Signs Of GHB Abuse

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a depressant that sedates the brain and its communication with the body. It is found naturally in the central nervous system, albeit in much smaller amounts than when taken illicitly. A person will feel the effects of GHB within 20-30 minutes of taking it, with effects typically lasting three to six hours. Depending on the dose, they will likely experience a short phase of sedation and then a release of dopamine that produces euphoria.

It typically comes in the form of a tablet or powder and is taken orally. It has no odor or taste, which is why some people mix it with beverages. Others choose to liquify GHB and inject it.

The warning signs that someone took GHB may include the following:

  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Loss of coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness

  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Amnesia

GHB use can cause adverse reactions and medical emergencies. In a study on GHB intoxication in emergency room settings, common symptoms were severe hypotension, hyperthermia, respiratory problems, and heart rhythm issues.

How Does GHB Work?

When GHB enters the body, it travels to the brain and attaches to GABA and glutamate receptors responsible for sedating effects. As with alcohol and opioids, GHB slows down all body processes, from thought processes, heart rate, and breathing to movements and reaction times.

The effects of GHB vary for each person due to the following factors:

  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Body size

  • Strength of the drug or chemical components
  • How much GHB a person takes
  • How much food is in the stomach
  • What other medications a person takes

GHB Overdose

Patients admitted for emergency treatment for GHB overdose exhibited the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Lack of gag reflex
  • Respiratory depression

  • Coma
  • Low body temperature
  • Rapid eye movements
  • Shaking or tremors

Anyone overdosing on GHB may also experience convulsions, amnesia, and apnea.

Anyone with GHB warning signs of overdose must seek emergency care immediately to prevent any of the above symptoms from becoming fatal.

Symptoms Of GHB Addiction

To be diagnosed with a GHB use disorder, a person must meet some of the following criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5):

  • Putting yourself in dangerous situations to seek or use the drug
  • Continuing use even though it causes relationship problems
  • Using leads to neglecting responsibilities
  • Having cravings and intense urges to use
  • Giving up activities to use
  • Developing or worsening physical and psychological problems due to use
  • Spending much of your time seeking, using, or recovering from use
  • Desiring or attempting to stop use without success
  • Using larger amounts or for longer than intended
  • Developing tolerance
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

The higher the number of criteria a person meets, the more severe their addiction.

Long-Term Effects Of GHB Abuse

There is not much research on the long-term effects of GHB abuse. However, because it can be addictive, GHB symptoms may be dependence, tolerance, withdrawal syndrome, and a substance use disorder. Additional effects impact a person’s physical health and their professional, academic, and social lives. Examples include the following:

  • Disease or danger due to risky sexual behaviors
  • Memory and learning problems
  • Extreme anxiety or depression
  • Respiratory conditions

  • Death from unintentional overdose
  • Poor work or academic performance
  • Broken relationships
  • Financial problems

Long-term cognitive impairments in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex and altered gene expressions may also be long-term effects of GHB misuse. Additionally, damages may occur with encoding new memories, inability to focus, and interpreting negative emotions.

Mixing GHB With Other Substances

GHB is known as a party drug and is often mixed with alcohol or other drugs. When combined with alcohol, it can cause someone to black out and experience amnesia until the effects fade. They may function normally but have no memories of what they did while using alcohol and GHB. Someone who combines GHB with another substance, accidentally or intentionally, runs the risk of experiencing the amplified effects of each drug.

Taking a stimulant with GHB, which is a depressant, can lead to concerning blood pressure and breathing fluctuations. Taking two sedatives can lead to severe respiratory depression, loss of motor skills, and loss of consciousness. Many combinations of drugs can lead to coma, overdose, and, in some cases, death.

Risk Factors For GHB Addiction

Each person has protective and risk factors that make them more or less likely to develop an addiction. Research states genetics account for between 40 – 70% of the reasons people develop a substance use disorder. Environmental risk factors also play a role and may include the following:

  • Living with people who misuse GHB or other drugs
  • Having easy access to GHB
  • Having a current mental health disorder
  • Having a family history of addiction
  • Experiencing past trauma

Fortunately, most risk factors are replaceable with a protective factor that helps negate the dangers of GHB misuse. For example, seeking treatment for mental and physical health disorders, entering counseling to deal with past traumas, and attending family therapy can help mitigate the dangers of GHB abuse.

Find Support For GHB Addiction Or Misuse

It’s important to seek prompt and appropriate treatment for GHB misuse when symptoms and warning signs arise.

Call today to connect with a treatment provider who can answer your rehab-related questions and help get you started on the road to recovery.