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GHB or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that is commonly referred to as a “club drug” or “date rape” drug. GHB is abused by teens and young adults at bars, parties, clubs and “raves” (all night dance parties), and is often placed in alcoholic beverages. Euphoria, increased sex drive, and tranquility are reported positive effects of GHB abuse.1,2 Negative effects may include sweating, loss of consciousness (reported by 69 percent of users), nausea, hallucinations, amnesia, and coma, among other adverse effects.
Xyrem (sodium oxybate), a brand name prescription drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 for the treatment of narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and recurring daytime sleep attacks. It is the sodium salt of gamma hydroxybutyrate. Xyrem is a highly regulated drug in the U.S. It is a Schedule III controlled substance, and requires patient enrollment in a restricted access program.
GHB is also a naturally-occurring metabolite of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) found in the brain. The naturally-occurring metabolite GHB is present in much lower concentrations in the brain than those levels found when the drug is abused. As a result of fermentation, natural GHB may also be found in small but insignificant quantities in some beers and wines.
High doses of GHB, even without other illicit substances or alcohol, may result in profound sedation, seizures, coma, severe respiratory depression and death. Emergency department episodes related to the use of club drugs usually involve the use of multiple substances, such as marijuana, cocaine, and other club drugs, such as methamphetamine, Ecstasy, or Rohypnol.