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Since about 1990, GHB (gamma hydroxy-butyrate) has been abused in the U.S. for euphoric, sedative, and anabolic (body building) effects. It is a central nervous system depressant that was widely available over-the-counter in health food stores during the 1980s, purchased largely by body builders to aid fat reduction and muscle building. As with Rohypnol and clonazepam, GHB has been associated with sexual assault in cities throughout the country.
GHB has not been sold over-the-counter in the U.S. since 1992. However products containing gamma butyrolactone (GBL), a chemical that is converted by the body into GHB, are used in a number of dietary supplements in health food stores and gymnasiums.
Reports from Detroit indicate liquid GHB is being used in nightclubs for effects similar to those of Rohypnol. It is also common in the club scene in Phoenix, Honolulu, and Texas, where it is known as "liquid ecstacy," "somatomax," "scoop," "Georgia Home Boy," or "grievous bodily harm." In Miami, poison control center calls have reflected problems associated with increased GHB use, including loss of consciousness. In New York City, there have been reports of GHB use among those in the fashion industry. GHB is one of the most popular manufactured drugs in Atlanta. It is available in some gyms and reputed to be widely accessible at some gay male party venues.
A Poison Control Center in Denver reports that in 1998, 33 calls involved GHB, and almost half of these cases were considered life threatening. GHB accounts for an increasing number of sexual assault cases in Los Angeles and overdose deaths involving drug combinations.
Coma and seizures can occur following abuse of GHB and, when combined with methamphetamine, there appears to be an increased risk of seizure. Combining use with other drugs such as alcohol can result in nausea and difficulty breathing. GHB may also produce withdrawal effects, including insomnia, anxiety, tremors, and sweating.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|