Gamma-hydroxy-butyrate or GHB, as it is known on the street,
is a clear liquid (it is also available in powder form, but rarely
seen). The substance itself is colorless, odorless and nearly tasteless.
While GHB is found naturally in the brain and other tissues in very
small quantities, synthetic GHB is manufactured from its precursor,
gamma-butyrolactone (also known as GBL), which is a solvent, found in
floor cleaning products, nail polish and super glue removers.
Developed in 1961 by renowned French researcher Dr. Henri Laborit, GHB was originally
developed as an anesthetic, but was soon withdrawn due to unwanted side
effects. In the United States GHB was readily available in the 1980’s in
health food stores. It gained popularity through its use by body
builders who thought the drug would increase their body mass and was
used much like steroids are used. In 1990 the Federal Drug
Administration labeled GHB a “dangerous drug,” but did not
make it a controlled substance, subject to regulation under the federal
Controlled Substance Act.
In the mid to late 1990s GHB acquired a reputation as a
date-rape drug and is now in the process of being added to the DEA’s
list of Schedule I drugs. Most states though, have
restrictions on its use and sale. The FDA has revoked its federal
approval and has declared it available in the United States only as an
investigational new drug for specified purposes (usually scientific
study). GBL, though, is still available over-the-counter.
Dosages range from one gram or less, which is considered a mild dose to
upwards of five grams in a single dose. GHB is often sold on the street
in small bottles, approximately the size of a hotel shampoo bottle.
These bottles usually contain about ten doses and a dose is measured as
one capful. The powdered form of GHB can also be sniffed.
GHB depresses the respiratory system and reduces the amount
of oxygen the brain receives, resulting, with large doses, in
unconsciousness and loss of memory. At small doses, GHB encourages a
reduction of social inhibitions, similar to alcohol, and an increased
libido. At higher doses, this euphoria gives way to feelings of
sedation. Reported symptoms include vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness,
vertigo, and seizures. After excessive use, some users have experienced
loss of consciousness, irregular and depressed respiration, tremors or
coma. A number of deaths have occurred from GHB overdoses.
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 1990 November 30
Physical Dependence: Reported but unconfirmed
Psychological Dependence: Moderate
To the degree that it has been researched, GHB has been
determined to be moderately habit-forming. It should be noted, though,
that virtually any substance can be addictive, to a greater or lesser
degree, depending on the user. It is a generally accepted notion among
treatment professionals that the overall addiction, whether physical or
psychological, is the problem, not the specific substance. Below are
some treatment programs that may be useful for GHB users as well as
More Information on GHB: