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gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid

chemical compound
(Redirected from GHB)

γ-Hydroxybutyric acid (gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid, commonly shortened to GHB) [1] is a chemical substance. Small quantities of it can be found in the central nervous system of many animals.[2] It can also be discovered in wine, beef and small citrus fruits.[2]

In the central nervous system, GHB interacts with other neurotransmitters, such as gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA).[3]

Many countries have regulated it as an illegal drug, even though it can be used in medicine.[4] It can be used as an anesthetic, and a sedative. In the past it has been used to treat insomnia and depression. It can also help people who have a problem with alcoholism or cataplexy. In patients with narcolepsy it has been used to treat sleepiness during the day. Athletes have used it to make their performance better.[5]

The drug has been used as a recreational drug. This is because it can make a person euphoric. Many countries have made it illegal if it is not used as medicine. Its most common name as an illegal drug is probably liquid Ecstasy. However, ecstasy is a different drug that is unrelated to GHB.

GHB is naturally produced in the human body's cells. Its chemical structure is similar to that of ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate. As a supplement or drug, it is used most as a salt.[6] GHB is also produced as a result of fermentation. Small amounts of the substance can be found in some beers and wines.

GHB can cause 'GHB comas'. This is when people faint or become unconscious. This is what causes most deaths.

Use as an illegal drugEdit

GHB is a depressant of the central nervous system. Its effects have been described as similar to those of alcohol or ecstasy. People feel in a good mood. They also lower their inhibitions. If the dose is increased, the symptoms include nausea, drowsiness, breathing problems, amnesia, unconsciousness and death. The effect of GHB lasts between 1.5 and 3 hours, but may be longer. They can be longer if the drug is mixed with alcohol, or a large dosis was taken.[7]

Certain substances called "pro-drugs", are changed to GHB in the stomach. One such drug, is gamma-butyrolactone. Such products are also a problem. Lots of them are used in industrial processes. An example of this are paint strippers. What is fine for use in industry may be bad for humans.


  1. other names include 4-hydroxybutanoic acid and sodium oxybateSodium Oxybate: MedlinePlus Drug Information
  2. 2.0 2.1 Weil, Andrew; Winifred Rosen (1993). "Depressants". From Chocolate to Morphine (2nd ed.). Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 77. ISBN 0-395-66079-3.
  3. Michael S. Okun, Lisa A. Boothby, Richard B. Bartfield, Paul L. Doering. "GHB: An Important Pharmacologic and Clinical Update".
  4. Erowid GHB Vault : Legal Status.
  5. Theodore I Benzer (8 January 2007). "Toxicity, Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate". eMedicine.
  6. e.g., sodium gamma-hydroxybutyrate (Na.GHB, sodium oxybate) or potassium gamma-hydroxybutyrate (K.GHB).
  7. Galloway GP, Frederick-Osborne SL, Seymour R, Contini SE, Smith DE (April 2000). "Abuse and therapeutic potential of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid". Alcohol 20 (3): 263–9. PMID 10869868.