No matter how widespread the campaign is against drug abuse and its unfavorable effects, a lot of people still find themselves getting involved in it. What makes it alarming is how kids as young as 14 years old are getting hooked on it, and what make is even worse is that the drugs are getting more dangerous. Some of the emerging substances rounding public places include party drugs, and one of which is called Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB).
In this article, we will discuss what this drug is, what its dangers are, and how to handle cases of GHB use.
Quick Statistics on Drug Use
According to the Monitoring The Future Survey, close to 40 percent of 12th graders living in medical marijuana states have used marijuana at least once in the past year.
What has caused these anti-drug campaigns to fall? Fingers are pointing to several factors which include the following:
- Underfunded law enforcement
- Unsuccessful government programs
- Irresponsible media content
- Inefficiency of drug prevention programs
A Brief History of Drug Use
It was in the late 1960s when drug use started to gain popularity among young adults. They were unaware of what marijuana can truly do to their health. What people were told about marijuana was not about acquiring any psychological addiction but rather about the physical symptoms such as having acne, as well as causing sterility and blindness. This kind of information was not effective enough to provide the message that should be relayed to the general public with regards to marijuana use. Instead of staying away from the substance, people must have shrugged their shoulders and just continued using marijuana.
It was in the 1970s when people are slowly realizing that drugs particularly marijuana, has become a social problem. Along with this is the slowly increasing popularity of other drugs.
By 1980s, crack cocaine use became a terrifying problem as it was very cheap and in abundant supply. It allegedly gave a different kind of high compared to other drugs.
In the 1990s, $17.1 billion dollars was set for funding the anti-drug campaign. This financial support was based on the fact that 34 percent of Americans have admitted trying marijuana.
It was also during this period when an upswing in club drugs or party drugs was even more frightening, Ecstasy and crystal meth have become the most popular drugs among teenagers. Years later, several other drugs came into the scene such as synthetic drugs.
What is Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB)?
Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid, also known as 4-hydroxybutanoic acid, is both a naturally occurring neurotransmitter and a psychoactive drug. It is commonly used as a general anesthetic and as a treatment for narcolepsy and alcoholism. It has also been used as a performance-enhancing drug and a date-rape drug.
This drug mimics the GABA neurotransmitter of the brain by regulating consciousness, activity, and sleep. It has a significant effect in improving mood, thereby promoting a feeling of relaxation.
It can be produced from fermentation that can be found in minute quantities found in wines and beers.
It is produced by illegal labs and comes out in the form of an odorless and colorless liquid. It is considered as a designer drug because it was intentionally made for the purpose of creating an unusual “high” effect on users.
Street names of GHB include the following:
- Liquid Ecstasy
- Georgia Home Boy
- Liquid X
The U.S. Food and Drug Authority (FDA) issued an advisory in 1990 declaring that GHB is unsafe and illegal, except under FDA-approved physician-supervised protocol.
On a legl standpoint, GHB is also known as Xyrem or sodium oxybate, a prescription drug approved by the FDA in 2002 used for treatment of narcolepsy. As sodium oxybate, it is currently listed under Schedule III, and requires patient enrollment. In addition, only certain physicians who carry special licenses are allowed to prescribe this drug.
However, GHB in its pure form is categorized as Schedule I due to its potential for abuse.
How is GHB used?
GHB in liquid or powder form is mixed with water or is taken as a tablet. In the medical field, it is used as a treatment for narcolepsy and alcoholism. It also sometimes used for the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Sodium oxybate is used for the treatment of cataplexy that is associated in narcolepsy.
GHB can be both a stimulant and a depressant, depending on the amount of GHB used. At lower doses, it can be a stimulant. However, higher doses may result to any of the following effects:
- Enhanced libido
GHB has become the drug of choice for those who have illegal intentions towards women. In 1999, it was found out that among 1,178 urine samples from victims of suspected rape involving drugs, 4 percent were found to be positive for GHB. However, the number may be even higher because the samples were taken 72 hours after the incident. GHB disappears from the blood stream after 12 hours.
Statistics of GHB use
GHB has been listed under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act since 2000. All substances under this category are said to have no medical use and have high potential for abuse.
The following are some facts related to GHB use:
- GHB is one of the most common date rape drugs. Among other date rape drugs are rohypnol and ketamine.
