GHB Drug Information

Gamma-HydroxyButyric Acid (GHB)


GHB was first developed as an anesthetic but its use was discontinued due to the adverse and unpredictable effects. However, GHB is readily available and used in Europe as a sedative. The salt form of GHB has been marketed in gymnasiums and health food stores due to its ability to stimulate the release of growth hormone.. Additionally, it is a popular euphoriant that is commonly used at raves. In 1990, all non-prescription use of GHB was banned by the FDA , yet the sodium salt is prescribed for narcolepsy. . As is the case with all sedatives, GHB has been used in many drug facilitated sexual assaults. .


GHB is metabolized to succinic acid by multiple dehydrogenase enzymes. Metabolic precursors to GHB, gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4 butanediol are also readily available as substances of abuse. Endogenous GHB is also a product of GABA metabolism and concentrations as high as 6.6 mg/L have been reported. To distinguish between endogenous and exogenous GHB, a reporting cutoff of 10 mg/L is suggested.


Typical illicit use of GHB involves dissolving 2 – 3 grams of powder in water or other beverages. Onset of effects occur within 10 – 30 minutes of ingestion and include euphoria, increased libido, drowsiness, reduced inhibitions, dizziness, nausea and may persist for 2 – 5 hours. Toxic effects include hypotension, respiratory depression, seizure, unconsciousness, coma, and death.

GHB is currently classified as Schedule I by the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Laboratory drug testing: Methods of Analysis

Determination of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), also known as liquid Ecstasy, in human samples is challenging. Due to the small size of GHB, immunological testing is very difficult and limited immunoassays are available for screening. GHB detection in urine relies on specific chromatographic methods such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) or liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). RTL's test utilizes LC-MS/MS for the direct analysis of GHB from urine..

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Drug information data is not definitive and should be used for reference guidelines only.

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