What is GHB Addiction, Abuse & Treatment Featured

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

What is GHB? Addiction, Abuse & Treatment

Table of Contents

GHB is an illegal drug that affects the central nervous system and can cause various effects depending on the dose and the person.

GHB can be abused for recreational purposes, to enhance sexual experiences, or to facilitate sexual assault.

GHB abuse can lead to serious health risks, such as respiratory depression, coma, and death. It can also result in psychological addiction, where the user feels compelled to take the drug repeatedly despite the negative consequences.

What is GHB?

GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate, is a central nervous system depressant that can have euphoric and sedative effects.

It’s a naturally occurring substance in the human body, but it can also be synthesized in illegal labs or obtained from health food stores as a dietary supplement.

GHB has different forms, such as an odorless liquid, a white powder, or a pill. It has various street names, such as liquid ecstasy, grievous bodily harm, or date rape drug.

As the name suggests, GHB is also sometimes used as a date rape drug, often secretly added to someone’s drink or food to make them unconscious or unable to resist sexual assault.

GHB can cause memory loss, confusion, drowsiness, or coma, making it difficult for the victim to recall what happened or report the crime.

Medical and Recreational Uses

GHB was initially developed as an anesthetic, but it was found to have serious side effects and was banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2000.

However, some doctors still prescribe GHB for specific medical conditions, such as narcolepsy (a disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness) or alcohol withdrawal.

In these cases, GHB is controlled as a Schedule III substance, meaning it has some accepted medical use and a high potential for drug abuse.

GHB is also used recreationally as a party drug by some people who seek its euphoric, sedative, or sexual-enhancing effects.

Some people also use GHB to enhance the effects of other drugs, such as alcohol or ecstasy. However, this can be extremely dangerous and increase the risk of overdose and death.

Medical and Recreational Uses

What Are the Effects Of GHB?

Generally speaking, low doses of GHB can cause relaxation, euphoria, enhanced mood and sociability, increased libido, and mild hallucinations.

Higher doses of GHB can cause drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sudden loss of muscle tone and coordination, difficulty breathing, lowered heart rate and blood pressure, seizures, coma, or death.

However, the overall effects of GHB depend on several factors, such as the dose, the purity, the person’s body weight and metabolism, and the presence of other substances in the system.

How Does GHB Affect Brain Function?

GHB can also affect brain activity and function by increasing the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which are neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation and reward.

This drug can also inhibit the activity of glutamate and GABA in the brain, which are neurotransmitters involved in excitatory and inhibitory signals. These changes can alter the perception of reality, impair judgment and decision-making, and affect memory and learning.

Is GHB Addictive?

GHB is a highly addictive substance that can cause physical and psychological dependence.

People who use GHB regularly may develop tolerance, so they need more of the drug to achieve the same effect.

They may also experience GHB withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug or reduce the dose.

Signs and Symptoms of GHB Addiction and Abuse

Some of the signs and symptoms of GHB addiction and abuse are:

  • Using GHB repeatedly despite negative consequences on one’s health, relationships, work, or legal status.
  • Having intense cravings for the drug and spending a lot of time and money to obtain it.
  • Losing interest in other activities or hobbies that used to be enjoyable.
  • Having difficulty controlling or stopping GHB use.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using GHB or trying to quit.
  • Taking larger doses of the drug or using it more frequently than intended.
  • Taking risks or engaging in dangerous behaviors while under the influence of GHB, such as driving, having unprotected sex, or using other drugs.
  • Lying or hiding about taking GHB from others.
  • Having trouble with school, work, or family obligations because of GHB use.

Signs and Symptoms of GHB Addiction and Abuse

GHB Overdose – Causes, Symptoms, and Emergency Response.

GHB overdose is a medical emergency resulting from taking too much GHB or mixing it with other drugs.

Some of the signs and symptoms of GHB overdose are:

  • Severe drowsiness or unconsciousness
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Low body temperature
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Choking on one’s vomit
  • Brain damage
  • Death

If someone is suspected of overdosing on GHB, they should receive immediate medical attention.

The treatment for GHB overdose may include supportive care, such as oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids, and medications to counteract the effects of GHB. There is no specific antidote for GHB overdose.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of GHB Withdrawal?

GHB withdrawal is the process of GHB leaving the system after chronic use. This can cause unpleasant symptoms that can range from mild to severe.

Some of the common physical and psychological symptoms of GHB withdrawal are:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Psychotic thoughts
  • Seizures

GHB withdrawal can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of GHB Withdrawal

What Are the Options Available for GHB Addiction Treatment and Rehab?

GHB addiction can be hard to overcome without proper treatment because of the risk of GHB withdrawal. Therefore, seeking medical care and detox under supervision is important if you want to quit GHB.

Types of GHB Addiction Treatment

Detox Program

Detox is often the first step in GHB addiction treatment. It’s a medically supervised process where the body rids itself of GHB while managing withdrawal symptoms.

Therapy and Counseling

Therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Group Therapy, and individual counseling play a vital role in addressing the psychological aspects of addiction. They help people develop coping strategies and healthier thought patterns.

