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Primer: GHB, a Club Drug

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) is a fast-acting drug. It’s a depressant that impairs the central nervous system. It was once sold as a food supplement. But it is now known as a club drug. It’s popular among teens attending all-night dance parties, or raves.

GHB was first used as an anesthetic in the 1960s. Later it was sold in health food stores as a performance enhancer for bodybuilders. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned GHB in 1990. It is now a Schedule I controlled substance.

GHB produces a feeling of euphoria and hallucinations. It’s often made in secret labs with low-cost ingredients. It's usually sold as a liquid by the dose (a capful from a bottle or drops). In some cities, GHB is put into water guns and users buy it by the squirt. In other instances, candy, such as a lollipop, is dipped in GHB and sold.

Among users, GHB has many names. They include:

  • Liquid Ecstasy

  • Grievous Bodily Harm

  • Georgia Home Boy

  • Liquid X

  • Liquid E

  • Soap

  • Scoop

  • Easy Lay

  • Salty Water

  • G-Riffick

  • Cherry Meth

  • Nature’s Quaalude

  • Zonked

  • Organic Quaalude

  • G

  • Jib

  • Woman’s Viagra

GHB’s effects on the body

GHB is addictive. It’s hard to predict a person’s reaction to it. The purity and strength of doses vary. In general, a user starts to feel the drug 15 to 30 minutes after taking it. Those feelings may last 3 to 6 hours.

GHB’s high is similar to alcohol. Taking less than 1 gram makes a person feel relaxed and reduces inhibitions. At 1 to 2 grams, heart rate and breathing slow down. Balance and coordination are affected, too. GHB may also cause vomiting, high blood pressure, mood swings, violent behavior, and vertigo.

At higher doses, coordination and speech are strongly impaired. The person may drift into a coma-like sleep. Its effects are stronger when combined with alcohol. Its withdrawal symptoms include sweating, insomnia, muscle cramping, tremors, and anxiety. Excessive use can also lead to breathing problems, tremors, and death. An overdose can occur within minutes.

GHB is considered a “date-rape” drug. It is odorless, colorless, and nearly tasteless. It has a slightly salty taste. It can be easily slipped into drinks. It can make a person feel less inhibited and increase sexual feelings. It can also cause amnesia. An unsuspecting user may not be able to resist a sexual assault. No tests are available to spot GHB use so many GHB incidents go undetected.

Take action

A GHB overdose is an emergency. If you think you may have taken GHB, seek medical help right away. Although some people may not seem to have bad reactions to GHB, the drug can be fatal. Signs of an overdose include:

  • Dizziness

  • Lightheadedness

  • Mental confusion

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Breathing problems

  • Loss of consciousness

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/3/2015
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