GHB Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options
Knowing more about what GHB is and why it is so dangerous can help you recognize it and avoid taking it unknowingly or becoming addicted. Over time, people who abuse GHB regularly run the risk of developing a GHB use disorder.
They might have problems controlling their drug use, including difficulty reducing the amount of the drug taken, using it even after facing negative consequences, abandoning important activities and hobbies to use the drug, and spending an inordinate amount of time seeking out and using the drug.
Learn more about the drug GHB, and how to seek treatment if you or a loved one is struggling with GHB abuse.
What Is GHB?
It is often used as a “club drug” but has also become notorious as the “date rape drug” after many reports of it being slipped in drinks to prime a victim for sexual assault. The drug is very popular recreationally and used at nightclubs, sex parties, and sex clubs where users want to stay up all night. Unfortunately, people often mix it with alcoholic beverages, which can increase the dangers of taking it.
GHB has effects similar to those of alcohol. At low doses, one might feel sociable and lightheaded. Higher doses can make a person feel drowsy and dizzy. More can induce nausea and vomiting, and high doses can cause immediate unconsciousness.
GHB overdoses can lead to respiratory difficulties, lowered heart rate, seizures, and even death.
Slang Names for GHB
- The date rape drug
- Liquid ecstasy
- Liquid X
GHB Tolerance and Duration
People who use GHB regularly can develop a tolerance fairly quickly. This means they need to take more and more GHB to get the same effect.
The amount of time the drug stays in a person’s system depends on many factors, including:
- Activity levels
- How much GHB was ingested
- Whether GHB was mixed with other drugs
Short-Term Effects of GHB Use
There is no way to take GHB safely. Regardless of the dosage, it always carries some risk. GHB affects everyone differently based on how much a person takes and the strength of the specific batch they purchased.
There is no strict recipe for GHB, and people often purchase it without knowing the source. Most of the GHB bought online or on the street is made illegally in labs. Batches likely contain contaminants that make them even more toxic.
It is very easy to take too much GHB and overdose. It is incredibly hard to judge the amount needed to cause a pleasant high and the amount that will cause an overdose.
Usually, a dose of GHB lasts around three to four hours. Within the first 30 minutes, a person might experience:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Lowered inhibitions
At higher doses, it can have many more adverse effects, including:
- Blurry vision
- Tunnel vision
- Memory loss
- Slow heart rate
- Calm feelings
- Heightened sensuality
- Digestive problems
- Loss of consciousness
Depending on the dose, people may experience euphoric or rather severe side effects, including death. Combining GHB with other drugs and alcohol can lead to nausea, breathing difficulties, and overdose.
Many people are admitted to the hospital for using GHB, with symptoms such as bradycardia and hypothermia. Not only that, but being high on GHB also increases the risk of injury due to confusion, dizziness, or loss of consciousness.
GHB use causes large spikes in the amounts of serotonin and dopamine released into the central nervous system. These cause pleasurable effects of euphoria and sociability at first.
But after the initial high, these levels drop drastically, causing a serious crash after a person stops using the drug. This can cause severe depression, apathy, hopelessness, despair, etc.
Despite people’s claims that GHB is safer than other drugs or diet pills, it is incredibly dangerous. Even tiny amounts of GHB can be toxic. Using the drug regularly is more likely to result in severe symptoms like hallucinations, violent outbursts, and seizures.
If you or anyone you know has any of the following symptoms, seek emergency medical help:
- A person cannot be woken up
- Sweating profusely
- Involuntary muscle contractions
- Irregular heartbeat
- Respiratory problems
- Memory loss
The risk of overdose is much higher when combining GHB with other drugs, like alcohol, ecstasy, or amphetamines. In addition, it is particularly dangerous to take GHB with other substances that suppress the central nervous system, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines.
Long-Term Effects of GHB
Regularly abusing GHB can lead to physical dependence. People develop a tolerance to GHB very quickly, so many continue taking higher doses and then need more just to stave off the withdrawal. This easily leads to dependency. Signs of addiction include using more of the drug than intended and continuing to use it even when negative consequences occur. Other long-term risks include:
- Issues with short-term and long-term memory
- Cognitive impairment
- Heart disease
- Respiratory issues
GHB is highly addictive and can be dangerous to stop using cold turkey. If a person is physically dependent on GHB and stops taking it, they might experience withdrawal symptoms while the body tries to readjust to functioning without it.
Withdrawal symptoms start around 12 hours after a person takes the last dose of GHB, and they can last for up to two weeks. Some of them can include anxiety, seizures, insomnia, paranoia, hallucinations, and high blood pressure. Withdrawal symptoms fall into classifications of mild, moderate, or severe.
Other symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps
- Mood swings
- Psychotic behaviors
Because withdrawal symptoms can be so severe, patients sometimes try to detox at home by self-medicating with alcohol or benzodiazepines. However, using additional substances in an unsupervised setting can worsen withdrawal symptoms and cause respiratory depression, coma, and death.
If you are considering stopping GHB abuse, please contact us at (855) 430-9439 for professional help.
Treatment for GHB Abuse
GHB is a dangerous, toxic substance, even when a person takes it deliberately. And many people are exposed to it without consent. Taking the drug repeatedly can easily lead to dependence and addiction.
No matter how a person develops an addiction, the important thing is to get help before it gets worse. Usually, addressing a serious substance use disorder calls for professional help.
The approach to treating substance use disorders starts with an initial assessment. This helps us determine your needs, strengths, and weaknesses to offer the best treatment. Next, we will go over a full physical assessment and emotional and psychological reviews. We’ll also do a cognitive evaluation and assess your social situation.
The first step after the assessment is to manage withdrawal symptoms. Because GHB withdrawal can be particularly painful and dangerous, we will work with you to set up a medically supervised detox at our treatment center. This might include medication to ease the intensity of some symptoms as your system adjusts. Various medications address different needs, such as high blood pressure, insomnia, and discomfort.
Substance use disorder also requires some forms of behavioral therapy based on your individual needs. Different types of therapy are offered at Zinnia Health, including:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Support groups
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- EMDR therapy
- Yoga therapy
Therapy can be helpful to address a person’s reason for using substances, improve a person’s home/family/marriage life after addiction, and more. Therapy can also help you develop new coping mechanisms to deal with cravings and life stressors.
We will also educate you on relapse prevention tactics to give you the best chances of remaining sober.
We want to ensure that our clients have the help of family, friends, and peers during their recovery. We recommend social support groups, such as 12-step programs.
Other approaches, like social hobbies, activities, exercise, etc. help a person maintain social support during recovery.
Get Help for GHB Addiction Today
Drugs like GHB can negatively affect your health, family, relationships, work, school, and financial well-being.
If you or someone you love is abusing GHB, Zinnia Health can help. We provide a safe, medically supervised detox and inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment. Our recovery plans include education on getting sober, relapse prevention, and coping mechanisms. We also help arrange therapy, counseling, and access to support groups.
Don’t hesitate to contact us at (855) 430-9439 for help — you don’t have to struggle alone.