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GHB is a central nervous system depressant, (CNS), which may be referred to as sedatives or tranquilizers because they slow brain activity.
GHB occurs naturally in the human body and almost all animals in a small amount, as well as wine, beer, and small citrus fruits. The drug is a Schedule 1 controlled substance in Canada, making it illegal to produce, possess, provide, sell or traffic.
When combined with alcohol, GHB has been used as a date-rape drug. It is very difficult to detect in urine after 8-12 hours, but can be detected in hair samples months after being ingested.
How it is used
GHB may be sold as a white powder, tablet, capsule or clear liquid.
The powder can be snorted or injected. The liquid form of the drug looks like water and is mostly tasteless or slightly salty, and colourless, so it can easily be slipped into a drink undetected. When combined with alcohol GHB is a powerful sedative that may prevent someone from stopping a sexual assault.
The liquid form of the drug looks like water and is often sold in small vials. It may also be sold as a white powder, capsule or tablet. Multiple doses of the liquid form of the drug may be sold in larger bottles of water, sports drinks or energy drinks.
Effects of GHB
It typically takes 10-20 minutes for the effects of GHB to be felt and the experience can last for up to four hours, depending on the dosage taken.
People who use small doses of GHB without alcohol may experience a feeling of euphoria and energy. The drug may create a feeling of social connection and increase sexual arousal. Negative effects can include a loss of coordination, consciousness, slowed breathing, blood pressure or heart rate, memory loss or a lowered body temperature.
When taken in larger doses or combined with alcohol or other drugs, GHB can be extremely dangerous and could lead to repertory arrest and death. GHB purchased on the street contains unknown levels of the drug, which makes it is difficult to know how much GHB is being taken or what other drugs might also be included.
Since the levels of GHB needed to create a euphoric effect are close to the amount that can cause an overdose, it is easy to take too much of the drug, which can result in slowed breathing, seizures, coma, and possibly death.
The onset of a GHB overdose can occur quickly. Symptoms of an overdose include:
- drowsiness, sleep or loss of consciousness
- nausea or vomiting
- loss of reflexes
- impaired breathing and/or respiratory depression
- slowed heart rate
- blocked airway resulting from the loss of the gag reflex
GHB can be psychologically and physically addictive. Withdrawal symptoms from GHB can be severe, possibly resulting in death, so someone dependent on GHB should seek medical help to assist with withdrawal.
Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Confusion and/or delirium,
- Hallucinations and/or paranoia,
- Difficulty sleeping,
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea
- High blood pressure and a rapid heart rhythm
- Tremors and muscle cramps, and
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