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Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (Ghb)

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What other names is Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (ghb) known by?

4-Hydroxybutanoate, 4-Hydroxy Butyrate, 4-hydroxybutyric acid, Acide 4-hydroxybutanoïque, Acide Gamma-Hydroxybutyrique, Acide Gamma-Hydroxy-Butyrique, Ecstasy Liquide, Gamma Hydrate, Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate, Gamma-Hydroxy-Butyrate, Gamma Hydroxy-Butyrate de Sodium, Gamma Hydroxybutyrate Sodium, Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid, Gamma-Hidroxibutirato, Gamma-OH, Oxybate de Sodium, Oxybutyrate de Sodium, Sodium 4-hydroxybutyrate, Sodium gamma-hydroxybutyrate, Sodium Oxybate, Sodium Oxybutyrate.

What is Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (ghb)?

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a chemical found in the brain and other areas of the body. It can also be made in a laboratory.

GHB used to be available as a dietary supplement in the U.S., but it was taken off the market in 1990 because of safety concerns. GHB and two closely related chemicals, gamma butyrolactone (GBL) and butanediol (BD), were linked to 3 deaths and 122 serious side effects. Nevertheless, secret production and sales of GHB continued, often on the Internet. Continued interest in GHB might have been fueled by GHB's reputation as a "date rape" drug. Under the Date-Rape Drug Prohibition Act of 2000, regulation tightened. GHB was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, like heroin. It is now illegal for Americans to produce, sell, or possess GHB except for medical use. A prescription form of GHB remains available, but the only legal access to this drug is through a physician or other healthcare provider who is licensed to prescribe medications.

GHB is used for weight loss, muscle building, and relief of some fibromyalgia symptoms including pain, fatigue, and sleep problems. It is also used as an alternative to the dietary supplement L-tryptophan for promoting relaxation and sleepiness. People who are addicted to alcohol or narcotic drugs sometimes use GHB to help them manage withdrawal symptoms. It is also used to cause sexual arousal.

The prescription form of GHB has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of narcolepsy, a sleep disorder caused by the brain's inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. People with narcolepsy experience irresistible bouts of daytime sleep. They can also experience muscle control problems, paralysis, and hallucinations. GHB is available under the generic name sodium oxybate and trade name Xyrem (Orphan Medical) for the treatment of paralysis associated with narcolepsy. It is a Schedule III Controlled Substance, which means extra paperwork is necessary when this drug is prescribed, and prescriptions for this drug receive special scrutiny from regulators.

Health care providers use GHB intravenously to numb pain and reduce pressure inside the head after a head injury.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Treatment of loss of muscle control and weakness associated with a condition called narcolepsy. Taking GHB seems to help people with narcolepsy sleep at night so they are less likely to feel sleepy during the day. GHB also seems to help reduce the temporary paralysis that sometimes goes along with narcolepsy.
  • Pain, fatigue, and sleep problems associated with a condition called fibromyalgia.
  • Alcohol dependence and withdrawal.
  • Suppressing symptoms of withdrawal from heroin, opium, morphine, and other opiate drugs.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Reducing weight.
  • Enhancing muscle growth.
  • Causing sexual arousal.
  • Reducing pressure in the brain caused by head injury.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of GHB for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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