The Rise of GHB Use

in Addiction
Published Feb 26, 2021
ghb drugs

Gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, has become a popular drug. It is most known as a club drug or “date rape” drug. GHB has side effects that are dangerous and can be life-threatening.  Stopping the use of GHB can have uncomfortable, frightening, and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. If an individual wants to stop using GHB, it should always be done under medical supervision.

What Is GHB?

GHB is a central nervous system depressant commonly referred to as a “club drug” or “date rape” drug. It is used by young adults at bars, parties, clubs, and raves and is often consumed in alcoholic beverages. At low doses, GHB can produce effects of euphoria. However, high doses can cause blackouts and amnesia. GHB has also been assumed to have anabolic effects due to protein synthesis and has been used by bodybuilders for muscle building and reducing fat.

GHB is also a naturally occurring metabolite of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) found in the brain. The naturally-occurring metabolite GHB is present in much lower concentrations in the brain than those found in the drug. As a result of fermentation, natural GHB may also be found in small but insignificant quantities of some beers and wines.

In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory declaring GHB use unsafe and illegal except under FDA approved, physician-supervised protocols. In March 2000, GHB was placed in Schedule Ⅰ of the Controlled Substances Act. However, the sodium salt of GHB is used as a prescription drug known as Xyrem (sodium oxybate). In 2002, the FDA approved Xyrem for the treatment of narcolepsy. It is a highly regulated prescription medicine classified as a Schedule Ⅲ controlled substance and requires patient enrollment in a restricted access program.

GHB can be bought on the streets or over the Internet in liquid form or as a white powdered substance. Much of the GHB found on the streets and on the internet is produced in illegal and unregulated labs. GHB may be made with unknown contaminants, making its effects and hazardousness worse. GHB production usually involves the use of lye or drain cleaner mixed with GBL, a chemical cousin of GHB and an industrial solvent often used to strip floors.

Who Uses GHB?

In recent years, GHB has been making a comeback as a party drug, often used in nightclubs, raves, and various dance parties as an alternative to ecstasy. However, with social distancing requirements and government shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, party life has shut down. This has not stopped virtual raves from happening where an astounding number of participants are still engaging in illicit substance use from home.

Bodybuilders may also use GHB. The substance is shown to elevate human growth hormones significantly. Young men attempting to build muscle mass, and wanting to do so quickly, may use GHB to facilitate this process.

The Effects of GHB Use

Immediate effects of GHB use may include:

  • Sweating
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Exhaustion
  • Amnesia
  • Confusion


High doses of GHB may result in significant sedation, seizures, coma, severe respiratory depression, and death.

GHB and Alcohol

Many people mix GHB and alcohol. When the substances are combined, the sedative and depressant effects are amplified and a person may be more apt to fall victim to a crime like sexual assault or getting into an accident. They may be more prone to fall and become injured and more likely to act in a manner that is out of character.

Both alcohol and GHB act on parts of the brain that control movement and coordination, memory and decision-making abilities, and mood regulation. Levels of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and GABA, are elevated with the presence of these substances. High levels of dopamine in the brain can contribute to feelings of pleasure and intoxication. In contrast, elevated GABA levels suppress the “fight-or-flight” reaction and slow down central nervous system functions. When GHB and alcohol are mixed, all of these side effects are heightened and a person may become intoxicated faster and be more vulnerable to negative consequences as a result.

Vomiting is one of the most common side effects of mixing alcohol with GHB. The mixture of these two depressants can also lead to sedation, amnesia, and potentially life-threatening overdose. An overdose involving GHB and alcohol can cause a person to struggle to breathe, potentially resulting in respiratory failure, coma, or death. Additional symptoms of overdose can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lowered body temperature
  • Weak pulse and irregular heart rate
  • Extreme mental confusion
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness


If someone you know exhibits any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Stopping the Use of GHB

Stopping the use of GHB without medical assistance can be dangerous. Withdrawal from GHB can be severe and last up to two weeks. Symptoms of GHB withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Delirium
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Paranoia
  • Muscle cramps
  • Seizures


The severity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on how often individuals use GHB, how much they use it, and if they use it with other substances.

Despite the severity of withdrawal symptoms, there is hope to recover from GHB use. (add) Medical detox is essential for successful aftercare and recovery for patients struggling with GHB use. Individuals struggling with GHB use should talk to a medical professional. From there, finding the right detox center is the first step. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we implement The Gallus Method to ensure your safety and comfort during the detox process. There is dignity in healing.

Gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, has become a popular party drug. It is most known as a club drug or “date rape” drug. Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual raves are happening with an astounding amount of individuals using illicit substances at home. GHB has side effects that are dangerous and can have life-threatening consequences. Stopping the use of GHB should always be done in the presence of medical professionals. Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, frightening, and even fatal. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we use proprietary, evidence-based medical protocols that prioritize our patients’ comfort and safety to guide them through the detox process. We do this by implementing The Gallus Method, which includes IV therapy, cardiac and video monitoring, 24/7 medical staff, and more. To learn more about how to stop using GHB and step into the world of recovery, contact Gallus Medical Detox Centers today at (866) 296-5242.