Popular “club drug” and “date rape drug,” GHB, is back in the headlines – and the news isn’t good.
In Lodi, Calif., law enforcement has seen a dramatic increase in rapes in the past few weeks, with five young women, all in their early to mid-20s, reporting rapes to the police, all having been drugged by their attacker at a bar. The victims, some of whom were drinking alcohol and others who were drinking only soda, have no recollection of what happened to them.
In April 20012, 26 people overdosed on the party drug GHB at a Melbourne rave, leaving two ravers in critical condition.
“The message that comes out of this is that young people are playing Russian roulette if they take these drugs,” Police inspector Bill Mathers told reporters. “The potential for danger if you take GHB is that it could have fatal consequences.”
The Effects of GHB
Synthetic GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid), originally used by body builders for its reported muscle-building and fat-burning effects, has more recently been abused for its sedative effects as a “rave” and “date rape” drug. It is colorless, odorless and has a salty taste, and is generally taken in pill or liquid form (though it is also available as a white powder). The drug takes effect within a few minutes and usually lasts from 6-8 hours.
The effects of GHB vary each time a person takes it, and it affects each person differently. Some of the adverse effects of GHB include:
• Severe lethargy
• Mental confusion
• Breathing difficulties
• Loss of peripheral vision
• Unconsciousness and coma
Because of wide varieties in strength and purity, GHB is responsible for a growing number of accidental overdoses, drug-induced comas and deaths. It is most frequently used by teenagers and college students who attend parties or visit clubs, but it also used by professionals to induce sleep as well as some professional athletes and bodybuilders to stimulate the release of growth hormones.
In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved GHB, under the brand name Xyrem, to treat certain sleep disorders, but mandated some of the most severe restrictions ever imposed on a medicine. Several states have passed laws to control the sale of GHB, which has resulted in the popularization of related chemicals like gamma butyrolactone (GBL) and 1, 4-butanediol (BD). These chemicals are widely available at gyms, parties and night clubs all over the country.
The Risk of Withdrawal
Even short-term use of GHB can result in severe dependence and withdrawal symptoms that include:
• Profuse sweating, nausea or vomiting
• Panic and anxiety attacks
• High blood pressure
• Increased heart rate
• Delirium or psychosis
Additional withdrawal symptoms can occur on a delayed basis and may include extreme mental clouding, anxiety, confusion and paranoia. In order to help reduce the harsh symptoms of withdrawal during detoxification, inpatient treatment centers often taper patients off of GHB using benzodiazepines, anti-seizure medications, sedatives and antipsychotic medications.
While withdrawal from chronic GHB use was once believed to be relatively mild, several recent cases of severe GHB withdrawal delirium have drawn concern about the drug’s toxic effects. To many users’ surprise, the psychiatric symptoms of hallucination and delirium can be severe enough to require sedation or physical restraints in a hospital setting.
GHB withdrawal symptoms may be severe and unpredictable, and several fatalities have occurred when GHB was abruptly stopped. Experts recommend seeking professional help for detox and as well as a course of inpatient or residential drug rehab that combines medication, therapy and relapse prevention planning.
Club drugs and date rape drugs like GHB are far more dangerous than most users believe. If these drugs are the drug of choice for you or someone you know, learn more about these dangers, and seek professional addiction treatment right away. When delirium, psychosis and hallucinations are real threats, it’s time to start taking the use of these drugs seriously.