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What is GHB & How is its Addiction Treated?

What is GHB?

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), a drug, best known in media as a, “date-rape” drug is a powerful drug, which even wipes out the memory to have taken it.

GHB has a nasty reputation as being used by partying young people. It is known to have a depressant effect on the central nervous system. In low doses, it gives the effects of a stimulant. People claim that it gives a relaxing effect of alcohol even without loss in coordination, slurred speech or hangover. In high doses, it can make a person unconscious within minutes.

What is GHB & How is its  Addiction Treated?

Like ecstasy, GHB is popular amongst the club-goers and in rave parties. It is colorless and odorless and can be easily mixed with alcohol and can be given to the victim. It can cause someone to black out totally.

Effects of GHB

GHB is safe and non-addictive if taken in small doses. However, studies show in high doses it is super addictive and has its own withdrawal symptoms. There are also chances of people dying from overdose (1).

The effects of GHB on the body are as follows:

  1. Memory lapse
  2. Dizziness
  3. Drowsiness
  4. Lowered temperature
  5. Clumsiness
  6. Nausea
  7. Lowered heart and pulse rate
  8. Heightened relaxation
  9. Extreme happiness
  10. Fewer inhibitions than normal
  11. Increase in sex drive
  12. Slowed breathing

The drug gives an effect within 10-20 minutes of consuming it and the effect lasts for 2 – 5 hours. This drug has caused many young people to need emergency medical care and is known to have killed more people than the ecstasy drug.

GHB Addiction

GHB is an addictive drug. When people start taking it for recreational purposes, gradually they find that they develop tolerance to and feel the need to take more of it to feel the effects.

The withdrawal symptoms of GHB Drug documented are:

Chronic use of GHB may induce a personality shift in a person making him suffer from unpredictable mood swings and erratic behavior. There will be a change in eating patterns, sleeping patterns, and physical appearance.

Treatment for GHB Addiction

Many people in the world are exposed to GHB, without even having knowledge of it. Repeated doses can be the start of dependence, and those who do not know they are taking it may feel the withdrawal of GHB without even realizing what they are missing.

GHB dependence can be best treated through a medical detox program. It is done in a specialized facility where the vital signs and mental health of the patient can be measured 24/7. The detox generally lasts for 3-5 days.

Benzodiazepine medicine is substituted for GHB, which is then gradually tapered off. This is done to manage and minimize the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and also to mitigate cravings.

After the detox, therapeutic and supportive care is given. There are counseling and therapy session, nutritional planning, exercise programs, support groups, life skill workshops, and educational programs which help a person come out of the addiction.

The program is individually designed for different individuals.

The Good Side of GHB

GHB has a good side too, that most of the people have not heard about.

  • In lower doses, it is an experimental treatment for narcolepsy, a deadly sleep disorder.
  • It is also an approved therapy for alcoholism in some countries.
  • GHB acts like methadone in heroin addicts and blocks the cravings.
  • It is also used for depression, weight loss, muscle building, and as a pain-relieving agent in fibromyalgia.
  • It is used by healthcare providers intravenously to numb pain and reduce pressure inside the head after head injury.

But all this is done in low managed doses, under supervision of a healthcare professional. Getting used to the high doses of drug is actually addiction and everyone should stay away from it.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 29, 2019

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