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What Is GHB?

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a synthetic drug that’s sold with a prescription in the United States.

For people with specific medical conditions, GHB is a lifesaver. But to teens, GHB has an altogether different purpose. To young people, this is a drug that has the power to transport them into a different frame of mind, and sometimes, teens who experiment with GHB end up with a set of problems they never anticipated.

GHB’s History

In 2002, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), regulators approved the manufacture and sale of GHB as a treatment for narcolepsy. People with this condition struggle with unusual episodes of sleep, and GHB’s sedating quality seems to help these people both fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night.

When GHB was approved, NIDA says, regulators placed strong restrictions on the prescriptions and sales of the product. People with a prescription were placed into a registry, as were their doctors, and their refills were closely monitored. These safeguards were designed to keep GHB away from people who hoped to abuse it. But as it turns out, those safeguards may not have been strong enough.

Since the mid-1990s, according to CESAR, the use of GHB on the illicit drug market has been rising. It’s a particular concern for teenagers, as they seem to be the prime target for the use and abuse of this drug.

How GHB Is Used

GHB is considered a “club drug”. That means it’s a special substance of abuse that teens tend to use in social situations. Drugs in this classification have the ability to enhance visual and auditory signals, so teens enjoy both music and lights just a little bit more. That could be a very attractive attribute for teens who plan to spend the evening dancing with their friends in loud, lit-up environments.

GHB can also enhance a feeling of closeness and emotional connection. That means teens taking GHB sometimes feel a deep kinship with the people around them, and that may also make a party or dance just a little more fun. When teens think their peers like them and want to be with them, they might stay at a party longer than they would otherwise.

Teens are drawn to GHB, also, because it’s a relatively inexpensive drug. According to Kansas State University, a dose could cost a teen as little as $5. That’s quite a value, particularly for teens trying to pay for a drug habit on a small allowance. While a teen like this might not be able to afford drugs like cocaine, teens might very well be able to buy a $5 hit of GHB.

Teens who do buy GHB are rarely supplied with any kind of dosing information or warning information. They’re buying from dealers, not doctors, so it could be hard for them to find information they can trust. That means teens might need to rely on experimentation in order to determine how much to take.

Kansas State University reports that teens might start by taking one dose, but that dose can take up to 30 minutes to take effect. Impatient teens, hoping to get the party started as quickly as possible, may choose to take another dose before the first one is working. And they may double down on that second dose, too. That repeated dosing is particularly dangerous, as it can lead to some very real medical problems.

The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that GHB ingestion can result in:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Heartbeat abnormalities
  • Increases or decreases in blood pressure
  • Slow breathing
  • Aggression
  • Weakness
  • Amnesia
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting

The way in which people take GHB can be variable, too, meaning that some people have health problems after taking in just a small amount of the drug. Others, however, can take in a large amount of GHB without experiencing these problems.

Sometimes, too, the purity of GHB can be suspect. That could mean that some people have no trouble with one batch of GHB, as it seems relatively weak, but the next one could be just strong enough to harm them or push them into illness. Every time teens take GHB, they’re running that risk.

Teens might try to ameliorate that risk by purchasing GHB from specific and trusted suppliers, and they might take only small doses at first, until they feel confident in the safety and purity of that batch. But there’s a whole second class of teens taking GHB that may not be able to take such precautions.

Inadvertent GHB Consumption

GHB’s power, combined with its ability to cause sedation, makes it an excellent date-rape weapon. People hoping to take advantage of vulnerable teens need do little more than slide a dose into a drink when that victim is caught unaware. GHB is odorless and tasteless, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, and it dissolves rapidly in liquid. A teen could put down a drink for just a second, and return to find it altered. That teen may have no idea that anything happened.

A teen assaulted while on GHB may be physically unable to fight back. The teen may not even be awake during the episode, but that teen could experience a great deal of anguish when brought back to reality. Physical signs could help a teen to realize that the assault has taken place, but the teen may be unable to get justice, as the teen may not know who performed the attack.

Any teen could be prey to a sexual predator, but it’s a particular concern for teens who mix parties with drugs. These environments aren’t tightly controlled, and they’re rarely patrolled by adults. All sorts of things can happen, within the blink of an eye, and a teen’s life could be forever changed as a result.

Signs of Abuse

Whether or not a teen is aware of the GHB issue, there are some signs and symptoms that come with the drug’s use that parents can look for. The Council on Drug Abuse reports that teens taking GHB may exhibit:

  • Headaches
  • Personality shifts
  • Depression
  • Memory limitations
  • Decrease in school performance
  • Sleep difficulties

Teens using GHB in party situations may come home seeming low, sad, and depressed. They may be unable to provide any information about what happened, whom they saw, or why they went in the first place.

Teens using GHB regularly may develop these sorts of amnesia moments regularly, often after they’ve had a few minutes of alone time. They may emerge from a “nap” seeming altered, or they may head into the bathroom and walk out with a totally different mood.

It can be scary to think of confronting a teen like this, as parents may wish to stay in the dark about a teen’s drug use. But when it comes to GHB, knowledge really is power. Those parents who do discuss drug use openly can help their teens to both understand why it’s dangerous, and they can provide solutions that can help their teens to develop better habits.

Next Generation Village can help. Comprehensive drug addiction treatment provided by licensed mental health professionals is the exclusive purview of this facility. Teens who enroll are provided with customized treatment plans, education support, ongoing care, and vital skills. Parents, too, have the opportunity to learn more about how addictions develop and what vulnerable teens need to do in order to get better. It’s a vital, and present, process that can start right away.

When parents know that a teen is using GHB or any other drug, they can call the number on this page and start the enrollment process. In minutes, families can have a plan in place, and the healing can begin. Interested parties should call now.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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