What is GHB?

GHB stands for gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, a synthetic depressant medically used to treat narcolepsy but more widely known as a club drug intended to lower inhibitions and induce euphoria.

Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid occurs naturally in the brain, but only in very small amounts. The depressant has a sedative and anaesthetic effect, slowing down brain activity and other parts of the nervous system. The drug can be found in liquid, powder, and capsule forms. For those using GHB recreationally, it can lead to serious addiction issues rather quickly.

GHB is also known for being slipped into the beverages of unknowing individuals in social settings by people maliciously seeking to take sexual advantage of its inhibition-lowering and sedative effects. It’s odourless, tasteless, and colourless, making it easy to disguise in drinks or food.

Other Names for GHB

GHB has many common names, among them grievous bodily harm. Others include liquid ecstasy, liquid fantasy, G, liquid X, liquid E, and scoop or soap.

How is GHB used?

There is limited medical use for GHB—it’s most often used as a party drug. GHB is also on the rise as a chemsex drug, wherein people use it to heighten sexual pleasure. In addition, both GHB and Rohypnol, also called ‘roofies,’ are commonly known as ‘date rape’ drugs. This is due to their widespread use to incapacitate unsuspecting victims in order to take advantage of them.

Is it a legal drug?

GHB is illegal to manufacture, purchase, possess, or distribute without a controlled substances license. Doctors may prescribe it in the form of the prescription medication XYREM, to treat some symptoms of narcolepsy.

The Club Drug

GHB is frequently taken by teens and young adults in club and party settings for its euphoric effects. It’s highly addictive, highly dangerous, and poses serious direct and indirect risks and consequences for those who use it.

Side Effects of Using GHB

After taking gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, effects are typically felt within 15 minutes and can last for several hours. The effects you experience can vary dramatically depending on the dose taken. In small-to-moderate amounts, GHB can produce the following side effects:

  • a sense of relaxation and euphoria
  • drowsiness
  • increased sociability
  • lack of inhibition
  • heightened sex drive
  • increased sensitivity to touch

While many people take GHB in order to feel more relaxed or experience more pleasure, it can have unpredictable side effects that can cause severe harm, especially when taken at higher doses. Sometimes, instead of creating a sedative effect, GHB causes extreme agitation or hallucinations. Other side effects may include:

  • uncontrollable bodily movements
  • incoherency
  • nausea or vomiting
  • decreased body temperature
  • aggression
  • confusion
  • anxiety, depression, or other mood disturbances
  • urinary incontinence
  • amnesia episodes
  • out-of-character, high-risk behaviour

Even just a small increase in dosage can greatly affect how and what you feel, which is part of what makes this potent drug so dangerous. There’s a very fine line between the amount people take to feel the pleasurable effects they desire and the amount that can cause an overdose.

The Dangers of GHB

Because gamma-hydroxybutyric acid is illegal and synthetically made in labs, there’s no way to know its strength or purity. Often, what’s sold as GHB contains other drugs or fillers, which can be toxic or fatal. It’s easy for users to accidentally overdose.

In club settings, GHB is often taken with alcohol or other substances. This increases your risk for overdose or injury, as the combined effects of multiple drugs may have a stronger impact on your body and brain. Large doses, doses of unknown concentration (which is all of them, since gamma-hydroxybutyric acid is unregulated and made in illicit labs), and combining GHB with alcohol can lead to coma, seizure or death due to respiratory and central nervous system suppression.

Castle Craig have been treating patients with GHB drug addition for over 30 years
Castle Craig have been treating patients with drug addition for over 30 years

Signs of GHB Addiction

Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid is highly addictive. If you believe you or someone you know may be struggling with GHB addiction, consider the following questions:

  • Are you using GHB more often than you intend to?
  • Do you need to take more and more of the drug to feel the same effects?
  • Do you continue to use GHB despite negative outcomes?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop?
  • Have you neglected other life responsibilities in order to take GHB?
  • Is the drug interfering with your quality of life or personal relationships?

It should be noted that a complicating factor is that you may have no memory of your behaviour or events that occurred while under the influence of GHB due to its amnesic effects.

GHB Withdrawal Symptoms

If you’re using GHB regularly, you’ll often begin to experience a physical dependence on the drug. When this happens, it’s difficult to function normally without GHB. Physically dependent users will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it abruptly.

Withdrawal from GHB use may include elevated heart rate and blood pressure (and associated complications), anxiety, tremors, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and psychosis. However, given the wide range of responses individuals have to GHB use, there are extensive possible symptoms of GHB withdrawal. GHB withdrawal can be life-threatening, which is why ​​it’s highly recommended to seek medical assistance to ease symptoms.

At Castle Craig, we have a medical detox centre to help you go through withdrawal as comfortably and safely as possible, all while beginning your therapeutic care at the same time. This helps you to start addressing the root causes of addiction in your life, so you can begin your journey to sustainable recovery.

GHB Addiction Treatment

There is currently very little information available in scientific/medical literature about treatment for people who abuse or are dependent upon GHB and very little is known about its metabolism within the body.

GHB can have devastating consequences for individuals using it, particularly due to the high risk of vulnerability to assault and death. Castle Craig’s team of treatment professionals understand how GHB addiction can turn someone’s world upside down, and we are here to help with compassionate, safe, and expert treatment programmes to help people recover from GHB use.

Treatment for GHB addiction at Castle Craig follows our abstinence-based, 12-Step approach to drug treatment. Treatment plans are individualised so that each patient receives custom care that considers their unique needs and medical history.

GHB Addiction Rehab

At Castle Craig, our residential rehab programme offers patients a safe and supportive environment to heal their drug addiction away from the stresses and temptations of everyday life. During your stay, you’ll be surrounded by other people who understand what you’re going through and are supported by a team of caring and qualified treatment professionals.

Our clinically-proven drug treatment programme combines psychotherapy with 12-Step facilitation and complementary treatments. Together, these aim to help you change negative thoughts, attitudes and behaviours that block recovery, and treat the root cause of your addiction.

While in our inpatient programme, we help you to nourish all aspects of your health. You’ll have access to our beautiful grounds tucked away in the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders, our chefs provide delicious, wholesome meals that promote your recovery. And you’ll be able to participate in a variety of holistic therapies to enrich your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

For those struggling with other addictions or mental health conditions, we provide dual diagnosis treatment for safe recovery from a wide range of difficulties including eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. To ensure your success beyond inpatient care, patients are taught relapse prevention and family members also have the chance to receive therapy sessions. Plus, all patients are given a customised, two-year continuing care plan to help them continue the journey of recovery with support and ease.

If you or someone you know is struggling with GHB addiction, treatment is the first step to recovery and meaningful life. To find out more information about GHB addiction treatment at Castle Craig, contact us today.

Get in touch today

To find out how we can help you, please telephone Castle Craig on our 24-Hour Helpline: 01721 728118 or click here to arrange a free addiction assessment or here for more information.

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Page published: August 7, 2019. Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked January 14, 2022