Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a depressant drug that slows down the activity of the brain and parts of the central nervous system.
GHB commonly comes as a colourless, odourless, bitter or salty-tasting liquid, usually sold in small bottles or vials, such as soy sauce containers. It also comes as a bright blue liquid (sometimes called "blue nitro") and less commonly as a crystal powder. Some people take GHB for its ability to increase relaxation and sociability. Others may take it to help with the symptoms of the "comedown" after using stimulants such as amphetamines and ecstasy.
One of the most dangerous aspects of using GHB is the small difference between an amount that produces the desired effect and the amount that results in overdose. High doses of GHB can result in blackouts and memory lapses, seizures, respiratory problems, coma and death.
How is it used?
GHB is generally swallowed, although a small number of people have been reported as injecting or "shelving" it (inserting into anus).
Effects of GHB
The effects of GHB appear to vary greatly according to the amount used. A small increase in amount can result in a dramatic increase in effect. A further risk is that there is often no way to be sure that the drug is manufactured accurately. Improperly made GHB may result in an extremely toxic mixture of GHB and the chemical sodium hydroxide.
Generally, the effects of GHB are experienced within fifteen minutes of use, and last for approximately three hours. Effects of a low to moderate dose may include:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Increased libido
- Lowered inhibitions
- Memory lapses
- Dizziness and headache
- Decreased body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate
- Urinary incontinence
Using GHB carries a high risk of overdose. Not knowing the strength of GHB increases the risk of overdose.
Signs of overdose:
- Person appears to be asleep but cannot be woken
- Person is incoherent, sweating profusely, vomiting and has irregular or shallow breathing
- Person is not able to stand and/or has involuntary muscle contractions
Long term effects
Little research is known about the long term effects of GHB but it is possible to become physically and psychologically dependent on it.
Tolerance and dependence
There is evidence that GHB is highly addictive. People who use GHB regularly can develop a tolerance and dependence very quickly. Dependence on GHB can be psychological, physical or both.
Treatment is more effective if tailored to suit a person's circumstances, and usually involves a combination of methods. Some of the different options include counselling, group therapy, medication (pharmacotherapy) and supervised/home withdrawal.
Source of information: DrugInfo Clearinghouse - Australian Drug Foundation
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