Updated: August 21, 2023, at 12:11 p.m.
GHB (gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid/4-hydroxybutanoic acid) is a drug used for a variety of reasons by a wide range of users. Primarily known as a depressant drug, GHB has both illicit recreational and legitimate medical uses. GHB can actually be found in the human body naturally, as well as certain types of foods in trace amounts. GHB acts as both an agonist at the GHB receptor and a weak agonist at the GABAB receptor. GABAB receptor activation is the primary cause of the sleepiness that one experiences when taking certain doses of GHB.
Uses of GHB
GHB is sometimes prescribed as a prescription sleep aid and can be used as a treatment for forms of narcolepsy, insomnia, and cataplexy. Due to it’s sleep-inducing properties at certain dosages, it can also be used as an anesthetic. Low dose GHB causes euphoria in users to some degree, which makes it a particularly useful depression treatment. GHB is still intoxicating at higher doses, so it becomes a good, but rare type of alcoholism treatment.
There are many claims of GHB being a date rape drug, despite limited evidence that this is the case; because of its properties, it could be used as such. GHB has been used as an athletic performance enhancer due to its ability to act as a growth enhancer on the muscles.
In recent years, GHB has seen a resurgence as a club drug due to the euphoria it produces in users. Aside from traditional MDMA-like usage in order to produce euphoria, some gay clubs have seen use of GHB during sexual activity due to the ability for GHB to enhance sexual performance and experience. Usage of GHB can lead to unprotected sexual encounters or sexual assault in situations where the user has let their guard down or is vulnerable due to altered consciousness.
Different doses of GHB produce different effects during the high. GHB will make you sleepy at 2.5 grams, and it might give you seizures, coma, unconsciousness, and/or vomiting at 5 grams or more. The traditional recreational dose for illicit GHB users is between 1-2.5 grams, and is usually measured in capfuls when in liquid form. Ingesting a dose above 10g could be fatal for the majority of users. GHB is generally regarded as safe and non-toxic at lower doses or when used under the direction of a doctor.
GHB has a high drug interaction rate, with 66% of users who died due to overdosing on GHB having done so due to the respiratory depression caused by crossed effects according to one study. The drug has a high potential for dependence with evidence that it can become addicting much faster than other depressants. GHB has alcohol- and benzodiazepine-like withdrawal symptoms. These may include insomnia, anxiety, tremors, delirium, psychosis, and/or hallucinations.
Domestic legal status of GHB
GHB is a controlled substance in the United States of America. Regular GHB is classified as a Schedule I substance, while the sodium oxybate form is uniquely listed as a Schedule III controlled substance with Schedule I trafficking penalties.
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