Medication in GHB Addiction Treatment


Benzodiazepines may help manage anxiety and sleep issues during substance abuse treatment. However, they should be used cautiously to avoid replacing one dependency with another.


These drugs can assist in handling withdrawal symptoms, especially the risk of seizures.

Antihypertensive Medications

These medications help manage high blood pressure, which can be a withdrawal symptom during recovery.


Antidepressants can be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety for people with co-occurring disorders.

Inpatient Rehabilitation for GHB Addiction

What to Expect

Inpatient rehab offers a structured, immersive environment with 24/7 care and support.


Supervised detox, therapy sessions, and a community of peers foster a supportive setting, increasing the chances of successful recovery.


Inpatient rehab duration varies based on individual needs, typically weeks to months.

Outpatient Rehabilitation for GHB Addiction

Differences from Inpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab allows individuals to attend treatment sessions while living at home. It offers flexibility but requires strong self-discipline.


Outpatient rehab allows for maintaining personal and work commitments, and individuals can apply learned coping strategies in real-life situations.


The absence of 24/7 supervision can make it challenging for some to resist triggers.

Therapies for GHB Addiction Treatment

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps individuals recognize and modify negative thought patterns, fostering healthier behaviors and coping mechanisms.

Group Therapy

Sharing experiences and insights with peers undergoing similar challenges creates a sense of community and camaraderie.

Continuing GHB Addiction Treatment – Aftercare

Aftercare is crucial for maintaining sobriety. Regular therapy, support groups, and ongoing assessments help prevent relapse and promote long-term recovery.

Ready to Overcome GHB Addiction? Seek Help Today.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with GHB addiction, NuView Treatment Center will guide you. Our compassionate team of experts specializes in substance abuse treatment and mental health services.

Why Choose NuView Treatment Center:

  • Comprehensive and personalized treatment plans
  • Experienced medical professionals and therapists
  • Evidence-based therapies and holistic approaches
  • Safe and supportive environment
  • Focus on long-term recovery and aftercare

Contact us today to learn more about our substance abuse treatment programs and start your journey to recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS) About GHB Addiction, Abuse and Treatment

GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate, was initially used for medical purposes as an anesthetic and to treat narcolepsy. However, due to its potential for abuse and adverse effects, it's not widely used for medical treatment.

GHB crime is the illegal production, distribution, possession, or use of GHB. It's also a crime to spike someone's drink with GHB without their consent or knowledge.

GHB crime is the illegal production, distribution, possession, or use of GHB. It's also a crime to spike someone's drink with GHB without their consent or knowledge.

Yes, GHB can affect sleep patterns. Low doses of GHB can improve sleep quality and duration by increasing deep sleep stages. However, high doses of GHB can disrupt sleep cycles.

The toxic effects of GHB can include respiratory depression, seizures (in severe cases), nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate, muscle cramps, and impaired cognitive function. In extreme cases, GHB toxicity can be life-threatening.

Some drugs that may be used to reverse overdose are naloxone, flumazenil, and activated charcoal. However, there is no specific antidote for GHB overdose. 

GHB is one of the most common drugs used to spike drinks because it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless when mixed with liquids. Other drugs that may be used to spike drinks are alcohol, ketamine, Rohypnol, ecstasy, and cocaine.

GHB is different from other recreational drugs because it has a very narrow margin of safety. A slight difference in dose can cause a big difference in effects.

GHB has some legal uses for medical purposes.

In some countries, GHB is approved as a treatment for narcolepsy. In other countries, GHB is used as an anesthetic or a diagnostic agent.

Some people may become addicted to GHB after using it only once or twice, while others may take longer or never develop addiction.

However, generally speaking, the speed of addiction to GHB depends on several factors, such as the dose, frequency, and duration of use, the individual's genetic makeup, personality, and environment.

Some of the long-term effects of GHB abuse on mental health include depression, anxiety, psychosis, cognitive impairment, memory loss, personality changes, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

“Facts about Date-Rape Drugs.” http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/womenshealth/factsheets/date.htm. Accessed 25 Aug. 2023.

“Federal Register.” Federal Register www.federalregister.gov/documents/2005/01/04/05-56/recordkeeping-and-reporting-requirements-for-drug-products-containing-gamma-hydroxybutyric-acid-ghb.

“GHB – Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid.” DEAwww.dea.gov/factsheets/ghb-gamma-hydroxybutyric-acid.

Raposo Pereira, Filipa, et al. “Adverse Effects of GHB-induced Coma on Long-term Memory and Related Brain Function.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol. 190, Elsevier BV, Sept. 2018, pp. 29–36. Crossrefhttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.05.019.

Johansson, Jenny, et al. “Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) Induces Cognitive Deficits and Affects GABAB Receptors and IGF-1 Receptors in Male Rats.” Behavioural Brain Research, vol. 269, Elsevier BV, Aug. 2014, pp. 164–74. Crossrefhttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.04.034.

Madah-Amiri, Desiree, et al. “Intoxication With GHB/GBL: Characteristics and Trends From Ambulance-attended Overdoses.” Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine, vol. 25, no. 1, Springer Science and Business Media LLC, Sept. 2017. Crossrefhttps://doi.org/10.1186/s13049-017-0441-6.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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