Skip to Content

Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB)

("G")

By

Gerald F. O’Malley

, DO, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center;


Rika O’Malley

, MD, Albert Einstein Medical Center

Last full review/revision Jun 2020| Content last modified Jun 2020

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB or "G") is taken by mouth, usually in liquid form. It is similar to ketamine or alcohol in its effects.

(See also Drug Use and Abuse.)

Symptoms

GHB produces feelings of relaxation and tranquility. It may also cause fatigue and feelings of being uninhibited.

At higher doses, GHB may cause

  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

At high doses, GHB can also slow breathing and cause seizures and coma, sometimes leading to death. Combining GHB and any other sedatives, especially alcohol, is extremely dangerous. Most deaths have occurred when GHB was taken with alcohol.

Withdrawal symptoms occur if GHB is not taken for several days after previous frequent use. Withdrawal can be life threatening.

Diagnosis

  • A doctor's evaluation

Diagnosis is based on symptoms in people known to have used GHB. No readily available tests can confirm the use of GHB.

Treatment

  • Treatment for symptoms

Treatment complications from GHB use is directed at symptoms. A ventilator may be needed if breathing is affected. Most people recover rapidly.

More Information

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Copyright © 2021 Merck & Co., Inc., known as MSD outside of the US, Kenilworth, New Jersey, USA. All rights reserved. Merck Manual Disclaimer