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GHB is also known as a party and a rape drug. Despite its growing popularity, many of the users remain unaware of its dangers, such as risky sexual behavior, cognitive impairment, and addiction. GHB overdose can also be fatal. However, this drug also has a variety of surprising medical uses.

Read on to learn more about the effects and health impacts of GHB.

Note: By writing this post, we are not recommending this drug. Some of our readers who were already taking the drug requested that we commission a post on it, and we are simply providing information that is available in the scientific literature. Please discuss your medications with your doctor.

What is GHB?

Gamma hydroxybutyrate — more commonly known as “GHB” — was first synthesized in 1960 by the French physician Dr. Henri Laborit [R, R].

Because of its ability to reduce or impair consciousness, it was first used as an anesthetic. However, it was abandoned because of its weak pain-killing (analgesic) effects and its tendency to cause seizures [R, R, R].

The drug later gained popularity as a bodybuilding supplement during the ‘80s and ‘90s due to its reported anabolic (muscle-building) effects. It also became a popular recreational drug as its euphoric effects become more widely known [R, R, R, R, R].

GHB affects a wide variety of biological functions such as sexual behavior and the sleep-wake cycle. The primary effects of GHB can range from mild relaxation to euphoria, but can also include negative effects such as amnesia, hallucinations, and even coma [R, R].

The effects vary from pleasant to dangerous or even life-threatening according to the dose [R, R, R].

This drug also has extremely high potential for abuse and addiction. In fact, GHB is considered by some to be even more of a public and personal danger than alcohol abuse [R, R, R].

Unfortunately, most users remain unaware of the dangers associated with GHB abuse, and this lack of public awareness has led to misconceptions that GHB is safe [R, R, R, R, R].

As a result, GHB has become a major cause of overdose-related emergency room visits worldwide [R].

Legality of GHB

Because of its high abuse potential, GHB is scheduled as an illegal drug in most western countries. It was prohibited in the US by the FDA in 1990, followed by bans on GHB’s alternative forms in 2000. Similar bans on GHB and its analogs were put into place throughout Europe during the late 2000s [R, R, R, R, R, R].

Nonetheless, it is still widely sold illegally by drug dealers across the world.

“Street names” of GHB include “Fantasy”, “G”, “Gamma Oh”, “Georgia Home Boy”, and “liquid ecstasy” or “liquid X” [R, R, R].

Who Uses GHB?

This drug is mostly used by young people at clubs and raves. Most users are young males in their 20’s and early 30’s [R, R, R, R].

GHB use is also prominent among the gay population, who often use it to enhance sexual desire and prolong performance [R, R, R].

Many users combine GHB with other drugs, which greatly increases its health risks. In fact, 70% of users have a prior history of drug abuse [R, R, R, R].

In recent years, rates of GHB use have been in slight decline, although this may simply be because some users are moving on to different club drugs such as MDMA (“ecstasy”) [R, R].

Nonetheless, GHB abuse is still a significant problem worldwide [R, R, R, R].

Natural Sources of GHB

GHB occurs naturally in the nervous system and can be found in trace amounts in the brains of humans and other mammals. It is produced from glutamate and is the precursor of GABA, a major inhibitory neurotransmitter [R, R].

Normally, natural (“endogenous”) GHB is not present in high enough amounts to have noticeable psychological effects; it is only when levels are greatly increased (i.e. by ingesting it) that it becomes a psychoactive compound [R].

GHB is also present in trace amounts in many alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, including tonic water and wine. However, its levels are so low that it has no significant psychological or physiological effects [R R].

Mechanisms of Action

GHB is a sedative-hypnotic drug that has a depressant (inhibitory) effect on the nervous and the respiratory system [R, R, R, R].

It is primarily a GABA receptor activator, meaning that it increases the amount of GABA-related activity throughout the brain [R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R].

GABA is a major neurotransmitter that is involved in a wide range of functions including vigilance, anxiety, muscle control, and memory. However, because GABA is inhibitory, this means that GHB effectively “shuts down” or impairs many of these processes [R, R].

