Home > Current insights on the impact of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) abuse.

Tay, Emma and Lo, Wing Kwan Winky and Murnion, Bridin (2022) Current insights on the impact of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) abuse. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, 13, pp. 13-23. doi: 10.2147/SAR.S315720.

External website: https://www.dovepress.com/current-insights-on-the-...

Recreational gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) use, although less common than other substance use, is increasingly recognised and is over-represented in emergency toxicology presentations. This narrative review summarizes GHB pharmacology, current patterns of use, potential harms and management of GHB toxicity and withdrawal. There is a complex interplay between GHB and GABA as GHB is both a prodrug and metabolite of GABA and GHB activates both GHB and GABA receptors. GHB is rapidly absorbed, with effects seen within minutes of ingestion. Metabolism is non-linear at higher doses. While GHB is listed as a controlled substance, its precursor's gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4-butanediol (1,4-BD) are easily available as both have industrial applications. National surveys indicate low rates of GHB use, with identification of high-risk populations in men who have sex with men and polysubstance users. GHB is one of the three drugs most commonly used in chemsex.

GHB is often co-ingested with other interacting psychoactive substances. Acute toxicity is dose-dependent, and management is supportive care. Withdrawal management is generally with benzodiazepines with addition of baclofen for more severe withdrawal. Barbiturates may have a role. Titration and tapering of pharmaceutical GHB is commonly used in the Netherlands. Complicated withdrawal with delirium may require intensive care and treatment with intravenous sedation. There are high rates of relapse after withdrawal and medications for longer-term management are currently being investigated. Chronic use is associated with poorer mental, physical and sexual health, social dysfunction and poor work performance. Laboratory detection is complicated as GHB is an endogenous substance with a short half-life, and therefore not often routinely assayed in the clinical setting. Future research should focus on improving GHB detection and management of GHB withdrawal and dependence. Interventions specific for high-risk groups should be developed and assessed.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Open Access, Review, Article
Drug Type
New psychoactive substance, Prescription/Over the counter
Intervention Type
Harm reduction, Screening / Assessment
February 2022
Identification #
doi: 10.2147/SAR.S315720
Page Range
pp. 13-23
Dove Press

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