Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (or GHB) is a powerful drug, capable of changing both your brain and your body.
In the short term, GHB might make you feel relaxed and euphoric. But if you take too much, the drug can put you into a coma-like state, and there’s no known antidote for GHB intoxication.
In the long term, GHB use can spark drug dependence or addiction. The substance can also cause permanent changes in your brain, and that can make memory and clear thinking difficult.
If you’re using GHB, stopping is crucial. Some of the changes caused by your addiction can’t be reversed, but sobriety can help you ensure you don’t cause further harm.
Risks of Short-Term Use
GHB is a central nervous system depressant. It reacts in the body a bit like alcohol, so people who take it experience the following:
- Decreased feelings of anxiety
Sedation combined with memory loss has made GHB popular with sexual predators. They can slip a bit of the drug in a victim’s drink and attack when the side effects take hold.
But some people take GHB because they like the way the drug makes them feel. They appreciate the euphoria and relaxation of the drug, and they knowingly take it for that reason.
GHB is unlike alcohol in that its effects aren’t always dose-dependent. Researchers say that higher doses of the drug can produce a sensation of excitability. Drinking too much puts people into a coma-like state. Taking too much GHB can make people seem manic and frantic.
Unfortunately, it is challenging to deliver precise GHB dosing. The drug is provided in a liquid format, and it tends to settle in the bottom of the bottle. A swig could contain a tablespoon, or it might include two. The effects of the drug can vary dramatically depending on how much you take and how powerful that particular swig is.
Some experts suggest GHB users should administer the drug with an eyedropper or a syringe, so the serving size is always the same. However, potency can vary from one manufacturer to another, so even with precautions, people can take doses that are much stronger than they anticipated.
In addition to excitability and mania, a high dose of GHB can cause the following:
- Slowed breathing and heart rate
These issues can happen to anyone who takes GHB. Those who use the drug repeatedly can experience additional problems, and some of them are permanent.
Risks of Long-Term Use
GHB causes changes within the cells of the brain, and those shifts can spark drug dependence. Your brain cells may only work correctly when the drug is present. When it’s removed, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. The drug can also cause brain changes that lead to low cognition and memory loss.
The brain is studded with receptors for GHB, and the drug latches onto those receptors and triggers a rush of chemicals. You feel flushed, happy, and calm.
Take GHB often enough, and your brain will call for it. You will experience withdrawal.
GHB Withdrawal Symptoms Can Include The Following:
- Muscle cramping
- Fast heartbeat
These symptoms typically start about 12 hours after the last dose, and they can last for about two weeks.
You may feel as though you’re safe from this issue if you’ve recently started a GHB habit. But research suggests that dependence can take hold very quickly. Some study participants, for example, developed dependency during the research period.
GHB is a powerful drug, and it’s capable of causing significant and rapid alterations in your brain chemistry. Some of those brain changes can stick with you for years.
Research suggests that regular GHB use leads to brain changes that can harm your long-term memory, your working memory, and your intelligence. These changes can also make you feel anxious even when there is no cause to feel that way.
You may not notice these issues at first. Some drug users attribute the shift to the effect of the drug. Sleepiness and an inability to focus, for example, could be blamed on abuse of the drug instead of long-term brain changes.
But these issues are permanent, and there are no solutions your doctors can provide to reverse them. That means you should do all you can to ensure GHB doesn’t harm your brain cells.
The best way to do that is to enter a treatment program.
How GHB Abuse is Treated
There is no known antidote for GHB intoxication. If you’re feeling the impact of a hit, your doctor can do little more than treat your symptoms and ease you back into sobriety.
But there are plenty of therapies that can help you stop abusing drugs. You can use:
- Therapy. Learn more about how addictions begin and what you can do to resist the temptation to use.
- Support group meetings. Talking with peers who have also dealt with addiction could give you perspective and new skills.
- Sober living communities. If you’re tempted to use drugs while you’re living at home, surrounding yourself with sobriety can be wise.
- Medication management. No prescription can erase your addiction. But if you’re living with an underlying chemical imbalance, which can lead to depression or another mental health challenge, visiting your health professional could be helpful.
It can be intimidating to think about entering treatment, especially if you’ve never had an addiction before. But every day, people just like you go into programs like this to help them work through addiction issues. If you’re living with addiction now and you want to move forward, this is the best way to do so.