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The chemical GHB, produced naturally by humans, was once sold as a supplement in stores. Now, as a dangerous party drug, GHB is on the radar of doctors and substance-abuse professionals, who are hoping to prevent future overdoses.

  • Drug Name GHB
  • Addiction Liability High
  • Scientific Name Gamma-hydroxybutyrate
  • Street Names Liquid Ecstasy, Firewater, Cherry Meth, Gib, Scoop, Poor Man's Heroin
  • How It's Used Swallowed
  • Side Effects Decreased Inhibitions, Disorientation, Impaired Memory, Loss of Coordination, Decreased Heart Rate, Loss of Consciousness
  • Psychological Dependence Moderate
  • Physical Dependence Moderate

Another Party Drug

The odorless, water-resembling drug GHB appears all too often in stories of date rape. Since the 1960s, the depressant qualities of GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) have been exploited and, especially when combined with alcohol, can send users into a potentially fatal daze.

GHB was FDA-approved for individuals with cataplexy – a condition causing sudden loss of muscle tone –in 2002.

Bottle of GHB

4 Grams
of GHB can cause death. That’s less than the weight of 2 US pennies.

2 pennies

More recently, sensation-seekers consume the drug to enhance a night of fun at a club or party. The effects are not unlike that of MDMA or ecstasy, which explains the drug’s nickname: “liquid ecstasy.”

It instantly made me feel completely euphoric, increased my sex drive; I just felt so at peace.

anonymous female GHB user

Fast-forward, though, and the high of the drug can be replaced by a debilitating addiction.

“I was urinating myself, passed out in the shower,” says the same woman, of her eventual addiction to GHB. “I would wake up and not remember anything that happened. I’ve been through hell and back.”

Like many of the more commonly known addictive drugs, GHB can quickly go from part-time habit to full-time nightmare. Users will take the substance as a party-enhancer, until one day it creates a withdrawal both physically and mentally that keeps you crawling back for more.

I couldn’t go more than four to five hours without GHB before my body would go straight into the most physically horrendous and painful withdrawals.

Sarah, a recovered addict

GHB causes addiction and overdose at a disastrous rate. It’s yet another party drug that has ended the party prematurely for a number of ill-fated people.

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Between 1995 and 2005, GHB led to 226 deaths, according to reports, with many more linked to the drug in some way.

Signs of Addiction

GHB addicts are often dependent on other substances as well — alcohol, meth, and pain pills among them. Being aware of someone’s partying habits can help you identify a possible addiction to GHB. If you know someone attending raves or parties regularly, GHB or other drugs may be playing a major role in their lives.

Powder forms of GHB exist in addition to the liquid form; they both have a similar effect. The drug typically comes in eyedroppers, vitamin bottles, or water bottles, and the concentration can vary. As a result, users do not always know the potency of each dose, which increases the risk of overdose.

Addictions tend to develop rapidly and unexpectedly. Even people who are prescribed the drug may become addicted.

GHB’s Risks & Side Effects

Many GHB-related overdoses and deaths occur each year. Coma and seizures are also often reported in situations related to the substance. When combined with alcohol, the risks associated with GHB increase dramatically — including breathing difficulties, nausea, overdose and death.

Other side effects of GHB include:

Many emergency rooms lack GHB detection tests, and doctors are often unfamiliar with the drug, leaving cases of abuse undetected. This can make seemingly minor side effects evolve into serious concerns before GHB can be identified as the causation.

Help and Treatment

Addicts of GHB fortunately show a positive response to treatment, particularly residential therapy. Seeking out help for yourself or someone battling a GHB habit should be done as soon as possible.

Withdrawal from a dependency to the drug can inflict a range of symptoms, including insomnia, delirium, anxiety and tremors. Getting someone to a registered rehab facility can mitigate the pains of withdrawal, and help to ensure the rest of their treatment is successful.

A stay at a treatment facility may involve behavioral therapy, counseling and/or reward-motivated exercises. Patients struggling with GHB may also be directed to support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, to reinforce their behaviors once traditional therapy comes to an end.

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