What is GHB?
GHB or Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate affects the dopamine production of the brain in a similar way to other sedative drugs such as alcohol and benzodiazepines. Taking this drug actually affects several different neural pathways at once, including one which regulates growth hormones.
People generally use GHB to feel more relaxed, less inhibited and less anxious so it is often used in social settings and at parties. It is also reported to be used by body builders because of the way it synthesises protein and helps to build muscle and reduce fat.
GHB is a colourless and odourless substance which has also been tagged a date rape drug as it can often immobilise the person who has ingested it and render them unable to defend themselves. It is also frequently reported that people using GBH suffer from black outs and memory loss.
GHB is sold over the internet as a powder or a liquid. It has usually been produced in illegal laboratories with no chemical quality control. The production of GBH involves the use of lye or drain cleaner mixed with GBL, a chemical cousin of GBH, and an industrial solvent often used to strip floors.
GHB is also produced by pharmaceutical companies with the brand name Xyrem and can be used in the treatment of narcolepsy.
Street Names for GHN
GHB is known by many different names on the street depending on the location and age group of the users.
- Grievous Bodily Harm
- Cherry Meth
- Liquid X
- Liquid ecstasy
- Liquid G
History of GHB
GHB was originally synthesized in 1960 in France as a possible anaesthetic. By the end of the decade, doctors had abandoned its use for this purpose because of its poor analgesic effects. In 1963 scientists discovered that it was in fact a naturally occurring chemical in the human brain.
During the 1970’s it was touted as a treatment for narcolepsy but proved unpopular here too because of its euphoric side effects. It was then marketed as a fat burner and muscle developer in the 1980’s before being banned. During the latter half of this decade it became popular on the clubbing scene.
What are the effects of GHB addiction?
When GHB is taken its effects can be felt anywhere between 15 minutes and one hour. The high lasts for between three to six hours depending on the tolerance of the user and the strength of the dose taken.
As with many substances classed as ‘party drugs’ people can be unaware of their potentially addictive qualities. Users of this drug can develop both tolerance and dependency which are two hallmarks of addiction. Daily users can find that they must use every 3 to 4 hours just to feel alright.
Every addict’s path into addiction varies. This is a complex disease with many underlying layers which coupled together with trauma, abuse, depression and anxiety make it difficult to diagnose and treat without effective residential addiction treatment.
GHB can cause a wide variety of consequences and this is an area which is still currently being researched.
- Muscle Pain
- Respiratory depression
- Cardiovascular collapse
- Changes in the brain chemistry – short term
- Changes in the structure and function of the brain – long term
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Disturbed sleep
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lying to yourself/denial
- Memory loss
- Mood Swings
- Potential increase in risky behaviour
- Financial problems
- Sexual problems
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Lack of interest in work/school
- Lack of interest and ability in maintain relationships/friendships
- Damaged relationships with family members
- Lying to others
- Damaged self-esteem and self-worth
- Damaged relationship with self
- Lack of interest in life
- Inability to function without the drug
- Continued use despite negative consequences
The signs and symptoms of GHB addiction get progressively worse over time and there will be no resolution until effective addiction treatment and aftercare are sought.
Withdrawal from GHB
Withdrawal from GHB can be very debilitating, something that you would not expect from a self-classified ‘party drug’. The severity of the detox depends on the length of time that the drug has been used for, the frequency of use and the general health of the user.
Acute symptoms can persist for 7 to 14 days and may include:
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Bone and muscle aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain
The Two Stages of Withdrawal – Acute and Post-Acute
There are potentially two stages of withdrawal from GHB addiction. The first stage has immediate acute symptoms and these are usually both physical and psychological. During stage two, former users experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS.
These refer to a number of psychological symptoms which can last for weeks or months after the user has stopped taking the drug. This is one of many reasons why residential treatment is the most effective way to treat GHB addiction.
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Anger or emotional outbursts