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Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is an illicit chemical that has become a major cause of drug-related comas in the US and other countries. In fact, the number of GHB overdoses in the United States has now out-paced overdoses from MDMA (Ecstasy). GHB was rejected by the American medical community in the 1960s, but has become popular among many people for its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier freely and depress consciousness, resulting in euphoria and intoxication. It is also touted on the Internet as a sleep aid, an anti-depressant and weight loss product, although these uses are not substantiated by reality and may carry a potentially deadly twist. Starting first as an alternative to steroids in the late 1980s, when steroids were being controlled, GHB has grown into a multi-headed medical nightmare, draining emergency room services, shattering the lives of those who have lost loved ones to it, and terrifying families/friends of those addicted to it. Yet it is still a mystery to most law enforcement officers, medical/coroner personnel, and parents.


GHB was first synthesized in France more than 40 years ago as a possible anesthetic, but because of its undesirable side effects was rejected by the American medical community. Its legal use anywhere is dwindling as countries are beginning to recognize the problems. GHB resurfaced in 1987 as an orphan drug being researched to treat the combination of sleep disorders known as narcolepsy/cataplexy. At about the same time, steroid users were told that it might enhance the body’s production of growth hormone (in deep sleep state). However, due to growing numbers of overdoses, it was ordered off the shelves of stores in November 1990. Unfortunately, it has gained status as a recreational drug and as a rape drug, and has become dangerously common. As a result of increased restrictions on GHB itself, its “analogs,” or chemical cousins that turn into GHB in the body, have become increasingly prevalent.


GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyrate) usually comes as an odorless liquid, slightly salty to the taste, and sold in small bottles. It has also been found in powder and capsule form.

It is classified as a sedative-hypnotic, and was originally developed as a sleep-aid.

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) has been abused in the U.S. for euphoric, sedative, and anabolic (body-building) effects. GHB use associated with sexual assault.


Lower doses of GHB have a euphoric effect similar to alcohol and can make the user feel relaxed, happy and sociable. Higher doses can make the user feel dizzy and sleepy and can sometimes cause vomiting, muscle spasms and loss of consciousness. Overdoses will always cause loss of consciousness (temporary coma) and will slow down breathing. Sometimes, and particularly if mixed with alcohol, GHB can slow breathing down to a dangerously low rate, which has caused a number of deaths. Coma and seizures can occur following abuse of GHB and, when combined with methamphetamine, there appears to be an increased risk of seizure. Combining use with other drugs such as alcohol can result in nausea and difficulty breathing. GHB may also produce withdrawal effects, including insomnia, anxiety, tremors, and sweating. Repeated use can lead to addiction and tough withdrawal.

GHB’s depressant effects on the brain in low doses produce a high or euphoric feeling as inhibitions are depressed. When the dose is increased, profound coma results. The heart rate may also be depressed or slowed. Effects on the nervous system may result in a spasm of muscle contractions called myoclonus, producing seizure-like movements. Other effects such as confusion, amnesia, vomiting and irregular breathing are dangerous when combined with the major depressant effects of GHB. Other drugs in combination with GHB, especially other depressants such as alcohol, may worsen the depressive effects and increase the possibility of a fatal outcome. The “desired” effects for GHB in low doses may sound inviting, but the consequence of the wrong dose may be death. The dosage response of GHB is quite steep, meaning that a tiny increase in dose may cause a dramatic increase in symptoms and, thus, in risk. Variable effects mean that a teaspoon might be perfect one time, but may become an overdose the next time! It is also important to be aware of the consequences that occur when GHB is mixed with other chemicals. For instance, mixing GHB with alcohol or other depressants is even more likely to result in death. The effects last about four hours and can resolve quite suddenly.



GHB’s street names include "G," Liquid Ecstasy, Georgia Home Boy, Grievous Bodily Harm, Gamma G, Somatomax, Growth Hormone Booster,Soap and Easy Lay.

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