What Is GHB?

What Is GHB? | Effects and Risks | Midwood Addiction Treatment

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate, C4H803) is commonly recognized in popular cultures as a “date rape” drug. It is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant most often abused by teenagers and young adults at clubs, concerts, parties, and raves. To incapacitate a potential victim, GHB is sometimes placed in the alcoholic beverage of a drinker who is completely unaware of its presence.

Of note, Xyrem (sodium salt of gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a brand name prescription medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of narcolepsy, a condition in which a person can fall asleep unpredictably in inappropriate situations. It is a tightly controlled drug in the U.S. and mandates patient enrollment in a restricted access program.

Effects of GHB

The chemical gamma-hydroxybutyrate is produced by the body naturally when food is metabolized in the stomach. When abused in drug form, euphoria, increased sexual desire, and relaxation are all reported as positive effects of GHB use. Less desirable effects may include sweating, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, amnesia, hallucinations, and coma.

Many people report that in small doses, GHB induces effects comparable to those of stimulants. But as a CNS depressant, and in high enough doses, it causes a state of relaxation and drowsiness that can also lead to impaired coordination, slurred speech, and unconsciousness. Such effects are amplified when GHB is combined with alcohol and can onset within minutes. For this reason, GHB, in addition to Rohypnol, is popularly used as a date rape drug.

There has been a great deal of debate regarding the safety of recreational GHB use. Many users report that when used in small doses, and not in conjunction with other drugs, it is relatively safe and non-addictive. Nonetheless, recent findings from new research have revealed that it is indeed addictive, and sudden discontinuation can induce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Dangers and Risks of GHB

Anecdotal evidence from users claims that GHB is relatively safe when used on its own. However, there has been a number of reported cases of users suffering an overdose when the drug is repeatedly consumed in high doses.

Symptoms of an overdose may include the following:

  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Shallow breathing
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Blackouts
  • Unconsciousness

How GHB Is Used as a Date Rape Drug

What Is GHB? | Effects and Risks | Midwood Addiction Treatment

GHB is found as an odorless, colorless substance that can be combined with alcohol and slipped to unsuspecting victims with the intent to engage in a sexual assault. Victims can become quickly incapacitated due to its potent sedative effects and are therefore unable to fight against a would-be attacker. GHB may induce amnesia, and thus cause the victim to remember little to nothing of the experience.

It can be obtained on the streets or the Dark Web in liquid form or as a white powdery substance for illicit use. Most of the GHB found on both streets and the Internet is produced illegally in labs and is thus unlikely to be a product of prescription drug diversion.

GHB Addiction

Despite the claims of many users, research has shown that GHB does have some potential for dependence and addiction. When someone starts using it for non-medical purposes, eventually they can develop a tolerance and require increasingly higher doses to feel the same intensity of effects. Considering how powerful this depressant is, however, even one extra dose of it can lead to a potentially life-threatening overdose.

Because GHB is broken down in the system rapidly, if someone who is dependent skips even one dose, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can manifest within just a few hours. Sweating, anxiety, panic attacks, elevated heart rate, and high blood pressure are the first indicators that a person is suffering from withdrawal. These initial symptoms will wane after 2-3 days.

If GHB is abused in very high doses for an extended period, another stage of withdrawal characterized by an altered mental state, hallucinations, and sleep disturbances can occur. This condition is similar to delirium tremens—a life-threatening condition associated with chronic alcohol use that includes seizures, tremors, and psychosis. As these symptoms subside, cravings, mood changes, fatigue, and anxiety may persist for a few days longer.

Treatment for GHB Addiction

Although it is unlikely that a person will become addicted to GHB after one or two doses, repeated use can develop into dependence and lead to the onset of withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. For this reason, persons abusing GHB should seek professional treatment as soon as possible.

Midwood Addiction Treatment offers integrated, research-based treatment programs for those struggling with substance abuse or addiction. Our programs, which include psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and medication-assisted treatment, are delivered by highly-trained, compassionate professionals with years of experience in the fields of addiction and mental health.

If you or a loved one is abusing GHB, other drugs, or alcohol, contact us today. Find out how we help people recover and begin to experience the healthy and fulfilling life they deserve!

