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GHB was first synthesized in 1874 by Alexander Zaytsev. Extensive research on potential uses for GHB did not begin until the early 1960s. At this point, Dr. Henri Labroit began studying GHB in relation to its effect on the neurotransmitter GABA. He quickly found various uses for the
drug. It is difficult to overdose on, has few side effects and a short duration of action. It became widely used, especially in Europe, for sleep until other more effective drugs were developed. By the 1970s, it was a major drug used illicitly at raves. It was banned from 1990 to 2002.


GHB stands for Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid. It is primarily classified as a central nervous system depressant. In the US it is classified as a Schedule III Psychotropic. This means it has been determined by government agencies that GHB:

  1. Has a potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in schedules I and II.
  2. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  3. Abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.


In medical settings, GHB has been used in several ways.

Medical Uses of GHB Include:

In the United States, it is only approved for the treatment of cataplexy, Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, and narcolepsy.

There are several illicit uses for GHB. The most common use is as an intoxicant in rave circles, where it is taken to enhance the enjoyment of socialization and music. It is also used as a date rape drug because it is colorless, odorless and in large doses, sleep-inducing. Some athletes and bodybuilders use GHB because it elevates levels of human growth hormone.

Effects of GHB Use

The effects of GHB are generally dose-dependent. In small doses the primary effects are stimulatory and aphrodisiacal while large doses causes sedation. Primary effects last from an hour and a half to three hours, depending on dose.

Effects of GHB Include:

  • Euphoria
  • Disinhibition
  • Empathogenesis
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Agitation
  • Visual disturbances
  • Depressed breathing
  • Amnesia
  • Unconsciousness


Similar Drugs

In terms of a drug that primarily acts on GABA receptors, GHB is similar to many drugs ranging from baclofen, a muscle relaxant, to alcohol.
Similar Drugs Include:

Addiction Information

GHB has abuse potential but rarely cause addiction. Addiction is caused by repeated drug use which disrupts the functioning of the brain circuits that are involved with rewards, memory and cognition. This eventually leads to compulsive drug use.

GHB Withdrawal

Withdrawal from constant GHB use over an extended period of time can be fatal.

Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

GHB Overdose Information

The lethal dose of GHB is very high. It decreases when in combination with alcohol due to a synergistic affect and the fact that GHB inhibits the excretion of alcohol. Most reported overdoses in which GHB was involved were due to respiratory depression and also involved other depressant drugs. GHB is neurotoxic, however relatively safe, with very few associated deaths and long-term side effects. It occurs naturally in the human body.

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