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Gamma Hydroxybutyrate

by Patrick G. O’Connor, MD, MPH

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB or G) is taken by mouth. It is similar to ketamine or alcohol in its effects, but its effects last longer and GHB is much more dangerous.


GHB produces feelings of relaxation and tranquility. It may also cause fatigue and feelings of being uninhibited.

At higher doses, GHB may cause dizziness, loss of coordination, nausea, and vomiting. GHB can slow breathing and cause seizures and coma, sometimes leading to respiratory failure and death. Combining GHB and any other sedative, especially alcohol, is extremely dangerous. Most deaths have occurred when GHB was taken with alcohol.

Withdrawal symptoms occur if GHB is not taken for several days after previous frequent use.

Diagnosis and Treatment

No readily available tests can confirm the use of GHB.

Treatment is needed only for overdose. A ventilator may be needed if breathing is affected. Most people recover rapidly.

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