Ambien Addiction and Women

Ambien Addiction | Midwood Addiction Treatment

Ambien (zolpidem tartrate) is a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) agonist, meaning that it activates neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for producing GABA, a chemical that effectively slows down the central nervous system and can result in relaxation and sleepiness.

Ambien is frequently prescribed for insomnia or sleeping difficulties and is found in 5mg and 10mg doses.

Concerning Ambien, the Mayo Clinic says that it’s unlikely to develop a dependence of Ambien and that medications such as Ambien are “much less likely to be habit-forming than some other drugs sometimes prescribed for sleep problems — for example, benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan) or temazepam (Restoril).”

This position appears to be in line with the general consensus. Ambien use, however, is not without its problems, and indeed, other sources believe that regular Ambien use CAN result in a psychological dependence and perhaps some level of tolerance, and users can gradually begin to require and use larger doses to achieve the same sedative effects.

Ambien Addiction: A Real-Life Case Study

Michelle is a 46-year-old female with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. She is prescribed Adderall, a stimulant, during the day, and finds it difficult to sleep at night. She has been using Ambien under a doctor’s guidance for several years to help with this problem.

Per Michelle 5 years ago: “I like taking Ambien because I know I’m going to fall right to sleep within a half hour and not lie there awake for hours.”

Two years ago, Michelle started going through a separation from her long-term husband and found herself, once again, unable to sleep. Unable to increase her dosage fearing she would run out of Ambien, she suffered through months of sleepless nights.

Today, she says it “still helps for the most part” but noted that “my doctor knocked it down to 5mg from 10mg, some new law about women over 45.”

Well, it’s not exactly a law, and after such a little research, this author covered the following:

In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had informed manufacturers of products containing Zolpidem, such as Ambien, that they should decrease the recommended dosage. So the standard dosage of Ambien for women was reduced from 10mg to 5mg.

For men, however, the FDA simply recommended that doctors consider lowering the dosage to 5 mg. Also, the FDA noted that health care providers should inform patients that they may be at a higher risk of impaired alertness.

The reason for the change stemmed from clinical trials and driving simulation research. They found that some women did not perform certain tasks, such as driving, as well the morning after using Ambien.

Ambien Addiction | Midwood Addiction Treatment

Ambien Addiction: Adverse Effects

According to Health.com:

“Ambien is far less likely than some other prescription medications to provoke misuse and dependence, but it’s not entirely benign, either.”

Stephen Ross, MD, at the New York University School of Medicine:

“We’re now seeing more and more case reports – many case reports – of people becoming genuinely addicted.”

Ross went on to explain that a patient begins taking higher doses of Ambien to get the same sedative/sleep benefit, and that “he has treated people who have become so tolerant to the drug that they pop up to 10 or 20 pills – instead of the recommended one pill – per day.”

He also added that “in the process of treating their insomnia, some people realize they like the “high” or the anxiety-easing effects that Ambien gives them” and that the drug can, indeed, become habit-forming when taken too much/too often, and is more likely among those who are currently addicted to other substances.

Finally, Ambien can be especially dangerous when used recreationally (other than prescribed) especially if combined with other drugs, such as opioids, or alcohol.

Ambien Addiction | Midwood Addiction Treatment

Ambien Addiction: Official Side Effects

Common side effects of Ambien (zolpidem) include the following:

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Weakness
  • “Drugged” feeling
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of coordination,
  • Stuffy nose or nasal irritation
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Euphoria
  • Ataxia (balance problems)
  • Visual changes

Rare, but more serious effects include the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Mental/mood/behavior changes (e.g. new or worsening depression, abnormal thoughts, suicide ideations, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, aggression or anxiety)

Treatment for Ambien Addiction

Ambien probably has a low likelihood for a chemical dependency but appears to, at least anecdotally, to have the potential for a psychological dependency, abuse, and the development of tolerance.

If you feel that you or a loved one are addicted to Ambien, you should seek help immediately. Addiction is very treatable, and evidence has shown that outcomes are improved when patients undergo long-term rehab (residential) and intensive outpatient treatment programs.

Our center offers comprehensive, evidence-based therapies that are administered by medical and mental health professionals with expertise in the area of addiction. We can give you the tools you need to regain the happy, healthy, and fulfilling life that you deserve.

You can reclaim the life you deserve and enjoy long-lasting wellness and sobriety! Contact us as soon as possible and find out how we can help!