γ-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), also known as 4-hydroxybutanoic acid, is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter and a psychoactive drug. Chemically closely related to GABA, it acts on the GABA receptor and on the GHB receptor.
GHB has been used in a medical setting as a general anesthetic, for cataplexy, narcolepsy, and alcoholism. It is also used illegally as an intoxicant, to try to increase athletic performance, and as a date rape drug. It is commonly used in the form of a salt, such as sodium γ-hydroxybutyrate (Na.GHB, sodium oxybate, or Xyrem) or potassium γ-hydroxybutyrate (K.GHB, potassium oxybate).
GHB is also produced as a result of fermentation, and is found in small quantities in some beers and wines, beef and small citrus fruits.
GHB or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (C4H8O3) is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that is commonly referred to as a “club drug” or “date rape” drug. GHB is abused by teens and young adults at bars, parties, clubs and “raves” (all night dance parties), and is often placed in alcoholic beverages. Euphoria, increased sex drive, and tranquility are reported positive effects of GHB abuse.1,2 Negative effects may include sweating, loss of consciousness (reported by 69 percent of users), nausea, hallucinations, amnesia, and coma, among other adverse effects.
Xyrem (sodium oxybate), a brand name prescription drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 for the treatment of narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and recurring daytime sleep attacks. It is the sodium salt of gamma hydroxybutyrate. Xyrem is a highly regulated drug in the U.S. It is a Schedule III controlled substance, and requires patient enrollment in a restricted access program.
GHB is also a naturally-occurring metabolite of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) found in the brain. The naturally-occurring metabolite GHB is present in much lower concentrations in the brain than those levels found when the drug is abused. As a result of fermentation, natural GHB may also be found in small but insignificant quantities in some beers and wines.