What is GHB?

How much do you know about the drug called Gamma hydroxybutyrate, referred to as GHB? It is known by many names, from Liquid Ecstasy and Liquid Fantasy to Grievous Bodily Harm and affects thousands of people across the UK.

It is a neurotransmitter found in the body as well as a psychoactive drug. GHB is a human-made club drug and synthetic downer, designed to lower inhibitions and create a state of euphoria. A recreational dose is generally in the area of 1-2 g, and its` effects have been compared with ethanol or alcohol and the narcotic MDMA.

The drug is a relaxant, it makes people more confident, alleviates anxiety and increases sexual desire. It is used in the nightclub and party scene. Athletes also take GHB as it augments the growth hormone in-vitro and acts as an anabolic agent, although there is no indication it enhances athletic performance or helps build muscle tone.

However, despite its clubbing and partying connection, GHB can be extremely dangerous. It is against the law to buy or be in possession of GHB, as well as manufacture or distribute the drug if you do not have a controlled substances license.

Health hazards of GHB use

The Class C drug acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, causing sedation and even paralysis. This has seen it being used as a “date rape drug”, as there have been numerous cases of people having GHB slipped into their drink. The drug can cause amnesia, leaving a person with no memory of what has occurred and if you receive a larger dose, you could black out or lose consciousness for up to 40 minutes.

There can be no way of knowing if someone has spiked your glass with Gamma HydroxyButrate as it is an odourless and colourless liquid. It is sometimes purchased as an oil in a miniature capsule or bottle. GHB is widely sold as sodium or potassium salt. The drug also comes in a powder or tablet which are easily dissolved in drinks.

GHB can be a hazardous substance, due to its varying degrees of concentration. It can be hard for users to monitor how much they are taking, leading to overdose. If you increase your intake by even a small amount, it can prove potentially fatal, especially when combined with alcohol.


The drug works on the GHB receptor as a forerunner of the GABA. It is the neurotransmitter which calms the mind, but GHB slows the process down in the body. When someone consumes GHB, the brain breaks it down like a natural chemical, as if producing gamma-hydroxybutyrate, except at a higher dosage. If consumed in a small amount, it suppresses anxiety and stress. If you receive a larger dose, it can be dangerous. The brain may be overcome with information from various signals, leading to seizures.

Despite the risks, thousands still take GHB recreationally. However, if you take too much, you may build up a tolerance and have to increase your dosage, or it may take longer, to receive the full psychoactive effect.

Long-term risks of using GHB

If you are a long-term user, you may eventually feel you cannot function without GHB. You cannot enjoy yourself or experience pleasure, and the drug has taken over your life. You have evolved from occasionally abusing GHB to having an addiction.

You may become accustomed to its euphoric, mind-altering effects and wish to experience them again and again. So, you repeat the process until the drug has altered your brain chemistry, and you cannot live without it.

GHB also influences dopamine in the brain, the chemical it secretes when we experience pleasure. The body eventually stops itself being inundated with dopamine, setting off the reward section of the brain. Users enjoy this sensation and wish to replicate it, so they keep on taking drugs, leading to dependency.

People should be aware GHB is a highly addictive drug, thought by some to be just as hard to give up as heroin. Its withdrawal symptoms can be more powerful and last longer than other psychoactive substances. GHB can also have harmful side effects, impacting you both mental and physical health.

It can bring on anxiety, depression and heightened aggression. You may appear agitated, confused or incoherent and display various physical symptoms. Ranging from vomiting and nausea to hallucinations and a drop in body temperature.

You may have slurred speech, blurred vision and muscle pain. There is a risk of infection, heart problems, kidney failure and liver damage amongst other conditions. In the end, though, there is the chance of unconsciousness, falling into a coma and ultimately death.

Treatment for GHB abuse

It is never too late to get help. You could consider detox, under the care of trained medical professional at a residential rehab clinic. It can be part of an inpatient drug treatment programme. They can monitor your detox and prescribe any medications, such as Benzodiazepines, you may need to help you through withdrawal. You could also speak to an experienced counsellor, in group therapy or on a one to one basis, to get to the heart of your addiction.

It could be the first stage of an ongoing rehabilitation treatment to help you break free from GHB.

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