Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a CNS depressant that can produce euphoric effects, which makes it susceptible to abuse. The effects of GHB are felt within minutes of use, making it a popular choice on the party scene.
While people from all demographics abuse GHB, rates are highest among gay men and polydrug users. GHB abuse isn’t as common as abuse of other substances, but some people misuse it chronically, often in party situations, like raves and clubs.
What Are the Most Common Signs & Symptoms of GHB Abuse?
The following are common signs and symptoms of GHB abuse:
- Deep relaxation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Memory loss or blackouts
- Problems with coordination
- Reduced inhibition
- Decline in respiration and heart rate
What Are the Dangers of GHB?
In high doses, GHB can lead to overdose, which can include symptoms like these:
- Respiratory depression
- Slow heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
Overdose is more likely when GHB is combined with other substances of abuse like alcohol.[2,3] This combination is common when GHB is taken at raves or parties.
Prompt medical care is needed to support anyone who has overdosed. Death from GHB overdose is rare.
How to Recognize GHB Addiction
Addiction to GHB can develop in anyone who repeatedly uses the drug. The euphoric feelings it produces trigger the body to crave more in between doses. As people begin to abuse the drug more often and in higher doses, addiction can take hold.
These are some of the signs and symptoms of GHB addiction:
- Preoccupation with locating and using GHB
- Anxiety and stress when unable to get more GHB
- Tolerance, or needing to take higher doses to feel the same effects that were once experienced with lower doses
- Changes in appearance, such as reduced attention to hygiene and self-care
- Financial issues due to spending money on GHB and other substances
- Increase in risk-taking behaviors, such as having unprotected sex or using GHB before driving
- Multiple failed attempts to quit using GHB
- Failure to meet regular responsibilities, such as those at work or school
How to Address GHB Abuse
If you or someone you know has been regularly abusing GHB, it’s likely that an addiction is present. While GHB can be tough to quit on your own, you can successfully stop using it with professional help.
Dependence on GHB can occur with long-term use, so medical detox may be needed. Withdrawal can be uncomfortable, particularly if high doses of GHB were taken, but medical care can ease symptoms and reduce the likelihood of relapse during withdrawal. In some cases, benzodiazepines may be prescribed to calm the body, and other medications may be used to address specific withdrawal symptoms.
After withdrawal, addiction to GHB can be treated with tailored therapy. The ideal situation is to receive treatment from addiction experts who can help you identify issues that led you to abuse GHB and build a life that is supportive of your newfound sobriety.
Though there is no cure for GHB addiction, it can be successfully managed in the long term with the right help.
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