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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

GHB Is a Bad Drug With a Good Side

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GHB is considered a 'club drug' -- one of many illicit substances tied into the so-called 'rave' music scene. Some of the drug's effects are similar to Rohypnol, a sedative unapproved in the U.S. that leaves victims vulnerable to sexual assault.

According to a NIDA release, GHB is commonly used in Michigan, Hawaii, or Texas where it's known as 'liquid ecstasy,' although unlike that drug, GHB has no hallucinogenic effect. What isn't known is how widespread the GHB problem is. Some of the early warning sources, like poison control centers, or the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), are reporting a dramatic increase in GHB-related emergency room admissions.

GHB is often used in common with alcohol, or other drugs which intensify the effect.

There have even been a few murders that authorities believe resulted from GHB poisonings. Some two-thirds of GHB users are younger than 25, and about 70% are male. In Seattle, 90% of those taking GHB are white.

Physicians hoping to detox GHB abusers are in for a challenge, according to Karen Miotto, a specialist in addiction medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her sample of 42 patients shows that two-thirds of them lost consciousness from taking the drug. Then many required heavy doses of tranquilizers to deal with symptoms like anxiety or panic.

Miotto says that since GHB has such a memory numbing effect, it's hard to convince the patient that he or she has a drug problem. "That's been the biggest obstacle to treatment, because when I say you have a GHB addiction, and we need to help prevent relapse, it completely runs contrary to their thoughts of themselves," says Miotto.


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