Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a neurotransmitter naturally found in the brain, as well as a synthetic drug that depresses the central nervous system. In the medical field, GHB has been used for general anesthesia and to treat alcoholism, narcolepsy, and cataplexy. It’s not generally used as anesthesia anymore, as other anesthetics perform much better.
Due to its sedative effects, GHB has also been used as the ‘date rape’ drug. It is usually slipped into alcoholic drinks, and victims can become incapacitated and unable to resist a sexual attack.
Other illegal uses include athletes using GBH to better their performance, increase sex drive, and increase feelings of peace or euphoria.
Teens also abuse the drug at all night “rave” parties. GHB has a half-life range from 30 to 60 minutes and can become addictive if used repeatedly. When mixed with alcohol, the effects can induce vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, and sweating.
Individuals wishing to detox from GHB should consult with their physicians for a medical assessment. Chronic use of the drug can result in severe withdrawal symptoms and may require close medical supervision. Because the drug acts differently from individual to individual, the withdrawal symptoms may vary as well. Other factors, such as the use of alcohol, daily dosage of GHB, and other psychiatric illnesses can affect the severity of GHB withdrawal. Common withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:
The withdrawal timeline for those wishing to end their dependency on GHB depends on several factors, such as:
GHB is rapidly metabolized, so someone who has been abusing the drug may begin to feel withdrawal symptoms within a few hours. The general GHB withdrawal timeline is as follows:
The first signs of withdrawal can begin to appear within the first few hours after taking the last dosage. These withdrawal symptoms can include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and sweats. In some individuals, withdrawal symptoms may take up to 24 hours to appear.
Peak withdrawal symptoms will begin to appear within one to six days from the last dosage. A progressive change in symptoms includes severe anxiety, panic attacks, restlessness and insomnia, sweating, tremors, and hypertension. During this peak time, it is vitally important to monitor these withdrawal symptoms and seek immediate medical attention as individuals can enter a psychotic state, have severe hallucinations and become delirious.
Withdrawal symptoms can last a week or two depending on the factors mentioned above. In some instances, symptoms can linger on for a few months, including depression, anxiety, confusion, and insomnia.
Most people can safely get through GHB withdrawal symptoms within a couple of weeks, though medical monitoring is recommended for the safest detox. Note that seizures could occur any time during the withdrawal process, and these seizures could be fatal. This is the primary reason why physician supervision is so important.
GHB chemically alters the brain, and due to the addictive nature of the drug, the brain grows to rely on the drug. Because GHB slows the brains activity when going off the drug abruptly or “cold turkey,” the brain is suddenly flooded with held-back functions. This attempt to suddenly quit is dangerous both physically and psychologically that can lead to life-threatening seizures and severe hallucinations.
Individuals mixing GHB with alcohol or other drugs can experience delirium tremens, which can be potentially fatal as well. In addition, psychological withdrawal symptoms tend to last longer than the physical symptoms.
Individuals may experience an intense outburst of anger, agitation and irritability, psychosis and hallucinations, and show signs of extreme paranoia lasting from two to four days. Detoxing under the care of substance abuse professionals is necessary to safely rid the body of the drug and receive psychological support to contend with the emotional and mental withdrawal symptoms.
The GHB detox process can be an uncomfortable one. Medical detox is simply the first step toward addiction recovery. The next treatment step beyond detox is to follow up with a long-term treatment program at either an inpatient or outpatient rehab program.
Inpatient Treatment – This form of treatment is where an individual resides at the facility for a certain length of time in order to receive professional care from addiction recovery experts.
Some opt to attend treatment for 30, 60, or 90 days, depending on their particular needs and desires. Longer treatment is available if necessary.
Outpatient Treatment – For those who cannot leave home and live at a treatment facility, outpatient treatment is recommended. With outpatient treatment, an individual can attend local sessions at the facility and return home after each session. Typically, one will attend between three to seven sessions per week and decrease the number over time.
Both types of treatment usually involve therapeutic modalities like:
Whether inpatient or outpatient is right for you may depend on your particular needs, the severity of GHB addiction, mental or emotional health, or whether other drugs are being abused as well.
Continued use of GHB is very dangerous, as debilitating psychological and physical issues can arise – even death. If you or a loved one is struggling with GHB addiction, please reach out to us and allow us to discuss with you how a supervised medical detox can help provide the support you need to get free in a safe way. Freedom from addiction is possible, so please take your first step today toward your freedom by giving us a call.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/ghb.pdf
National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIDA Community Drug Alert Bulletin – Club Drugs from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/publications/nida-community-drug-alert-bulletin-club-drugs/gamma-hydroxybutyrate-ghb
(Retrieved March 2019) Project GHB. Could you be addicted to GHB? If so, you are NOT alone! from http://www.projectghb.org/ghb-addiction