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What are the Effects of Using GHB?
GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyrate, is a naturally-occuring chemical in the brain and other parts of the body. GHB can also be synthesized in a laboratory. The chemical is available as a liquid or as a powder to be dissolved in drinks, where it becomes clear and colorless. GHB is most commonly used as a central nervous system depressant to treat narcolepsy. The drug functions like a Benzodiazepine, and it can be addictive and inflict serious side-effects.
GHB and Date Rape
The existence of GHB has been known since the 19th century and the drug has been used in medicine since the 1960s, but in the 1980s GHB became a popular “party drug” at dance clubs. Additionally, some people started to use GHB to enhance their performance at the gym. As GHB became popular for non-medical purposes, it also became known for as a date rape drug. GHB acquired a variety of street names, including Georgia homeboy, liquid X, cherry meth, salty water, and liquid ecstasy.
The effects of GHB arise within 10 to 20 minutes. Tragically, some people have added GHB to drinks at clubs, bars, and raves to quickly incapacitate others and abuse them sexually, since a high dose of GHB will cause a person to lose consciousness. Often, the victim has no memory of what happened to them after drinking GHB. The effects of GHB, therefore, are dangerous for those who use the drug for recreation and for those who use it as a weapon.
The Short-Term Effects of GHB
GHB is easy to manufacture, it but has a high rate of abuse. Aside from date rape, people abuse GHB by using it as a recreational drug to feel euphoric or “high.” The side-effects of GHB depend on the amount of the drug a person consumes, and the effects may worsen when in combination with other drugs. The immediate side-effects of GHB include:
- Low blood pressure
- Low body temperature
- Blacking out
- Loss of muscle control
- Increased sex drive
- Slurred speech
Higher doses of GHB use can yield other symptoms, such as:
- Coma (when combined with alcohol)
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The Long-Term Effects of GHB
The combination of alcohol and GHB increases the risks of long-term health problems. Even without alcohol, long-term GHB abuse can have permanent consequences. Scientists who have conducted studies on GHB have discovered memory deficiencies as a result of continued GHB use. Other potential, long-term effects of GHB include:
- Vulnerability to sexual predators
- Respiratory depression
- Fatal overdoses
- Psychotic thoughts
- Increased blood pressure
GHB Tolerance and Dependence
Taking GHB to enhance a club experience or for its ability to promote euphoria can tempt someone to take the drug several days in a row. According to the Global Drug Survey, “GHB lasts a few hours, and another hit too soon can be dangerous. Leaving a minimum of 2 to 3 hours in between is recommended.” Since GHB is already additive, this can have alarming effects.
Furthermore, too much GHB in too short a time frame may not only lead to more severe health risks, but also result in tolerance, which occurs when someone needs to increase their dose of a drug to feel its effects. When tolerance GHB develops, users are at risk of developing dependence on the drug. Dependence occurs when someone physically or emotionally requires a substance to feel normal or stable. A dependence disorder can lead to financial problems, distractions, missing work or school, or an overdose.
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The Symptoms of GHB Withdrawal
Since GHB is addictive, withdrawal symptoms can occur. Like other chemicals, withdrawal occurs when someone who has developed an addiction or abused a substance begins to taper use or stops cold turkey. Unfortunately, some people who stop taking GHB and experience withdrawal symptoms begin taking more GHB to avoid symptoms. This creates a cycle of abuse that can be difficult to stop. Some of the most common GHB withdrawal symptoms include:
- Psychotic thoughts
- Low body temperature
- Slow heart rate
- Muscle tremors
People may need detox in the case of cravings, or mood disorders like depression that emerge in the withdrawal stage. The ideal method of treatment would be inpatient rehab, as they would have hands on, 24/7 monitored care for 7 to 14 days.
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GHB has different effects on users and individuals sexually victimized by date rape. Both individuals would need help dealing with either the addictive properties of GHB, or the aftermath of sexual trauma. If you or a loved one struggles with GHB abuse, withdrawal, or was a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Please contact a dedicated treatment provider to learn about treatments and counseling that can help.
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