GHB also affects other neurotransmitters, although these mechanisms are still being researched [R]:

  • Its positive effects, including relaxation and euphoria, may be caused by increased brain activity in the insula and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which are key parts of the brain networks involved in emotional experiences such as anxiety and pleasure [R].
  • Its mood-enhancing and pro-social effects may involve increased levels of oxytocin, commonly involved in social bonding in humans [R].
  • Elevated levels of progesterone, a hormone involved in sexual development and behavior, may also be involved in GHB’s pro-social effects [R].
  • It also reduces the release of the excitatory glutamate in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), a deep brain structure that distributes dopamine throughout the midbrain and cerebral cortex. This indirect effect on dopamine activity may account for some of GHB’s rewarding and addictive properties [R, R, R, R].

Some also suggest that GHB functions as a natural neurotransmitter with its own set of dedicated GHB receptors in the brain. However, this notion is still controversial with ambiguous evidence [R, R, R, R, R].

Positive Effects of GHB

The positive effects of GHB include:

  • Relaxation [R]
  • Euphoria and mood-enhancing effects [R, R, R, R]
  • Pro-social (empathogenic) effects [R, R]
  • Increased sexual desire [R, R]
  • Decreased inhibitions [R, R]
  • Decreased anxiety [R]
  • Heightened awareness of one’s body and sensations [R]
  • Increased intensity of emotions [R]

A study (RCT) in 16 healthy volunteers found that approximately 1.1–1.3 grams of liquid GHB produced euphoric, disinhibiting, and energetic effects [R].

However, a different study with 8 healthy volunteers who had never taken GHB before failed to find euphoria or other positive recreational effects at an even larger dose (approximately 1.5 grams) [R].

Findings such as these demonstrate just how difficult it can be to accurately estimate the size of a “recreational” GHB dose, as this can vary considerably from person to person.

Negative Effects of GHB

GHB comes with a large number of potential negative effects which can be life-threatening. In fact, the majority of recreational users consistently experience negative effects, though this often doesn’t prevent them from continuing to abuse GHB [R].

These potential adverse effects include:

  • Seizures [R, R, R]
  • Respiratory arrest [R]
  • Bradycardia (slowed heart rate) and potential cardiac arrest [R, R]
  • Confusion and disorientation [R, R]
  • Memory loss and amnesia (“blackouts”) [R, R]
  • Partial or total loss of consciousness [R, R, R, R, R, R]
  • Loss of motor coordination [R, R]
  • Uncontrollable muscle contraction / twitching (myoclonus) [R]
  • Dizziness [R, R]
  • Hypothermia [R]
  • Convulsions [R]
  • Coma [R, R]

GHB’s disorienting and consciousness-impairing effects can also lead to situational dangers such as robbery or sexual assault [R, R, R, R].

Amnesia, blackouts, and memory loss are extremely common side effects of GHB use and occur in nearly all GHB users [R, R, R].

The adverse effects of GHB are possible at any dosage and become more likely as the dose increases [R, R].

Dosing

Researchers have estimated that blood levels of about 100mg/L are enough to produce euphoric and other recreational effects, while death from respiratory arrest and other adverse effects become a major risk at levels of about 500mg/L [R, R].

In general, however, it is not possible to say exactly how much of the drug must be taken to reach a given blood concentration, for a couple reasons:

  • GHB has a “non-linear” dose-response relationship, with blood levels rising disproportionately as dose size increases. In other words, a dose that is twice as large may have effects that are more than twice as strong and a dose that even a little bit too large can quickly cause major negative effects [R, R, R].
  • Different people metabolize this drug at different rates, so a dose that is safe for one person may be quite dangerous for another [R, R].

What Happens After Taking GHB

GHB is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and readily crosses the blood-brain barrier. Its effects generally begin within about 30 minutes and reach their peak after approximately 60 minutes [R, R].

GHB highs usually last between 4 and 6 hours [R].

Men metabolize (break down) the drug more efficiently than women [R].

Whites may also metabolize it more quickly [R].

The majority of the drug is eliminated from the body within 4-8 hours by the liver [R, R].

Potential Medical Uses of GHB

GHB has been used for inducing “absence” (petit mal) seizures and as an anesthetic [R].

It has also been used to treat:

  • Alcoholism / Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome [R]
  • Opioid dependence [R, R]
  • Sleep disorders, particularly narcolepsy [R]

Some researchers have also identified this drug as a potential treatment in:

However, several of these uses have mixed evidence.

They are also unlikely to be widely adopted by clinicians because of GHB’s high abuse potential [R].

1) GHB and Sleep Disorders

GHB’s effectiveness in treating narcolepsy has been established in two DB-RCTs with a total of 248 subjects [R, R].

