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GHB Side Effects 

GHB Effects

GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyrate) is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that is often referred to as a “club drug” or “date rape” drug.

Teens and young adults most commonly abuse GHB to enhance their party experiences at clubs, bars, parties, and raves. Users usually abuse GHB by mixing its liquid form into an alcoholic beverage and drinking it. It is important to note that GHB can also be found in powdered form and purchased on the streets or over the Internet for illicit use. The liquid version of GHB is odorless and tasteless, making it a common drug used on unsuspecting victims to facilitate sexual assault.

Furthermore, the production of GHB involves illegal labs where lye or drain cleaner is mixed with GBL, a chemical cousin of GHB. This process results in the creation of an odorless, colorless drug that is often combined with alcohol and given to victims without their knowledge before sexual assaults. The use of GHB in sexual assault cases has led to its notorious reputation as a 'date rape' drug, causing victims to become incapacitated and unable to resist. This dangerous practice has targeted individuals in various settings, including high school and college students, as well as attendees of rave parties who seek the intoxicating effects of GHB. Our Delaware drug rehab is aware that sedatives like GHB are often taken for the high they produce. What many users don’t realize is that GHB side effects can be severe and can even include ailments like addiction. 

What Does GHB Do?  

GHB works by increasing the neurotransmitter activity called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which carries messages between cells. However, GABA is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it blocks certain brain signals and decreases activity in the CNS. When a person takes GHB, GABA attaches to GABA receptors in the brain, producing a calming effect or high.  

GHB’s side effects make it a common recreational drug among people who like to party in nightclubs and raves because of the high it produces. Recreational GHB abuse is highly dangerous and can lead to addiction. Many people who begin casually using GHB often find themselves in need of medical detox. Its inhibitory impact on the body reduces a person’s ability to defend themself against sexual assault, making it a common date rape drug, as well. It can also cause memory loss, preventing victims from identifying their attackers. 

What Are the Side Effects of GHB? 

The GHB side effects usually begin about 15 to 30 minutes and intensify after 20 to 60 minutes.1 How long GHB stays in a person’s system and the intensity of its effects depends on the dose ingested and whether it’s mixed with other substances. 

Short-term effects of GHB include: 

  • Euphoria 
  • Relaxation and sedation 
  • Confusion 
  • Decreased blood pressure 
  • Memory loss 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Decreased body temperature 
  • Blacking out 
  • Loss of motor movement 
  • Headaches 
  • Increased sex drive 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Loss of balance and coordination 
  • Aggression and irritability 
  • Anxiety 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Seizures 

GHB overdose is a common risk in users because it’s often mixed with alcohol. Using it frequently with other substances also increases the risk of dependence and physical complications. Memory deficiencies and other cognitive issues are common among long-time GHB users. 

Long-term effects of GHB include: 

  • Respiratory depression 
  • Memory loss 
  • Overdose 
  • Psychosis 
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Tolerance 
  • Withdrawal 
  • Dependence and addiction 

GHB long-term effects also include addiction. More and more reports illustrate the addictive nature of GHB and its potential to cause withdrawal symptoms and overdose. Recreational drug use of any kind can be dangerous and life-threatening. Banyan Treatment Centers Delaware has helped numerous people recover from the effects of substance abuse with the help of our detox programs. 

GHB Side Effects: Next Day  

As a central nervous system depressant, GHB can lead to sedation and drowsiness. For this reason, it’s often used to facilitate sexual assault, most often by being placed in an unsuspecting victim’s drink. As a colorless liquid or white powder that is nearly undetectable when mixed into a liquid, and it’s, unfortunately, a popular date rape drug.  

However, people may also intentionally use GHB to get high, which is possible. The drug produces a sense of euphoria or extreme well-being, which keeps users hooked and wanting more. Once the effects wear off, users might take more doses, continuing the cycle.  

GHB side effects are usually felt within 10 minutes of ingestion and can last up to seven hours. The long duration of the high is what attracts users and makes the substance a popular drug of both abuse and sexual assault. However, the impact of GHB doesn’t dissipate when typical side effects do.   

Many victims of GHB-related date rape end up suspecting that they’ve been drugged because of the side effects they experience the following day. Common next-day GHB side effects may include dizziness, fatigue, and confusion. In addition, gaps in memory are especially common, as the after-effects of the drug are similar to those of a severe hangover.   

GHB is so sedative that an individual who was either unknowingly given high doses or has taken high doses of the drug may struggle to remember events from the night before. While they might be able to put together a string of memories, major gaps are common. This is another unfortunate reason why GHB is used as a date rape drug, as it makes it less likely that victims will remember the offender.  

Is GHB Addictive?  

GHB has a complex effect on the brain and body. As we previously mentioned, it works on different neurotransmitters or chemical messengers, especially gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This chemical inhibits or blocks communication between brain cells, slowing down functions such as thinking, concentration, movement, and memory.  

Due to its impact on neurotransmitters in the brain, GHB has been classified as an illegal drug in the United States. Its addictive nature has also earned this classification, as a major long-term side effect is substance use disorder. This is marked by an inability to control one’s use of GHB, among other symptoms like severe cravings and withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not accessible.  

Withdrawals are often uncomfortable, so much so that the individual will continue using GHB – even if they’re aware of the harm it’s causing – simply to avoid them. Tolerance is also a common sign of GHB addiction and abuse.  

This becomes evident when the individual no longer experiences the same GHB side effects at their typical dosage and therefore requires a higher dosage to experience a high. Due to tolerance, doses tend to increase over time, making the development of an addiction and the risk of overdose significantly more likely.  


What is Xyrem and how is it related to GHB?

Xyrem, known by its scientific name sodium oxybate, is a prescription drug that was given approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002. It is primarily used in the treatment of narcolepsy, a condition characterized by extreme drowsiness and sudden sleep attacks during the day. This medication is essentially the sodium form of gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB). The connection between Xyrem and GHB lies in their chemical composition, with Xyrem being derived from GHB.

In the United States, Xyrem is subject to stringent regulations. It is categorized as a Schedule III controlled substance, meaning it has the potential for abuse but may also have accepted medical uses. As such, individuals prescribed Xyrem must enroll in a program that restricts access to the drug to ensure its safe and proper use. Xyrem is not typically available at regular pharmacies, emphasizing the need for proper monitoring and control due to its classification.

Interestingly, the classification of Xyrem can change based on how it is used. When the drug is prescribed and utilized legally within the restrictions of the patient access program, it remains a Schedule III substance. However, if Xyrem is unlawfully distributed for recreational purposes, it can be reclassified as a Schedule I drug, indicating that it is deemed illegal for all purposes. This shift underscores the importance of adhering to legal guidelines and restrictions when dealing with Xyrem to prevent misuse and potential harm.

GHB Addiction Treatment  

GHB short-term effects and long-term effects can negatively impact other areas of an individual’s life in addition to their physical health. This includes their mental state, relationships, employment, school, and more. Fortunately, our Milford rehab offers detox in Delaware along with other evidence-based programs designed to help clients achieve long-term sobriety.   

If you’re hooked on drugs or alcohol, get help now. Call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763 for more information about our inpatient rehab in Delaware. 



NCBI - GHB Pharmacology and Toxicology: Acute Intoxication, Concentrations in Blood and Urine in Forensic Cases and Treatment of the Withdrawal Syndrome 


Related Reading: 

How Long Does GHB Stay In Your System? 

Signs of a Meth Lab: Could a Meth House be in Your Neighborhood 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.