GHB and Xyrem Addiction, Symptoms and Treatment Information

Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB, is an illegal drug that acts as a central nervous system depressant. It is similar in its effects on the brain to ketamine and Rohypnol. A form of GHB is found in the drug Xyrem which is licensed by Jazz Pharmaceuticals. Xyrem is approved for medical use only for narcolepsy and cataplexy. The FDA only approves Xyrem for these illnesses because the GHB it contains are so addictive and dangerous in even the smallest doses. Xyrem can only be legally obtained through a restricted access program in order to curb illicit use.

GHB produces effects similar to large quantities of alcohol when ingested. It produces a feeling of euphoria and decreased inhibitions. In doses as small as two grams, slurred speech and loss of gross motor skills can be observed. In doses over four grams, individuals exhibit agitation, disorientation, aggressiveness, confusion, respiratory depression, memory loss, incontinence, loss of consciousness, coma, and death. The effects of GHB begin within ten to twenty minutes of ingestion and peak between forty-five and ninety minutes. Individuals may remain sleepy and groggy as much as twelve hours after taking it.

Because of the effects GHB has on the memory, consciousness, and movement, it has been used as a date rape drug in order to incapacitate victims and allow perpetrators to get away with their crime. Its effects are produced in small amounts and are easily slipped into a person’s drink without being detected. GHB is also undetectable in urine or blood tests unless these tests are administered soon after ingestion. Victims may not know they have been raped and may believe they simply had too much alcohol to drink.

Central nervous system depressants like alcohol, benzodiazepines, muscle relaxants, cold and flu medications, painkillers, sedatives, and medication for anxiety and depression should never be mixed with GHB. When GHB is mixed with other depressants, there is a high potential for life-altering injuries and death. This is because, in high doses, central nervous system depressants suppress the autonomic response of the brain. Involuntary body functions like respiration and heart rate regulation are affected. GHB overdose is very common due to the small amount it takes to induce severe intoxication.

GHB is often taken recreationally to induce the same effects as alcohol, but at smaller doses. It relaxes and reduces inhibitions in individuals making them feel more sociable. Young people who are involved in the club scene are often introduced to GHB and told it is safe and non-addictive. The effects of the drug can occur quickly, and cases of overdose need to be treated immediately. However, young people often suffer the misconception that their friend just needs to sleep it off and they will be fine in a few hours. This is dangerous and how many GHB and Xyrem related deaths from overdose occur.

GHB is most often abused by bodybuilders. GHB increases growth hormone production and is often started to stimulate muscle building. Bodybuilders consume other drugs, like ephedrine, to stimulate weight loss. These types of drugs produce a stimulant effect, like amphetamines. Bodybuilders often take GHB to counteract the effect of these stimulants. Surprisingly, senior citizens become addicted to Xyrem after being told of the drug’s anti-aging properties and when they try to get fit. Chronic pain patients, such as those suffering from fibromyalgia often become addicted to Xyrem after having it prescribed. Individuals who have suffered from sleep problems their whole lives become dependent on GHB after trying it to help them sleep. Many of these individuals have been told that GHB and Xyrem are safe and non-addictive, but that could not be further from the truth.

Like any drug, the longer an individual uses GHB or Xyrem, the more tolerance can occur. As tolerance increases, the amount of GHB must be increased to achieve the same effects. Over time, the body becomes physically addicted to the drug and needs it in order to function normally.

It can be difficult to detect if an individual is dependent on GHB or if they are exhibiting effects of alcohol and other drugs. People who use GHB appear drunk with loss of motor control and slurred speech. GHB does cause a characteristic head snapping with its use, where an individual will repeatedly snap their head back, sometimes resulting in injury from banging on a wall. GHB usually comes in small bottles and sometimes have droppers for dispensing. The liquid is clear, odorless, and mostly tasteless.

Chronic abuse of GHB can result in a variety of symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, hallucinations, headaches, amnesia, extreme anxiety, and seizures. GHB is illegal and therefore the concentration in the liquid is often unknown. If the concentration is too high, it becomes acidic and can cause mouth sores and infections from acid burns.

GHB and Xyrem addiction have very serious consequences including loss of employment, loss of social connections, and even loss of life. Withdrawal symptoms from GHB include seizures, sweating, tremors, psychosis, hallucinations, and death. The withdrawal period from these drugs can be prolonged and last ten to fourteen days in some cases. GHB and Xyrem detox should not be attempted without proper medical supervision.

GHB withdrawal symptoms can be deadly if an individual is not closely monitored during the detox process. When researching inpatient drug rehab facilities, it is important to seek out a facility with experience in GHB and Xyrem detox. Withdrawal from these drugs is particularly dangerous and similar to alcohol withdrawal. Medical staff needs to be educated about detoxing from GHB in order to properly support individuals experiencing withdrawal. Medications can be administered to individuals to lessen withdrawal symptoms and avoid seizure activity during detox.

Ridding the body of the drugs is the first step to overcoming GHB and Xyrem addiction. After detox has been completed in an inpatient facility, individuals should undergo intensive one on one counseling and group therapy sessions. Therapy and support will be necessary for individuals to handle the longer psychological withdrawal effects like depression and anxiety. These therapies allow the individual to talk through their experiences and learn new coping strategies for living a life free from drugs.


Further Reading:

GHB Withdrawal Symptoms
GHB Effects on the Body
GHB Drug Side Effects
Xyrem Side Effects
Xrem Abuse
Xrem Success Program Canada