GHB also alleviates cataplexy, a relatively common symptom of narcolepsy involving the sudden loss of muscle control in response to intense emotions [R, R, R, R].

The effects increase with the dose. However, the relatively short life of the drug means that patients usually have to wake up during the night to re-administer a second dose [R, R].

Sodium oxybate (SO), the sodium salt version of GHB, increases slow-wave sleep duration and reduces the number of night-time awakenings in patients with narcolepsy. By improving sleep quality, SO helps narcolepsy patients function better throughout the day [R, R].

In addition, by helping to stabilize their sleep cycle, SO also alleviates depression symptoms in narcoleptic patients [R].

2) GHB and Alcoholism

GHB’s effects on the brain closely mimic those of alcohol. For this reason, it is sometimes used to treat alcohol withdrawal syndrome [R, R, R, R].

GHB reduces alcohol cravings and decreases relapse rates in alcohol-dependent patients (shown in a review of 13 clinical trials) [R, R].

GHB reduced the amount of alcohol consumed by alcohol-dependent rats after 14 days of forced abstinence, suggesting that GHB reduced their motivation for alcohol [R].

However, GHB’s high potential for abuse makes it less than ideal as an alcoholism treatment, and some researchers have argued that it should be avoided in favor of other, safer drugs such as benzodiazepines [R, R].

3) GHB and Fibromyalgia

GHB has occasionally been used to treat fibromyalgia [R]. However, the experimental support for this use is mixed.

On one hand, medical GHB (sodium oxybarate) improved symptoms of insomnia, fatigue, and chronic pain in patients with fibromyalgia in several clinical trials [R].

On the other hand, a more recent follow-up study (RCT) did not find any significant effect of GHB on pain, mood, or sleep in 25 female fibromyalgia patients [R].

Additionally, concerns about the drug’s high abuse potential mean that it is unlikely to meet the FDA’s strict safety requirements [R].

4) GHB and Depression

Because GHB can have euphoric and other mood-altering effects, some suggested that it may have future potential in helping treat the symptoms of depression [R, R, R].

Direct evidence for this comes primarily from studies showing that GHB can alleviate depression in patients suffering from sleep disturbances, which often worsen depression symptoms [R].

However, apart from this indirect effect, it is not clear whether GHB would be suitable for treating depression in general. Its ability to modulate the GABAergic system makes it a promising candidate, although much more research would be needed to confirm this [R].

Side Effects

When used under the supervision of clinicians, GHB does not appear to lead to addiction or withdrawal syndromes due to its tightly controlled dosage [R].

As a result, the risks of SO abuse during medical treatment are considerably lower than for illegal (recreational) GHB abuse [R, R, R].

Nonetheless, the majority of patients (61%) still report adverse side-effects over the course of medical treatment with GHB [R].

Potential side effects:

  • Gastrointestinal problems [R]
  • Dizziness [R, R, R]
  • Headaches [R, R, R]
  • Confusion [R]
  • Nausea [R, R]
  • Vomiting [R]
  • Excessive sleepiness [R, R]
  • Pain [R]

Negative side-effects also become more likely as the dose increases [R].

GHB and Bodybuilding

This drug became popular among bodybuilders in the 80s-90s, due to its reported anabolic (muscle-building) effects, and some athletes continue to use it in this way [R, R].

However, the evidence for GHB’s usefulness as a bodybuilding supplement is mixed.

Some evidence does support the idea that GHB increases the production of growth hormone (GH), a hormone that stimulates growth and regeneration.

For example, 14 patients given continuous intravenous GHB injections showed faster healing of burn wounds, possibly due to increased GH levels [R].

Relatedly, relatively small doses of GHB significantly increased GH levels in 11 out of 12 volunteers. However, this effect was short-lasting ( 90-120 minutes) [R].

Nonetheless, other studies have failed to find any significant influence of GHB on the levels of GH in humans [R].

GHB also does not appear to increase GH levels in mice. However, it did shift their energy metabolism from using sugars to using fats, suggesting a potential fat-burning effect [R].

In light of the ambiguous scientific findings, the short effect duration, and the many potential downsides of GHB use, it would be ill-advised to use this drug for anabolic purposes [R].

GHB and Sex

This drug has both positive and negative effects on sexuality and arousal in humans.

Recreational users of GHB report increased libido, sexual arousal, and sexual openness [R, R, R].

