Today we have some interesting questions from Lorelei Bell. One of the questions she asked was:
I know that gamma-amino butyric acid is a depressant of the central nervous system, and is used primarily to stimulate the release of growth hormone for increased muscle mass, but is it also called GHB? Also, what form would it come in? Bottle? Packets?
(FYI, this question is regarding non-prescription use, bought off the street for nefarious purposes. Lorelei, your poor characters! Aren't we writers so mean?)
Gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter in the brain. It's job is to temper the excitability of neurons. (Kind of a like a mom who tells her sugar-hopped kids to keep their grabby hands to themselves and to please, for the fifth time, settle down!) GABA also regulates muscle tone (without it, muscles become spastic).
GABA that is ingested can't actually get into the brain, so it can't be used as a medicine. Instead, there are meds that mimic GABA and have calming, anti-anxiety, and anti-seizure effects.
Examples: muscle relaxants (Baclofen), benzodiazepines (Valium), and anti-seizure meds (phenobarbital) and other substances (alcohol, kava, lemon balm, valerian).
But what is GHB?
GHB is Gamma hydroxybutyrate. It was initially created in France to mimic GABA, but had too many side effects to be approved for US usage at first. Soon after, it was sold in health food stores as a supplement for bodybuilding and weight loss. Before long, it became abused because of its euphoric, stimulant, relaxation effects and usage as a date-rape drug.
Two industrial solvents also began being abused (gamma butyrolactone and 1,4 butanediol) because they are chemically converted into GHB after ingestion.
GHB is used in the medical community, marketed as Xyrem, to treat narcolepsy. It comes in a brown bottle and is given as a liquid form, by dropper.
GHB on the street is sold as a clear, odorless liquid with a salty or soapy taste. It can also be sold as a white powder. The two solvents are liquids with chemical taste to them so they are often masked with flavorings or colors, but they too have shown up on the black market in capsule form.
GHB is extremely dangerous. It can cause:
- death, almost always because the user stops breathing
- agitation, violent behavior, tics, and delerium
- fatal heart rhythms
- muscle destruction that can then cause kidney failure
- trauma from intoxication (including broken bones, head trauma, and motor vehicle accidents)