GHB is a central nervous system depressant that is abused as an intoxicant. It has many street names, including “Georgia Home Boy”, “Juice”, “Liquid Ecstasy”, “Mils”, “G”, “Liquid X”, and “Liquid G”, as well as “Fantasy.”
GHB has been used in a medical setting as a general anesthetic, to treat conditions such as insomnia, clinical depression, narcolepsy, and alcoholism, and to improve athletic performance. It is also used illegally as an intoxicant or as a date rape drug.
Its effects have been described as similar to alcohol and ecstasy use, including euphoria, disinhibition, enhanced sensuality and empathogenesis. At higher doses, GHB may cause nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, agitation, visual disturbances, depressed breathing, amnesia, unconsciousness, and death. The effects of GHB can last between 1.5 to 3 hours, or even longer if large doses have been consumed. Consuming GHB with alcohol can be deadly as it can lead to vomiting in combination with unrouseable sleep, a potentially lethal combination.
GHB can be easily manufactured at home with very little knowledge of chemistry, as it requires simply mixing GBL and an alkali hydroxide (such as sodium hydroxide) to form the resulting GHB salt. Due to the ease of manufacture and the availability of its raw ingredients, it can be produced in private homes by just about anyone.
Like alcohol and powerful benzodiazepines like Rohypnol (the trade name of a potent hypnotic benzodiazepine, flunitrazepam), GHB has been labeled as a “date rape drug.” The sodium form of GHB has an extremely salty taste but, as it is colourless and odorless, it has been described as “very easy to add to drinks” that mask the flavor.
GHB can cause withdrawal syndromes such as insomnia, anxiety, and tremors. These usually subside within 3 to 21 days. The withdrawal syndromes can be severe, sometimes producing acute delirium, and may require hospitalization in an intensive care unit for management. The mainstay of treatment for severe withdrawal is supportive care and benzodiazepines for control of acute delirium, but larger doses are often required compared to acute delirium of other causes.