GHB also intensified the brain’s response to erotic stimuli when 32 healthy volunteers viewed erotic pictures [R].

Interestingly, GHB also tends to make the brain regions involved in sexual arousal activate in response to non-erotic pictures of people. This suggests that GHB impairs people’s ability to discriminate between erotic and non-erotic stimuli [R].

This finding is consistent with the fact that recreational GHB users frequently report a variety of negative sexual side-effects or consequences. For example, users are significantly more likely to engage in risky sexual activity when under the influence [R, R].

GHB users also report a lowering of standards when seeking or selecting sexual partners [R, R].

GHB’s ability to impair sexual decision-making contributes to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and GHB’s ability to energize sexual performance also increases the likelihood of physical injury during prolonged sexual activity [R, R].

Therefore, while GHB seems to enhance sexual reactivity and desire, it also impairs decision-making and often leads to dangerous or unwanted sexual encounters [R].

GHB and Date Rape

GHB is notorious for its supposed role in “date rape” – also known as Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault (DFSA) – where drugs are unknowingly given to potential victims to make them less capable of avoiding or resisting a sexual assault [R, R, R, R, R, R].

However, some public health researchers have argued that GHB’s reputation as a “date-rape” drug is unwarranted [R].

One argument is that many studies on date rape do not account for voluntary drug consumption, therefore biasing the crime statistics. For example, several large-scale studies have found that the majority of reported date rapes occur as a result of voluntary intoxication with alcohol and other drugs [R, R, R].

In fact only 0.2-4.4% of reported sexual assaults have involved the use of GHB [R].

In contrast, most sexual assaults are committed using drugs that are not commonly considered “date rape drugs” such as cannabinoids, cocaine, and amphetamines [R, R].

In light of findings such as these, some researchers have argued that GHB’s reputation as a “date-rape drug” may be greatly exaggerated due to sensationalism in the media [R].

GHB and Crime

While GHB has become widely associated with sexual assault, it is actually more commonly used to incapacitate or impair potential victims of “acquisitive crimes” such as theft, burglary, and robbery [R].

For example, one study found that among 408 cases of unintentional GHB intake, only 6.5% of victims suffered from sexual assault while 21.7% endured an acquisitive crime [R].

Similarly, a related study of 60 GHB users found that people who used GHB voluntarily were also two and a half times more likely to be the victim of an acquisitive crime than they were to be the victim of a sexual assault [R].

Adverse Effects

1) GHB Causes Oxidative Stress

One study has reported that GHB has an antioxidant effect, suggesting that GHB could have potential as a neuroprotective agent. However, these effects were only observed in cells [R].

In contrast, a number of studies in living animals suggest that GHB causes significant oxidative stress in the brain.

For example, a rat study found that GHB caused oxidative stress and decreased antioxidant levels in several key brain areas including the hippocampus, a brain structure critically involved in memory [R].

Another study found that the cognitive deficits caused by GHB in rats could be partially counteracted by pretreating the rats with antioxidants, such as melatonin [R, R].

Together, these studies suggest that oxidative stress is one of the primary ways that GHB causes damage to the brain.

2) GHB Causes Cognitive Impairments

GHB works in a similar way to ketamine, which is known to be neurotoxic in humans. For this reason, it is likely that it causes impairments to cognition and memory in human users that are similar to those caused by ketamine, and that these impairments become stronger with repeated use of the drug [R, R].

Several studies have found that GHB use leads to cognitive impairments in rats [R, R].

These include impaired spatial memory and learning, which may be caused by changes to the number of receptors in important brain areas such as the hippocampus [R, R, R].

GHB also reduces glutamate activity throughout the frontal cortex. Glutamate receptors are critical in forming new memories, and GHB may cause learning impairments by interfering with these processes [R].

In rats, long-term GHB use also reduces the production of important proteins involved in maintaining healthy cognitive function [R].

In fact, a follow-up study in rats found that even a single use of GHB can lead to long-term genetic changes that result in general cognitive impairments [R].

3) GHB Impairs Emotional Regulation and Social Behavior

GHB causes long-term deficits in social behavior in animals, possibly by interfering with the brain’s oxytocin system, which is critical in emotional bonding [R].

GHB also impairs fear-related learning and memory in rats, making them less able to remember which environmental cues signal potential danger [R].