- Since 1990, there have been about 15,600 recorded overdose cases in the US.
- About 3 people die of GHB overdose annually.
- About 80% of the victims of an unwanted GHB encounter are below 30 years old.
- GHB is sold for as little as $5 per dose and packed in plastic bottles.
- GHB use resulted to 4,962 emergency room visits in 2000.
- GHB use among grades 8, 10, and 12 are at 0.6%, 0.6% and 1.4% respectively.
- GHB with alcohol use accounted to more than 60 deaths from January 1992 to May 2001
Dangers of Using GHB
The favorable effects of taking GHB include euphoria, tranquility and an increased sex drive. However, its effect may depend on the amount of drugs used, the potency of the substance, use in combination with alcohol or other substances, and the frequency of using the drugs.
The effects of GHB may be felt within 15-20 minutes after ingestion and may remain in the system for hours. Symptoms that may occur on individuals using GHB include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
- Depressed breathing
Using GHB along with alcohol or other sedatives produces a high chance of overdose, and may result to respiratory depression and even death. When GHB is only taken alone but in high doses, it can still lead to similar dangers. GHB when taken with amphetamines can produce strain on the body and a higher risk of having seizures.
GHB has become popular along with other party drugs, and is made available in doses between 500mg and 3000 mg compared to its naturally occurring levels.
GHB has a high risk of abuse and dependence. Tolerance to such drugs will evoke the user to take higher doses until he is able to achieve the kind of high that he desires and potentially overdosing himself. Overdose symptoms include:
- Memory loss
- Irregular breathing
- Unconsciousness that can last up to 3-4 hours
The effects of GHB in pregnant women are still undetermined.
GHB Screening Test for Urine
Detection of the substance within the system of an individual may be difficult to determine, as it usually disappears from a sample within 12 hours after exposure to the drug. As a result, it is recommended to immediately go to the nearest hospital to have samples taken if you suspect of being drugged with GHB.
You also have the option to purchase your own GHB testing kits. Some of the available test kits on the market include the following:
- Date Rape Drug Hair Test: This is the only hair drug test in the market that can detect GHB and other date rape drugs. It can detect the presence of the drug as far back as 6 months from exposure.
- GHB Reagent Presumptive Drug Test Kit: This kit detects the liquid form of the drug, and is particularly useful when you want to test a liquid substance that you suspect to be loaded with GHB.
Party drug addiction offers little information on treatment options. Since some users are not physically dependent on it, it is usually treated on an outpatient basis. However, chronic use may result to severe withdrawal symptoms, and close medical supervision and supportive care is needed.
The first step towards recovery is detoxification by allowing the substance to be taken out from the body little by little. Some forms of detoxification may require giving high volume of fluids to eliminate the substance from the urine through frequent excretion. Anticonvulsant may also be given to users but under strict medical supervision.
Some addicts may attempt to self-medicate for their treatment by using benzodiazepines or alcohol. It doesn’t actually help to relieve one from addiction; instead, it just shifts to another substance. Use of these substances can actually worsen the withdrawal symptoms, which can lead to respiratory depression, coma and eventually death.
The following withdrawal symptoms usually start 12 hours after the last dose of GHB, and can continue for the next two weeks:
- Muscle cramps
- Restless sleep
- Fast heartbeat
Hospitalization would usually range from 7 to 14 days. After this, a patient is required to undergo psychological therapy. This would help the user regain his self-esteem and be enlightened that there is a much better life without drugs. Apart from sending the patient to a psychiatrist for this kind of help, the love and support from family and friends are also needed.
It has been noted that Baclofen can be a possible treatment option for withdrawal. Although Baclofen is not a currently-FDA approved for treatment use, it was found to decrease seizure or delirium and has a significant improvement of tremors.
A relapse is likely to happen in dependence cases, which is why continuous patient education is essential to overcome its adverse effects.
The war on drugs is something that we don’t see ending soon. As more drugs are being developed, more people will be enticed to abuse them.
Unless the government finds a way to provide solutions, drug abuse will continue regardless of its unfavorable effects. Policies and penalties should be strictly imposed and a more comprehensive drug education program should be created to help save the lives of the depleting “un-doped” society.