What is GHB?

Originally developed as an anaesthetic, GHB is a naturally occurring 4-carbon molecule sold in powdered, liquid or capsule form. It’s chemical name is gamma-hydroxybutyerate. On the street, GHB can be known as: G, Liquid X, Liquid E, Scoop, Soap, Gook, Grievous Bodily Harm, Georgia Home Boy, Natural Sleep-500, Easy Lay or Gamma 10. It is usually tasteless, but may be recognised at times by a slight salty taste.

GHB was formerly sold by health-food stores and gyms as a sleep aid, anabolic agent, fat burner, enhancer of muscle definition and natural psychedelic.

In the last few years it has been gaining popularity as a recreational drug offering an alcohol-like, hangover free high with possible prosexual effects (disinhibition often occurs and inhibitions are suppressed).

Dangerous effects

GHB side-effects are usually felt within 5 to 20 minutes after ingestion and they usually last two to three hours. The side-effects are:

  1. abrupt, intense drowsiness
  2. decreased body temperature
  3. vomiting
  4. slower, deep breathing
  5. giddiness, silliness and dizziness
  6. temporary amnesia
  7. interference with mobility and verbal coherence
  8. diarrhoea
  9. semi-consciousness
  10. seizure
  11. decreased heart rate
  12. coma
  13. sleep-walking
  14. death

The effects of GHB are unpredictable and very dose-dependent. Sleep paralysis, agitation, delusions and hallucination have all been reported. Other effects include excessive salivation, decreased gag reflex and vomiting in 30 to 50 percent of users. Dizziness may occur for up to two weeks post ingestion.

Coma and seizures can occur following abuse of GHB and, when it’s 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. GHB can cause severe reactions when combined with alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates, anticonvulsants and allergy remedies.

Date-rape drugs

Rohypnol and GHB are a concern because of their abuses as ‘date rape’ drugs. People may unknowingly be given the drug which, when mixed with alcohol, can incapacitate a victim and prevent them from resisting sexual assault. Within a few moments of having GHB slipped into their drink (usually alcohol), the victim will appear drunk and helpless. In most date rape cases, the perpetrator will become a good Samaritan and offer to escort the victim home. When the victim regains consciousness, he or she has no memory of the events.

How do I get help for myself or my loved one?

The first step in getting help is finding out whether you have a problem. A trained clinical psychologist can effectively perform a professional assessment, which will identify whether you have any problem areas, and will recommend the treatment most appropriate for you if necessary.

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