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Is GHB toxic? Addictive? Dangerous?


     As drugs go, GHB is about as "clean" as you can get. As an endogenous* regulator of energy metabolism and a natural neurotransmitter, it is well-known to the brain and organs. They are used to its effects and have highly efficient systems for metabolizing it safely [150]. The substance is eliminated (that is, back to baseline levels) in 2-4 hours and continues to be so even after twice-daily doses for a week [10]. In one European study, no adverse effects were reported after several years of hypnotic* use [94]. The LD50 listed above is huge, and there is literally no danger of acute toxicity.

     Many sources do report toxic and dangerous effects [37,38], [48], [70], but these are nearly inevitably caused by coingestion of other drugs (often alcohol), massive overdoses, or highly impure product. Others report effects that are inconsistent with many years of research and observation, and appear entirely fanciful [60].

     If you consider yourself "addicted" to chocolate, driving fast, or pro wrestling, you might find yourself in the same state with GHB. Physiological addiction, on the other hand, appears largely absent, as demonstrated by the above studies and others.  Users have sometimes reported adverse physiological effects, but these resolve in 3-12 days without sequelae [33], and seem localized to users of very high or frequent doses (an figure often casually tossed out is 30g/day) or co-users of other drugs. Psychological addiction is tenuous at best. Colombo [12] reports that rats forced to consume massive doses of GHB will intermittently prefer GHB solution to water, but notes that "no rat showed any sign of withdrawal when GHB was finally removed at the end of the 20-week period" or during periods of voluntary abstinence.

     Note that none of this means that GHB can't hurt you if you try really hard. In addition to the obvious dangers of driving while impaired or falling into a deep sleep in public places, there are reports of people who have managed to, for want of a more specific term, seriously mess themselves up by abusing GHB. If you take to carrying around a bottle and taking a gulp every time you begin to feel sober (as these individuals have been known to do), you are definitely going to develop problems. Needless to say, you would also have a problem if you carried around a bottle of Tylenol® and gulped one down every time you began to feel anything (this particular problem is referred to as "death"), or if you carried around a barrel of water and took some every time there wasn't anything in your mouth. My recommendation is to restrict yourself (unless you are under medical supervision or another structured program of therapeutic use) to two doses a day, no more than four days a week, and I would consider even that to be quite excessive.

     My conclusion is that GHB cannot be called by any reasonable criteria addictive. If you have experienced difficulty with knowing when to stop (or when not to start) with alcohol or other drugs in the past, though, you should exercise caution with GHB. To reiterate the point above, with the right mindset and/or genetic misfortune, anything and everything can become addictive.

     PLEASE, FOR MY SAKE IF NOT THAT OF YOUR OWN PRECIOUS LIFE, DO NOT EVER TAKE GHB AND ALCOHOL WITHIN A FEW HOURS OF EACH OTHER! The same goes for any tranquilizer or depressant. Their effects (or those of GHB; the difference is debatable) can be massively potentiated*, and even a reasonable dose can become dangerous. You won't hear me say this much, because it isn't true very much, but in this case it is incredibly important: if you use GHB wrong, it can kill you. Given GHB's abilities to induce seizures, at least in some animals, at ultra-high doses [6], [8], people with a history of epilepsy or convulsions should exercise care as well, and build up their dose very slowly, with others present.

     Finally, I must note one more circumstance under which GHB can be wildly dangerous: when it is not GHB. Thanks to its governmental prohibition, most GHB now comes from what the FDA calls "clandestine labs" [13], but clandestine kitchens might be closer. Sodium hydroxide, used in GHB synthesis, is essentially lye, and there is at least one case of serious lung injury caused GHB that contained significant quantities [20]. Cheap syntheses with impure chemicals may contain almost any kind of toxin. Most common, though, is the simple fact that "street" GHB can range enormously in terms of concentration, and the user has no idea how much they are taking - just asking for an overdose.

    All such grimness can be handily avoided by making your own! The instructions are readily available and you can use your own food-grade reagents available from chemical supply houses and resellers. The former are impossible for individuals to buy from without committing extensive fraud, but many organizations do buy these chemicals and resell them, either as they are or in pre-measured "kits." Expect to pay a significant markup, but not nearly what you'd pay a shady stranger for a few drops of unidentified organic molecules at a club. To learn more about GHB kits, go to my kit suppliers FAQ.
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