GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid)

Synonyms The most common synonyms are:
  • 4-hydroxybutanoate, Caps, Date rape drug, Easy lay, Fantasy, G, Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, Georgia home boy, GH, Goop, Grievous bodily harm, Liquid ecstasy, Liquid X, Organic quaalude, Petit jus, Salty water, Scoop, Soap, Vita-G
Classification Central nervous system depressant:
  • Refers to a substance that slows mental functions by reducing the brain's overall activity and alertness. Has a calming effect on the user.
Visual description
  • Sold as a clear, odourless liquid or as a white powder, as is, or in capsules. A light soapy and salty taste is possible.
Mechanism of action
  • GHB is a weak GABA receptor agonist. It is also involved in the modulation of dopaminergic neurons and stimulates the release of growth hormone.
Routes of administration
  • Ingested (product is dissolved in alcohol).
Effects sought out by the user
  • Euphoria (heightened sense of well-being)
  • Reduced inhibition
  • Relaxation
 
Common toxic effects
  • Amnesia
  • Changes in physical and mental functions
  • Confusion
  • Decreased muscle strength
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Heightened sensitivity to touch
  • Hypnotic state
  • Hypothermia (lowered body temperature)
  • Increased sex drive
  • Lack of coordination
  • Memory loss
  • Muscular spasms
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Vertigo
  • Vomiting
Overdose effects
  • Bradycardia (decreased heart rate)
  • Coma
  • Convulsions
  • Death
  • Hallucinations
  • Hypotension (drop in blood pressure)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Respiratory depression
Effects associated with chronic use
  • Chronic vision problems
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory and judgement
  • Mood swings
  • Slurred speech

Tolerance (need to increase the dose to feel the same effect)

Yes

Addiction

Yes, physical.

Withdrawal

Yes, if discontinuation is abrupt and the user has taken repeated high doses (anxiety, insomnia, tremors, muscular cramps, trouble sleeping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea). Although rare, the most severe cases of abrupt GHB discontinuation result in severe agitation, paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, tachycardia (increased heart rate) and hypertension.

Onset and duration of action

Route of
administration
Onset of
action
Peak
Duration of
action
Oral5 to 30 minutes20 to 45 minutes45 minutes to 8 hours (usually 1 to 3 hours)

Screening

  • Blood: GHB is no longer detectable in the blood after 8 hours.
  • Urine: GHB is no longer detectable in urine after 12 hours.

Intoxication management

  • No antidote available. Certain medications can, however, neutralize some of its effects.
  • Treatment is mainly symptomatic.

Other useful information

  • GHB is used as a party drug. However, it is also used to commit crimes, hence its nickname "date rape drug". Its nickname is the result of its properties which include amnesia, state similar to drunkenness and very short duration of action. GHB does not have any aphrodisiac properties as such, but can cause a loss of sexual inhibition.

Many different street drugs are sold under the same name. Furthermore, nothing guarantees the quantity, purity or even the content of a street drug in spite of the fact that it may, in some cases, look like medication.

If you need help or want to learn more:

Partnership for a Drug-Free Canada.

www.canadadrugfree.org

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