GHB also impairs the startle reflex in rats, further suggestive of impaired emotional processing [R].

Taken together, these studies suggest that GHB may make users less sensitive to social signals of danger in their environment, and would also explain why GHB use is associated with increased likelihood of being the victim of a sexual assault or other crime [R].

GHB Addiction

GHB has high addictive potential in both humans and animals [R, R].

Several countries have reported that GHB addiction rates are rising [R, R, R].

GHB has reward-reinforcing properties in humans, which probably contribute to the development of addiction and dependence [R].

Baboons given free access to GBL and BD developed compulsive patterns of drug use, suggesting an addictive (reinforcing) effect [R].

Interestingly, baboons that chronically took GHB also showed reduced motivation to work for non-drug rewards (such as food), suggesting that GHB addiction may cause depression-like impairments in general motivation [R, R].

GHB addiction is associated with abnormalities in many neurotransmitter systems including GABA, glutamate, dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, choline, and oxytocin systems, although how each of these contribute to the different symptoms of GHB addiction is still being discovered [R, R].

The complexity of GHB addiction means that it cannot be treated with any one specific type of drug or therapy, making medical treatment difficult [R].

GHB Causes Dependence

GHB and its precursor drugs all cause dependence in habitual users [R].

Chronic use of GHB analogs GBL and BD causes dependence in baboons, and dependence can occur in as little as 3-4 weeks of use [R, R].

GHB Causes Tolerance

Repeated use of GHB can also lead to a tolerance for its effects, meaning that frequent users have to increase their dose over time in order to get high [R, R, R].

Interestingly, however, only some of GHB’s effects are subject to tolerance.

While chronic GHB users develop tolerance to the pleasurable sedative and hypnotic effects of GHB, the negative effects of GHB do not appear to decrease over time [R, R].

This means that as GHB users escalate their doses to keep getting high, they become more and more likely to suffer from its negative effects, which can result in life-threatening medical emergencies.

GHB Withdrawal

Repeated use of GHB can lead to a severe withdrawal syndrome when drug use is stopped [R, R].

For example, drug cessation causes withdrawal syndromes in baboons chronically administered with GBL, a “prodrug” of GHB [R].

Withdrawal symptoms can begin as quickly as 4 hours after the last dose has worn off, and may last anywhere between 3 and 21 days [R, R, R].

The GHB withdrawal syndrome is similar to that of alcohol and other sedative-hypnotic drugs, such as benzodiazepines [R, R].

It is severe enough to be considered a medical emergency, and can even result in death [R, R, R, R, R].

A German study found that one-third of GHB users had to seek help at a hospital concerning withdrawal symptoms [R].

The symptoms of GHB withdrawal include:

  • Drug craving [R]
  • Agitation [R, R]
  • Anxiety and restlessness [R, R, R]
  • Delusions and hallucinations [R, R, R]
  • Paranoia [R]
  • Confusion and disorientation [R]
  • Aggressive/violent outbursts [R]
  • Slowed movements and reflexes (psychomotor retardation) [R]
  • Motor tremors [R, R, R]
  • Dangerously elevated heart rate (tachycardia) [R, R]
  • Insomnia [R, R]
  • Seizures [R]
  • Psychosis-like syndromes [R]
  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension) [R, R]
  • Excessive sweating (diaphoresis) [R]

Importantly, the symptoms of GHB withdrawal are even more severe in users who abuse multiple drugs [R].

Managing GHB Addiction

GHB addiction and withdrawal can sometimes be managed by gradually tapering off drug use [R].

Withdrawal can also occasionally be managed with other drugs.

The most popular drugs for treating GHB withdrawal are benzodiazepines, with baclofen and propofol as common “second-line” (backup) treatments. These drugs are GABA receptor activators and therefore mimic some GHB’s effects without re-exposing users to the full effects of GHB itself [R, R, R, R].

Patients seeking help for GHB addiction are also sometimes put on antipsychotic and anticonvulsant medications to control the side-effects of withdrawal [R].

GHB Overdose

GHB overdose can be fatal, and GHB abuse is implicated in a rising number of deaths from overdose [R, R].

GHB overdose causes significant impairments of consciousness and carries a critical risk of respiratory arrest (cessation of breathing), the most common cause of overdose-related deaths [R, R, R].

Using GHB in the watchful company of friends may partially reduce the risk of overdosing on GHB [R].

