GHB Overdose Symptoms
Many people intentionally use small doses of GHB for its sedative effects to self-medicate mental health issues like anxiety or mimic the depressive effects of alcohol without the calories. However, GHB is infamous for its role in sexual assaults, accidental GHB overdoses, and death.
Despite its well-known reputation for causing dangerous side effects and potentially lethal health problems, GHB substance abuse continues to increase among the willing and unwilling. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), emergency departments in the United States treat over 2,000 people who have overdosed on GHB annually.
While the official reports of GHB overdoses and substance abuse seem low, they are most likely vastly underreported. Many people don’t realize they’ve overdosed on a drug they didn’t know they took or are too ashamed to seek help.
Most victims of sexual assault involving GHB feel shame and guilt over being the victim of a crime and expect to be blamed for not protecting themselves better. Some people suffer immense memory loss and never realize they ingested near-fatal amounts of GHB. Sadly, as a result of being a crime victim, many people turn to substances as a substitute for appropriate treatment programs and mental health care.
Whether intentional GHB users overdose or a person unknowingly ingesting GHB overdoses, there are life-threatening consequences. Even if they survive, there can be long-term physical and mental health problems. Learn about how easy it is to overdose on GHB and how to recognize the signs to potentially save a life.
What Is GHB?
Scientifically identified as gamma hydroxybutyrate, GHB, or more famously, the date rape drug, is a central nervous system depressant known for being hard to detect and causing complete memory loss. The human body naturally produces small amounts of GHB that helps transmit signals from the brain to the central nervous system; however, synthetic GHB is unsafe for human consumption at any dose.
Initially, researchers believed GHB would be good anesthesia because of its sedative effects and ability to cause memory loss. Clinical trials prove that GHB side effects and unpredictability make medical usage unsafe. During the 1990s, GHB became one of the most famous club drugs, primarily because of its frequent use to commit sexual assault on unsuspecting people unable to detect it in their drinks.
In the United States, GHB is a schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no approved medical uses and high abuse potential. Most GHB in America is made in home labs using cleaning supplies and sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide.
The most common form of GHB is a clear, tasteless, odorless liquid. GHB also comes in powder form, a loose white powder that dissolves quickly in liquid. Some people have reported a faint soapy, or bitter taste from GHB, but not enough to be immediately recognizable.
Other names for GHB include:
- Liquid E
- Liquid ecstasy
- Easy lay
- Grievous bodily harm
- Vitamin G
On its own, GHB causes powerful effects; however, studies have revealed that most GHB users, willing and unwilling, mix GHB with alcohol and other recreational drugs almost every time. Mixing GHB with other substances, especially other depressants, causes heightened and dangerous side effects and increases the risk of accidental overdoses and death.
Effects of GHB
The effects of GHB set in within 15 to 20 minutes of ingestion, even faster when alcohol or other drugs are involved. Like all illegally produced drugs, every batch of GHB will vary in strength and purity, which can affect the outcome and length of the high.
The desired effects of GHB include:
- Full body relaxation
- Reduced anxiety
- Increased sex drive
- Lowered inhibitions
- Increased sensitivity to physical touch and stimuli
- Altered perceptions of time and space
Regardless of the intended effects of GHB, many undesired side effects will happen, especially when mixed with other substances. Chronic GHB users will have tolerance and feel fewer effects than inexperienced users.
Side effects of GHB include:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Slurred speech
- Loss of coordination
- Difficulty standing or staying upright
- Respiratory depression
- Decreased heart rate
- Memory loss
- Nodding off
- Inability to mentally or physically resist other people
Because GHB is mainly used in party or club settings, people under the influence of it often appear highly intoxicated. They are overlooked as someone potentially in danger, making them easy targets for physical and sexual assault and potentially lethal side effects.
Call 911 immediately or get to an emergency department if any side effects appear life-threatening. Even if someone has not taken GHB, they may be experiencing alcohol poisoning or another drug interaction. It is always better to be cautious if you are unsure of someone’s safety.
The length and severity of GHB withdrawal can range from mild to very severe, depending on the person taking it and the length and severity of the abuse. People who intentionally abuse GHB long-term develop tolerance and dependence and will experience intense withdrawal when they quit taking GHB.
The body breaks down and eliminates GHB very quickly, meaning withdrawal can happen as soon as 60 minutes after the last dose. People unknowingly dosed with GHB may experience withdrawal symptoms that will be milder than a chronic user and most likely blend in with the after-effects of other drugs or alcohol.
GHB withdrawal symptoms include:
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle weakness
- Memory gaps
- Panic attacks
- Respiratory depression
- Violent or intrusive thoughts
People knowingly addicted to GHB should seek medical advice before abruptly quitting to avoid traumatic and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox is the best way to stay physically safe and receive support for mental health problems or emergencies that may occur.
GHB Overdose Symptoms
As previously mentioned, every batch of GHB can vary in potency and purity; there is a minimal margin between a dose that causes side effects and one that causes an overdose or coma and death. Furthermore, GHB can take effect in under an hour; high doses can become fatal overdoses just as quickly.
Symptoms of GHB overdose include:
- Lack of a gag reflex
- Limp or non-responsive limbs
- Difficulty or inability to speak
- Eyes rolling back
- No response to loud noises, physical touch, or pain
- Slowed breathing
- Clammy or cold skin
- Drooping or limp neck
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Blueish lips and fingertips
Overdosing on GHB also increases the risk of a person choking on their vomit or suffering injuries if they lose consciousness and fall.
Never assume someone will sleep it off or just needs time if they appear to be experiencing an overdose. Call 911 or get to an emergency department as soon as you notice signs of a GHB overdose.
GHB Addiction Treatment in Northridge, California
If you or a loved one is struggling with GHB addiction or substance abuse involving multiple drugs or alcohol, authentic, compassionate help is available.
At Northridge Addiction Treatment Center, our only goal is your recovery. We take a whole-person approach to our residents’ healing process, offering onsite medical detox with 24-hour medical care and support to ensure a safe and peaceful setting during withdrawal.
Using evidence-based practices, we uncover the roots of addiction and address the behavioral health aspects that contributed to your substance abuse, fostering your confidence and skills to overcome life’s challenges with a new outlook backed by healthy habits and thoughts.
Reach out today to take the first steps on the path to recovery. Our treatment specialists are eager to discuss your addiction treatment options and get you the help you need.
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