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Home > Unity in diversity: a systematic review on the GHB using population.

Dijkstra, B A G and Beurmanjer, H and Goudriaan, A E and Schellekens, A F A and Joosten, E A G (2021) Unity in diversity: a systematic review on the GHB using population. International Journal of Drug Policy, 94, p. 103230. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103230.

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BACKGROUND: Over the past decades gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) has emerged as a popular drug with high potential of (ab)use due to its euphoric and relaxing effects. An overview of different populations using GHB is urgently needed, since this would enable development of adequate prevention and treatment policies to diminish the risks associated with GHB use. We systematically reviewed literature on different GHB using populations, comparing demographic characteristics, GHB use patterns, psychosocial aspects and psychiatric comorbidity.

METHODS: We conducted a systematic review following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines using Rayyan software. Original studies published from January 1997 up to October 2019 on GHB use were included. Out of 80 full-text articles, 60 articles of 51 unique studies were included. Most studies included people using GHB 1) presenting at emergency departments (n = 22), 2) recruited from the general population (n = 11), or 3) presenting at addiction care (n = 8).

RESULTS: Three main sub-populations of people using GHB are described in the literature: people using GHB recreationally without adverse effects; people using GHB recreationally with adverse effects, and people with dependence on GHB. These groups show considerable overlap in gender, age range, and comorbid substance use, as well as amount of GHB use per occasion. Differences are related to frequency and function of GHB use, the number of comas experienced, as well as work status, and psychiatric comorbidity.

CONCLUSION: Policy interventions should aim at preventing the transition from recreational substance use to GHB use, as most users are experienced recreational substance users prior to starting GHB use. When people use GHB regularly, interventions should aim at reducing the level of GHB use and preventing GHB use-related harm. Longitudinal studies and population-based probability sampling are required for more insight in the dynamics of GHB use in different sub-populations, and the transition from one group to the other, ultimately leading to dependence on GHB.

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