However, uncertainties about the purity and potency of street GHB still leaves significant risk for accidental overdose and other dangers [R].

GHB Interactions

While GHB is already dangerous on its own, negative effects are even more likely when GHB is combined with other drugs such as alcohol [R, R].

GHB addiction and physical dependence also become much more severe when it is consumed with other drugs, such as alcohol and cocaine [R, R].

Most users of GHB who end up at the hospital (76%) have combined it with other drugs (alcohol, amphetamines, and cocaine being the most common) [R].

Among cases of death from GHB overdose, only 37% involved GHB alone. Most GHB deaths are due to mixing GHB with other drugs, with alcohol being the most common [R].

Benzodiazepines have a similar mechanism of action to GHB, and people who use one of these drugs often develop cross-tolerance for the other [R].

GHB Overdose Treatment

Currently, there are no known antidotes that can be administered to counteract GHB’s immediate effects, making medical treatment difficult [R].

Some emergency care physicians give benzodiazepines to overdosing patients, which can partially counteract some of GHB’s neurological effects [R].

Activated charcoal can sometimes be administered in an attempt to absorb some of the circulating GHB from the patient’s system. However, because of GHB’s rapid uptake in the body, it only works if the patient is treated very quickly after initial drug ingestion [R, R].

Oftentimes, the only practical option is to monitor the patient’s vital signs and make sure that their airways are kept clear to prevent death from the cessation of breathing or emesis (choking from vomit) [R, R].

GHB and Drug Testing

GHB levels are relatively easy to assess in drink samples. However, the fact that many common drinks, such as wine and tonic water, naturally contain some amount of GHB can make it difficult to know for sure if a drink was intentionally spiked by someone [R, R].

The rapid metabolism of GHB in the body also presents several additional challenges for forensic testing [R].

Because GHB is naturally found in the brain, it can be hard for biological tests to tell the difference between GHB made in the body and externally-administered GHB [R, R, R].

Forensic investigation of GHB use is also made difficult by the fact that it often causes memory loss and unconsciousness. This means that victims may not become aware that they have been dosed until after the drug has already completely passed out of their body [R].

Together, all of these complicating factors can make it very difficult for medical and forensic specialists to detect GHB use [R].

Because of these limitations, many researchers urge anyone who suspects that they have been secretly dosed with GHB to seek medical care as soon as possible [R, R, R, R].

Detecting GHB Use

In theory, GHB use can be detected in saliva, urine, and hair [R, R, R, R, R, R].

However, many of these methods are only reliable for a short time before the drug becomes undetectable [R, R].

Another major problem is that most of these tests aren’t sensitive enough to detect a single GHB exposure, such as in cases of date rape [R].

Because of the many limitations of current screening techniques, researchers are actively developing alternative methods for detecting GHB exposure.

However, many of these new methods are still in the early stages of development and are not yet efficient or reliable enough for widespread use [R, R, R].

GHB Alternatives: Xyrem, GBL, and BD

Xyrem (sodium oxybarate) is an alternative form of GHB, which is used medically to treat narcolepsy and cataplexy [R].

Because it is essentially identical to GHB, the prescription and use of Xyrem is very tightly controlled in order to prevent abuse [R, R].

GHB also has a number of precursor drugs, such as gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4-butanediol (BD). GBL and BD are “prodrugs” of GHB, and increase GHB in the human body [R, R, R, R].

Once ingested, GBL and BD are converted into GHB within minutes [R].

After GHB was banned in 1990, GBL and BD became widely used as substitute drugs, in large part because they were less tightly regulated [R, R, R, R, R].

Because of the prevalence of these precursor drugs, recreational users often don’t know what they are taking. A 2006 analysis of drugs seized by the police found that only 38% of the drugs being sold as GHB were genuine; the other 62% were actually GBL. This suggests that these drugs are commonly misidentified or misrepresented by sellers or users [R].

Differences Between GHB, GBL, and BD

The effects of GBL and BD are essentially identical to those of regular GHB [R, R].

For this reason, they are also believed to be equally as dangerous, addictive, and toxic. However, some evidence suggests that GBL and BD may even be slightly more dangerous than regular GHB [R, R].

A study in baboons found that GBL and BD are absorbed more quickly than regular GHB. This causes blood levels to spike higher and faster compared to when regular GHB is taken on its own [R].

This means that it may be more difficult to predict the effects of these drugs and that they might also be more likely to cause accidental overdoses.

