GHB Addiction: Addiction Risk, Symptoms, & Treatment

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GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) is a powerful depressant of the CNS (central nervous system). Known for its similarities to alcohol in terms of effects, this illicit club drug is notorious for inducing loss of consciousness in users. The addictive nature of GHB is a significant concern, as it leads to intense, and sometimes fatal, withdrawal symptoms.

Is GHB Addictive?

GHB has a strong potential for addiction. As a Schedule I controlled substance, it is characterized by having no accepted medical use and a high likelihood of abuse and addiction. Several factors contribute to the addictive properties of GHB, particularly the way in which repeated use causes tolerance and physical dependence.

How Addictive Is GHB?

GHB strongly affects the central nervous system. Its ability to quickly induce relaxation and euphoria, often within moments of ingestion, contributes to its potential for addiction. This rapid onset of pleasurable effects can encourage people to seek the immediate satisfaction GHB provides.

The capacity of the drug to consistently evoke pleasurable sensations often leads to repeated usage, heightening the risk of developing a psychological dependency. This tendency to repeatedly seek the euphoric experience can be a key factor in the psychological reliance on GHB.

With habitual use, GHB can cause physical dependence. The body may start to rely on the drug for normal functioning, and the absence of GHB can trigger withdrawal symptoms, prompting continued use to avoid these negative effects.

Additionally, GHB is frequently combined with other substances like alcohol or stimulants, which can amplify its effects. This practice of polysubstance use raises the likelihood of addiction, as the enhanced effects can be more desirable and reinforcing.

A common pattern among some GHB users involves cycles of bingeing followed by crashing. This repetitive cycle, where people consume GHB to mitigate the adverse effects of the crash phase, can further the development of an addiction.

There are also misconceptions regarding GHB’s safety, partly due to its initial clinical applications and historical context. This misunderstanding, believing GHB to be less harmful than other drugs, can lead to increased use and a greater risk of addiction. Public awareness about the addictive nature of GHB is often limited compared to other substances, which might contribute to an underestimation of its risks and addictive potential. 

GHB Addiction Symptoms

GHB addiction is clinically described as sedative use disorder, a form of sedative, hypnotic, and anxiolytic use disorder as categorized in American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5-TR.

  • Keep using despite problems: You continue to use drugs like barbiturates, benzodiazepines, or other sleep-inducing drugs even though they are causing problems in your life.
  • Inability to fulfill responsibilities: You often fail to do what you should at home, school, or work because of your drug use.
  • Using GHB in risky situations: You use drugs in dangerous situations where it could really harm you.
  • Relationship problems: You keep using drugs even though they’re causing or worsening problems with friends and family.
  • Needing more to get the same effect: You have to take a lot more of the drug to feel its effects, or you find that using the same amount doesn’t work as well as it used to.
  • Withdrawal symptoms or using GHB to avoid them: You get withdrawal symptoms when you stop using GHB, or you use the drug to avoid these symptoms.
  • Using more than you want to: You end up using more of the drug, or for a longer time than you intended.
  • Failure to cut moderate or discontinue use: You have a strong desire to use less GHB or quit using the drug completely, but you haven’t been able to do it.
  • Spending a lot of time on GHB: You spend a lot of your time getting, using, or recovering from the drug.
  • Giving up important activities: You’ve stopped or reduced doing important things in your life because of drug use.
  • Strong cravings: You have a really strong desire or urge to use the drug.

GHB Addiction Treatment

Treating addiction to GHB, like all substance use disorders, is most effective when the approach focuses on both clinical and psychological interventions. While there are no medications approved by the FDA to manage this type of addiction, psychotherapy and counseling can be extremely effective. Here’s how a typical GHB addiction treatment plan looks.

  • Medical detox: Since GHB withdrawal can be severe and potentially life-threatening, the first step is usually a medically supervised detox. This process helps the individual safely withdraw from the substance under the care of healthcare professionals. Medications may be used to manage symptoms like include insomnia, anxiety, tremors, and increased heart rate.
  • Inpatient or outpatient rehab: For some people, especially those with severe addictions or co-occurring disorders, inpatient rehabilitation programs can be beneficial. These programs provide a structured environment with 24-hour support and care. They normally involve a combination of individual and group therapy, medical care, and support for developing healthy coping mechanisms. These programs allow individuals to live at home while receiving treatment. They may include regular meetings with addiction counselors, group therapy, and possibly medication-assisted treatment. This option is often suitable for those with less severe addictions or as a step down from inpatient rehab.
  • Addressing dual diagnosis: If there are co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, these should also be treated alongside the addiction.
  • Behavioral interventions: Talk therapies and motivational therapies are essential components of GHB addiction treatment. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is effective in helping people understand the reasons underpinning their addiction, develop coping mechanisms, and change negative patterns of thinking and behavior. Other therapeutic approaches may include MI (motivational interviewing), family therapy, and CM (contingency management).
  • Relapse prevention and management: After completing a treatment program, ongoing support is crucial for maintaining sobriety. Aftercare programs might include continued therapy, support group meetings, and lifestyle changes to help prevent relapse.
  • Support groups: Many people battling addictions find that participation in support groups such as SMART Recovery or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) can provide ongoing support and a sense of community for individuals recovering from GHB addiction.

Get Treatment for Drug Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

We offer outpatient treatment for GHB addiction and other substance use disorders at Ohio Recovery Centers. Not everyone needs the intensity of residential rehab, and not everybody can take a month or more away from their personal and professional obligations. By choosing intensive outpatient treatment at our rehab in Cincinnati, OH, you can take the most flexible, affordable pathway to sustained recovery from GHB addictive nature.

All Ohio Recovery Centers outpatient programs offer access to the same services you would find in residential rehab. Take advantage of an individualized blend of counseling, behavioral therapies, and motivational therapies to help you move beyond GHB addiction. You can also participate in a variety of holistic therapies to ensure a well-rounded approach to healing in Ohio.

When you are committed to addressing club drug addiction head-on, call 877-679-2132 for immediate assistance.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn