GHB: Party Drug, Designer Drug, Date Rape Drug
GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a designer drug and a depressant that used to be popular among teens and young adults at clubs and raves. However, now GHB abuse is prevalent among a wide population of users.
It has a reputation as a “date rape drug” and can either be a clear liquid or a white powder that users often dissolve in water, alcohol, or other beverages. It is odorless and colorless, making it an easy drug to slip into someone’s drink without them even knowing.
GHB is manufactured illegally in secret laboratories, many of which are here in the U.S. and abroad. GHB analogues like GBL and BD are legal and may be sold as industrial solvents, supplements for bodybuilding, as a treatment for certain physical ailments, fish tank cleaner, ink stain remover, ink cartridge cleaner, and nail enamel remover. However, authorities have a very hard time identifying GHB analogues because routine drug tests do not detect them.
Although very small amounts of GHB occur naturally in the body’s central nervous system, larger amounts of it can cause effects like euphoria, drowsiness, confusion, memory impairment, and unconsciousness, which is why it’s so often used as a date rape drug.
The DEA has classified GHB as a Schedule I controlled substance, as it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. While there are still some FDA-approved GHB products, like Xyrem, used medically, they are still Schedule III substances and have the potential to be abused.
- Liquid Ecstasy
- Easy Lay
- Georgia Home Boy
- Bodily Harm
- Liquid X
- Salty Water
GHB can be very addictive, as its euphoric effects are pleasurable. However, several different populations of drug abusers use GHB for various reasons, not necessarily just to get high.
GHB is a common recreational drug among young, high school kids because it is a well-known party drug. In many instances, it is abused at raves, dance clubs, or house parties and is viewed as an alternative to ecstasy. LGBTQ individuals in the club scene also commonly abuse GHB, particularly gay men. One study found that 40 percent of gay and bisexual men had tried a club drug like GHB at least once.1
Many bodybuilders also abuse GHB to build more muscle mass quickly. The drug is generally touted for its abilities to build muscle, induce sleep, and provide a pleasurable high simultaneously.
Other people use GHB as a date rape drug, drugging unsuspecting individuals by spiking their drinks with GHB and then leaving them with no memory of what happened. Despite the dangers of sexual assault, unplanned pregnancy, and STD transmission, spiking a drink with GHB can also have fatal consequences. Not only is it difficult to measure the correct dose, but GHB overdose is common in those who have never used it or who are combining it with alcohol.
Short-term side effects of GHB abuse may include:
- Slowed heart rate and breathing
- Memory impairment
- Severe drowsiness
Long-term side effects of GHB abuse may include:
- Liver damage
- Kidney failure
Many people who become addicted to GHB use it regularly, such as for bodybuilding, wrestling, or professional sports. It is uncommon for occasional users such as club or partygoers to become addicted, however, it is possible. Some individuals like club DJs or bartenders may spend enough time around the drug or using it to become dependent and eventually addicted.
Common GHB addiction signs may include:
- Labored breathing
- Frequent drowsiness
- Body tremors
- Weight loss
- Extreme mood swings
A person’s GHB addiction may also cause other problems, such as:
- Financial distress
- Job loss
- Problems with interpersonal relationships
- Severe medical problems
- Depression or other anxiety disorders
If a person is addicted to GHB, he or she will often need the drug to feel normal, instead of just needing it to get high. If the person drastically reduces their GHB abuse or stops suddenly, he or she will experience uncomfortable physical symptoms known as withdrawal.
The withdrawal experience varies from person to person, but common GHB withdrawal symptoms include:
- Increased heart rate
- Chest pain
- Excessive sweating
- High blood pressure
- Muscle and bone pain
GHB withdrawal can be very severe and unpredictable but proper detox is the key to a healthy recovery from GHB addiction. It is not recommended that a person quit GHB “cold turkey” on their own at home. Instead, a medical detox program can provide round-the-clock medical and clinical treatment for GHB withdrawal symptoms, whether they be mild or severe.
During medical detox for GHB addiction, clients will be treated by an experienced team of medical and clinical professionals that are trained to recognize and treat the symptoms of GHB withdrawal. Medication-assisted treatment will be provided when necessary, to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and ensure that the client is comfortable.
Once GHB detox is completed, the client will be given professional recommendations for ongoing addiction treatment to address the social, behavioral, and psychological aspects of their addiction. A comprehensive treatment plan for GHB addiction encompasses both GHB detox and rehab and will provide the best opportunity for long-term sobriety.
For some people, GHB withdrawal can last anywhere from several weeks to several years after detox. Here is a general idea of what you can expect.
1-24 hours after the last dose: Symptoms of withdrawal typically begin to appear.
1-5 days after the last dose: Symptoms increase in intensity and may include nervousness, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, delirium, confusion, insomnia, and hallucinations.
2 weeks after the last dose: For some people, any remaining symptoms of withdrawal will be mild at this point. However, others may experience lingering withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, depression, and cognitive problems for months after detox is complete.
Following detox, most clients will receive recommendations to continue with their addiction treatment. Typically, treatment continues in the form of inpatient rehab or outpatient rehab. The primary difference between the two is the level of structure that is provided for clients. The overall treatment remains the same, with a special focus on the following aspects of addiction recovery:
- Relapse prevention
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Individual and group therapy
- 12-Step Program work
- Family therapy
- Chemical dependency education
Although each inpatient and outpatient program will vary slightly, a residential program will provide more structure for those who need it and an inpatient program will provide more flexibility to live at home while attending rehab.
Both inpatient and outpatient rehab for GHB addiction will reduce a person’s likelihood for relapse and provide essential life skills and behavioral therapy to overcome a substance abuse disorder. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), long-term addiction treatment of at least 90 days provides the best opportunity for long-term success in sobriety.
The cost of a GHB drug rehab program will vary, based on its amenities, location, and services, but most treatment centers offer several different forms of payment, such as EAP benefits, health insurance benefits, financed healthcare loans, or out-of-pocket payment.
After a client completes rehab, he or she may continue GHB addiction treatment with a sober living program or formal aftercare program. These types of addiction treatment programs are designed to support people in recovery who have already completed rehab and are transitioning from a life of addiction into an independent life of sobriety. Ideally, a program like this will help the person achieve lasting sobriety and establish a circle of supportive sober people to hold them accountable.
Sober Living Programs
A sober living program or a sober living home may also be referred to as a ¾ home, a transitional living program, or a halfway house, but they all mean the same thing: a group recovery residence that is designed to help men and women in recovery stay sober.
Sober living programs offer many unique services that are ideal for people in recovery, such as regular drug testing, support from sober coaches, employment assistance, educational planning, personal monitoring, and recovery programming to help clients set and achieve sobriety goals.
The cost of sober living programs varies greatly, depending on the location, services, and amenities. However, in most cases, living at a group sober home is much less expensive than renting your own apartment, which can help support clients as they gradually gain financial independence.
An Aftercare program is specifically designed for drug rehab alumni who have some experience being sober, are going through a difficult transition in life, or who have recently relapsed. Aftercare groups are hosted weekly at a local location where clients can conveniently meet to discuss issues related to their sobriety and recovery.
Group sessions are meant to be a safe and supportive environment where each client can share and be heard. Aftercare may be ideal for those who need extra support recovering from GHB addiction.
- Gender-specific treatment
- Evidenced-based treatment
- 12-Step immersion
- 90-day residential treatment
- Family program
- Full continuum of care
- Insurance and private pay
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