GBL and BD also appear to cause behavioral impairments at relatively smaller doses than regular GHB, suggesting a higher likelihood of negative effects when taken recreationally [R].

On the other hand, mice develop tolerance more slowly for GBL or BD than for regular GHB, which may slightly decrease the likelihood of developing a dependence on these versions of the drug [R].

User Experiences

“I like how GHB can open things up [emotionally]; it occurs to me that it has the slightly fake quality of the similar opening-up that I get from MDMA, but I decide that’s OK, this feels good anyway.

“I have had a number of positive ‘experiments’ with this drug. For example one night I decided to introduce it to a friend. […] we both agreed that it had been a joyful and nice experiment, when we talked about the day after. And we both came a lot closer to each other, because of the lack of [emotional] barriers.”

“So one night were out at my friend’s house and his girl says hey want a shot of juice? I was like, what’s juice? She says ya know GHB. It’s like drinkin’ a bunch of beers in one shot. I said sure why not. Well a cap-full later I was in lala land! WOW I felt great it was pretty amazing stuff, but another girl there was being carried around and almost passed out and it kinda freaked me out. Nonetheless I felt incredible like I could kick anyone’s ass and bang any chick I wanted to. But I definitely saw the potential for trouble with this stuff. Not knowing much about it only ever tried it once more and haven’t since. But it sure was fun!”

I had heard of a few GHB trips that resulted in complete freak-outs, although I had never seen any myself. […] a trip I recently witnessed was no exception. The only way I can accurately describe what I saw, is to relate it to something I have seen in a documentary on voodoo where the individual possessed by a spirit behaved in a similar fashion. It is really something you have to see to believe.

“Within 15 min my breathing had become extremely labored […] I awoke to the interior of an ambulance with its medics asking me the typical what’s your name type questions… That was about the only memory I had from the whole hospital experience. […] The weirdest side effect I remember having was hallucinations of scorpions and other bugs, small but very real to me.”

“I was fine for a while, but after about 30 mins, I was sitting on a couch and I started getting crazy visuals … and was finding them very enjoyable. Then I tried to stand up and I couldn’t keep balance, so I sat back down. Then a couple of my sober friends saw that I was in trouble and started to carry me out. I was vomiting violently by this point, and later found out most of what came up was blood, not vomit. […] I will never touch GHB again.

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7 COMMENTS

  • Axel

    U stated that the harm caused by ghb is similar to the harm caused by ketamine (glutamate excitotoxicity and oxidative stress i’m guessing). Now given this article (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9408919) that shows how ketamines toxicity can be prevented by co-ingesting a 5ht-2a receptor agonist (like lsd), would u say that the same thing would work for g? That co-ingesting ghb with lsd would prevent ghbs toxicity?
    thx
    kind regards

  • Anthony

    Your sentiment about ketamine being a neurotoxin is wrong. It actually possesses the power to regrow brain cells. Maybe time to review the literature. Or at a minimum talk about at what amounts it becomes neurotoxic rather than a blanket generalization.

  • Marshall

    This is terrible. I can’t believe you’re promoting the use of a date rape drug!

  • Eelia

    Without Xyrem I am not sure if I could be as active as I am today. I didn’t quit understand what was happening to me sometimes walking my dog I would just collapse for no apparent reason. I started getting injured and I almost killed my daughter and I driving. Once they confirmed that I did have Narcolepsy with cataplexy my doctor took my license away and started to treat me with Xyrem. I also was diagnosed years before with FMS and CFS I would say that the fact that I am able to sleep now has reduced my pain and slightly increase my energy enough walk my dog without a major fear of having a cataplexy attack in some random place! Also I recently got my drivers license back. I actually also implemented the stuff I found on self hacked regarding circadian rhythm reset sunshine, exercise diet and supplements through my current nuerologist. I really appreciate this information, it never clicked to me it was ever a street drug makes me want to stop it.

  • Deb

    Very good article. Thanks for including how it can help those with narcolepsy/cataplexy. It gave me back my life as I am now able to function as an almost normal person.

  • Bianca Hyde

    Hi there. I believe it’s “Sodium Oxybate” (Zyrem), not “Sodium Oxybarate”. I am a narcoleptic. Meanwhile, Love the info.

    1. Helen

      Hi, thanks for the correction. We’ve fixed this mistake in the article.

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