. By slowing brain activity, it was briefly used in the medical fields as a treatment for narcolepsy and cataplexy. However, medical use has greatly decreased since its introduction in the 1960s and the chemical has since been classified as a schedule 1 substance by the FDA.Aside from the desired effects of GHB- a sense of euphoria, reduced inhibitions, and relaxation- the narcotic sedative is responsible for visual and auditory hallucinations, distortion, and drowsiness. Even the smallest doses of GHB can cause severe reactions. The body naturally produces GHB but increases to the levels present in the brain can cause comas, severe respiratory depression, seizures and death. 69% of GHB users report negative effects including:
Unawareness of environment
What GHB Does to the Rest of the Body
The effects of GHB use is not limited to the brain. Because it is a central nervous system depressant, the effects also extend into the lungs and heart. GHB begins to take effect 15 minutes after the drug is used and last up to two hours, causing a decrease in heart rate, sluggishness or clumsiness, and compromised breathing. Victims that have combined GHB with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or other drugs may experience the onset of effects faster and more intensely due to an accelerated absorption and combined reactions. Nausea, vomiting, and aspiration may be signs of a serious reaction or overdose.
GHB’s Effects on Society
Through the 80s and 90s, GHB use was popular among teens and young adults and the drug was a staple in the club, rave, and party scenes. Voluntary users enjoyed an increased sex drive, euphoria, and decreased inhibitions. Unfortunately, because of the difficulty determining proper dosage and the effects of mixing it with alcohol or other drugs, overdosing was a constant underlying concern. In 2000 alone 4,969 people were taken to the hospital for medical emergencies caused by GHB. That same year President Clinton made recreational use of GHB illegal and declared it a schedule 1 drug. In just two years 225 deaths have been attributed to GHB use; often the victims were unaware of the risks associated with using the substance. Today GHB is rarely prescribed and it is strictly regulated. Those undergoing medical treatment are required to enter closely monitored programs.
GHB and Date Rape
Today’s cultural fear of being drugged and raped can also be attributed to the popularity of GHB in past decades. Because the drug is odorless, colorless, and difficult for most people to taste, it was a common agent used for date rape. This is when a predator uses a substance without the consent of the victim in order to compromise their ability to resist sexual advances. GHB reduces a victim’s awareness of their environment and increases their susceptibility to a predator’s advances. Rapists took advantage of an additional side effect of GHB use- their victims often awoke without any recollection of prior events. Fear of GHB date rape and club drugging developed, especially among women, who sought ways to protect themselves from potential attackers. Because of this, a market for GHB detection products such as strips, straws, and even nail polish developed.
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