GHB, or gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid is a substance that is naturally produced in the human body, as well as in some animal species. It is a central nervous system depressant that assists with sleep and proper sleep patterns. Thus, it is also used for legitimate medical reasons to help people suffering from narcolepsy and other related sleep disorders. GHB can be found in some foods and wine as well. As an illicit street drug, it is banned in several countries, including the U.S. Since GHB is a depressant, it is used in order to feel relaxed, euphoric, and less inhibited, and is often associated with the club scene, similar to ecstasy and other designer drugs.
GHB goes by several street names that play on both the drugs initials and the effects it has on a person. These include G, Liquid G, Liquid X, Liquid E, Georgia Home Boy, Juice, Mils, and Fantasy. Street names are common for illicit drugs and even prescription drugs that are used recreationally.
GHB is available in many forms, which makes it that much more dangerous when it comes to the drug being used for illicit purposes. This allows abusers to choose how they would like to take the drug, which may mirror how they used other drugs in the past. Certain drugs, like marijuana, have been referred to as “gateway drugs” for many years, meaning once someone smokes pot they are apt to move onto other, harder drugs, but in general, once a person has used any substance recreationally the chances of them trying another drug increases greatly. GHB can be found in tablet or capsule form, as well as diluted in a liquid or as a white powder. GHB for recreational use is often produced in home “labs”, similar to crystal meth, and sadly kits for making the drug are available for purchase online. Like many illicit drugs that are produced by combining substances in a process or recipe or cut in order to increase the volume of how much product dealers have to sell, GHB is made using ingredients like potassium hydroxide, which can be found in household products like floor strippers and drain cleaners. Two items most people would not be willing to put in their bodies if they were aware that they were in something they were about to ingest.
In all of its forms, GHB is taken orally and alone has a salty taste, which is not overwhelming and can be easily masked by taking in a flavored drink. The powder or liquid forms can be taken straight, but more typically are added to alcohol for recreational use and non-alcoholic drinks when used for performance purposes by athletes. Athletes, especially males, have used the drug as it can increase the production of HGH (Human Growth Hormone), in some cases doubling the secretion level. Recreationally, the drug is popular with club-goers, and is touted as enhancing the overall experience of a night of partying. Although distinctly different in chemical makeup, GHB is referred to as liquid ecstasy for its similarities in producing a euphoric effect as well as being an aphrodisiac. The feelings of inhibition the drug is known for are exactly the type of high club and rave fans are looking to experience. Like ecstasy, GHB’s popularity is driven in part because it is not heroin or cocaine, drugs that come with stigmas and long histories of negative press.
As if illicit use as a performance enhancer and aphrodisiac weren’t bad enough, GHB has an even darker side, and that is when it is used as a date rape drug. The fact that the drug is odorless and has an easy to cover taste is a benefit for users, but makes it an easy substance to slip into a drink without the person realizing that something has been added. Over the last decade and a half there have been high profile cases in the United States pointing to GHB as the drug used in a date rape case, however, overall, it is hard to prove its use as it does not usually appear in a urine sample given a day or more later than when the drug was ingested.
There are short term effects both sought after and desired by users and those that most abusers would like to avoid. When used in what would be considered a proper dose, the drug is relaxing and can relieve minor anxiety. However, when the drug is combined with other substances, such as alcohol, which not uncommon during recreational use, individuals can experience nausea, vomiting, interrupted sleep, and spasms or loss of muscle control. Higher doses, like those used in date rape situations, can cause blackouts, loss of memory, and other mental effects, resulting in the victim not being able to recall the events that transpired immediately or sometimes at all.
First and foremost, the long term effects of using GHB habitually include addiction. In the most black and white way, the only end to someone’s addiction to drugs or alcohol is rehabilitation or death. This may seem harsh, but that is very much the reality of drug and alcohol abuse. A person can have a minor overdose, which leads to severe, acute health issues, but they then can decide whether it’s time to quit and seek help or to go back to using their drug of choice. When someone uses GHB regularly, and ultimately begins to build up a tolerance to the substance, they will increase the dose they take in order to experience the same effect from the drug. As an individual increases the dose they take, since GHB is a depressant, they will experience an increase in sleepiness, and if use continues, possible coma and death. Less serious long term effects can include slurred speech, difficulty forming coherent thoughts, hallucinations, mild to severe headaches, and amnesia.
Rehabilitation centers are equipped to help people who have become addicted to GHB. As is the course of action with many drugs addictions, people who successfully go through detox, rehabilitation, and move onto addiction aftercare can return to a positive and productive life with drug abuse in their past. Relapse is an issue for anyone trying to remain clean and sober and it is no different with people recovering from GHB abuse. Building a support system that can assist you in times of weakness can be a key to remaining drug free. Finding support groups to help with this effort, like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a great place to start and interact with people who have gone through many of the same trials as you.
GHB is a Schedule I drug in the United States that should only be used for legitimate medical reasons, which are specific and limited. It should not be used for performance enhancement or recreational purposes, even in low doses. Overdoses that result in death are not common, bur certainly possible. If you or someone you know has been using GHB and needs help, call a drug rehab center for information immediately.
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