While there is no cure for GHB addiction (or any addiction), the disorder can be successfully managed for life with the right support.
Which Treatment Is Right for Me?
The right treatment plan for you will depend on these factors:[1,2]
- The severity of addiction, including the average dose of GHB and duration of use
- Co-occurring medical or mental health disorders
- Supportive family and friends
- Safe home environment
- History of attempts at recovery
- Polysubstance abuse
What Treatment Options Are Available for Addiction to GHB?
Treatment should be tailored to your individual needs, and this approach might vary throughout your recovery journey. Here are some of the most commonly used treatment options for addiction to GHB:
Medical detox is often used to manage symptoms of withdrawal, keeping people safe and supported throughout withdrawal from GHB. With medical detox, you’ll be treated by experts in withdrawal who will prescribe medications and treatments as needed.
During GHB withdrawal, high doses of benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to calm the body and control tremors. Other medications may be prescribed to ease additional withdrawal symptoms, such as anti-nausea medications to address gastrointestinal discomfort or sleep medications to combat insomnia.
The goal is to safely get you through this intense period. After a week or two, most people stabilize enough to progress to other forms of treatment.
During any type of treatment for GHB addiction, treatment teams will manage any needed medications. Many people in addiction treatment have co-occurring mental health disorders (such as depression or anxiety) that require medication management.
In a comprehensive addiction treatment program, your team will manage any medications you take, monitoring your symptoms and ensuring your doses are correct.
In sessions, therapists guide clients toward self-acceptance and self-actualization. Person-centered therapy is based on fully accepting oneself through creating a safe and productive therapeutic environment and alliance.
Many negative emotions are intertwined with GHB abuse. Often, a sense of shame, low self-worth, or regret is involved. By working with a therapist, these feelings can be untangled, resulting in better self-worth and overall well-being.
Behavioral therapies aim to modify behavior via evidence-based approaches like reinforcement. These therapies are very effective in addiction treatment, including treatment for GHB addiction.
One of the most common forms used in addiction care is cognitive behavioral therapy. This draws on principles of behaviorism and cognitive theory to provide a comprehensive approach to managing both addictive behaviors and triggers. By addressing the thought processes and emotions that underlie GHB abuse, you’ll learn to manage your thoughts, and this will translate into more positive behaviors.
Is Inpatient or Outpatient Rehab Best for GHB Addiction?
It depends. The choice between inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment will depend on the severity of your addiction, any co-occurring mental health issues, and past attempts at treatment.
If you have previously attended an outpatient rehab program but relapsed, inpatient treatment may be recommended. This can allow you to fully focus on your recovery efforts and reduce the likelihood of relapse on this recovery attempt.
If you have co-occurring disorders, such as depression or a personality disorder, or you struggle with the abuse of multiple substances in addition to GHB, inpatient care may also be recommended. It’s also a good choice if your addiction level is severe, and intense withdrawal symptoms are anticipated.
If you have a supportive home environment, outpatient care can be sufficient. Most people receive outpatient treatment for addiction. In most cases, intensive outpatient treatment programs are as effective as inpatient options.
How Long Should Treatment Last?
The duration of treatment is an important factor in long-term success. Studies repeatedly show that longer time in treatment is linked to better long-term outcomes.
Whether you choose an inpatient or outpatient treatment program for GHB addiction, aim to stay in it for a minimum of 30 days. Programs that last at least 90 days are associated with lower instances of relapse.
This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to stay in an inpatient program for 90 days. Many people begin with inpatient care and then transition to outpatient care after a month or so. The intensity of outpatient care can also wane as you gain a stronger footing in recovery.
The Importance of Aftercare
Once treatment ends, recovery is not over. Addiction recovery is an ongoing process that must be continually managed. Since GHB addiction is a chronic condition, relapse is possible for the rest of your life. But with proper management, long-term recovery is possible.
Here are some components of a strong aftercare plan that can help you maintain recovery and avoid relapse:
- Participation in support groups, such as 12-step groups
- Ongoing therapy participation
- Health lifestyle choices, like regular exercise and a balanced diet
- A solid support network, including people who are also in recovery
- Self-care practices, such as meditation and journaling
- Sufficient sleep
If you find yourself with cravings for GHB again, reach out to your support team. Your therapist or members of your support group can help you to remain focused on your recovery.
And if you do relapse, remember that it’s not a failure. Relapse is often part of the overall recovery process.[11,12] It’s just a sign that your recovery plan needs adjustment, or you need to refocus on your goals.
- Ritter A, Mellor R, Chalmers J, Sunderland M, Lancaster K. Key considerations in planning for substance use treatment: Estimating treatment need and demand. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Supplement. 2019;(s18):22-30. doi:10.15288/jsads.2019.s18.22
- LeTourneau JL, Hagg DS, Smith SM. Baclofen and gamma-hydroxybutyrate withdrawal. Neurocrit Care. 2008;8(3):430-433. doi:10.1007/s12028-008-9062-2
- Siefried KJ, Freeman G, Roberts DM, et al. Inpatient GHB withdrawal management in an inner-city hospital in Sydney, Australia: a retrospective medical record review. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2023;240(1):127-135. doi:10.1007/s00213-022-06283-6
- Tarter RE, Kirisci L, Ridenour T, Bogen D. Application of person-centered medicine in addiction. Int J Pers Cent Med. 2012;2(2):240-249.
- Carroll KM, Onken LS. Behavioral therapies for drug abuse. Am J Psychiatry. 2005;162(8):1452-1460. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.8.1452
- McHugh RK, Hearon BA, Otto MW. Cognitive behavioral therapy for substance use disorders. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2010;33(3):511-525. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.012
- McCarty D, Braude L, Lyman DR, et al. Substance abuse intensive outpatient programs: assessing the evidence. Psychiatr Serv. 2014;65(6):718-726. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201300249
- Laudet AB, Savage R, Mahmood D. Pathways to long-term recovery: a preliminary investigation. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2002;34(3):305-311. doi:10.1080/02791072.2002.10399968
- Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (third edition). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published January 2018. Accessed September 1, 2023.
- McKay JR. Continuing care research: what we have learned and where we are going. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2009;36(2):131-145. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2008.10.004
- Melemis SM. Relapse prevention and the five rules of recovery. Yale J Biol Med. 2015;88(3):325-332. Published September 3, 2015. Accessed September 1, 2023.
- Menon J, Kandasamy A. Relapse prevention. Indian J Psychiatry. 2018;60(Suppl 4):S473-S478. doi:10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_36_18