Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is commonly known as the “club drug,” but it also can be used for muscle-building purposes. There are a number of street or slang terms for GHB, including cherry meth, blue nitro, firewater, everclear, liquid ecstasy, liquid E, nature’s Quaalude, soap, scoopy, vita-G, somatomax PM, wolfies and zonked.
In March of 2000, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration made GHB a Schedule I drug. This means the drug has no known medical uses and is highly prone to abuse. There are five drug Schedules that exist; Schedule I drugs being the most severe and addictive. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Doctors first synthesized GHB in 1960, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This drug is available in the form of a liquid, powder or pill. Although GHB is a Schedule I drug, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has approved it for some medical uses. These include in the treatment of narcolepsy (uncontrolled sleeping) and cataplexy, a condition that causes sudden-onset muscle weakness and muscle paralysis. This medicine is called Xyrem, and is rarely prescribed. Xyrem is a Schedule III drug, however, it converts to a Schedule I drug when sold on the street. Xyrem should only be used under FDA-approved protocols. The drug is not available through retail pharmacies, therefore, patients must enroll in a restricted-access program in order to obtain a prescription.
Users frequently combine GHB with alcohol as a means to intensify their high. Both substances can have effects on the central nervous system similar to those of depressants, which can have a troubling impact a person’s ability to breathe.
GHB is often referred to as the “date rape drug.” It is odorless and clear, making it easy to slip into someone’s drink or food without them knowing. Only a small amount of GHB is needed to cause a person to forget the night’s events, and even lose consciousness. For this reason, people are cautioned not to accept drinks from others and to never leave their drink unattended.
Because GHB causes relaxation and the loss of inhibitions, the “club drug” is popular at dance nightclubs and electronic music festivals to increase feelings of euphoria. According to Kansas State University, consuming less than 1 gram of GHB is associated with reduced inhibitions.
A 2011 study in “The American Journal of Emergency Medicine” reviewed 226 deaths that were associated with GHB use. Of these deaths, 213 were linked to cardiorespiratory arrest and 13 were due to fatal accidents that occurred while using the drug. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has reported 3,500 GHB related overdoses since 1992.
The effects of GHB depend upon its dosage. When taking a small amount, the drug offers a stimulant effect. In higher dosages, the drug serves as an intoxicant, causing drowsiness and short-term memory loss. Athletes have been known to use GHB because of the influence it has on the human growth hormone, causing an increase in muscle mass. Prior to 1990, the drug was sold as a bodybuilding drug in health food stores.
It typically takes 10 to 20 minutes for the effects of GHB to onset. These effects include:
Little information about the addictive nature of club drugs or their long-term health effects is available, as they tend to be newer drugs.
Withdrawal symptoms associated with GHB include, difficulty sleeping, insomnia and anxiety. These symptoms resolve in anywhere from 3 to 21 days, according to the University of Alberta. According to Drugs.com, there are no FDA-approved drugs used to treat GHB addiction. However, Baclofen, a medication used to treat seizures, has been used to treat GHB withdrawals.
Chronic GHB abusers may benefit from inpatient rehabilitation programs or hospitalization for 7 to 14 days, according to Drugs.com. In addition to administering medications to reduce withdrawal effects during detox, counseling and behavioral therapies have been shown to benefit individuals addicted to club drugs, such as GHB.
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