GHB Withdrawal: Timeline, Symptoms, & Treatment

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GHB can be highly addictive. Stopping its use can result in intense and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms, lasting as long as two weeks. GHB withdrawal is best carried out under medical supervision – read on to learn how you can achieve this.

What to Expect During Withdrawal From GHB

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid), also known as liquid ecstasy, is a potent and dangerous drug that slows down the brain and body. Even small amounts can cause unconsciousness. Using GHB for fun can rapidly lead to the development of addiction, and discontinuing use can be extremely challenging.

When someone uses GHB regularly, their body gets used to it quickly. This means that they need more of the drug to feel its effects (tolerance). Tolerance speeds up the formation of physical dependence. When someone who is dependent on GHB takes less of the drug or stops using it, they can experience intense and dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

GHB withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, so the safest way to deal with them is at an inpatient rehab center. Medical professionals can safely manage the withdrawal process and help initiate the recovery journey. 

Withdrawal from GHB normally begins within a few hours after the last dose. Early symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, sweating, and increased heart rate. These initial symptoms can escalate quickly.

Medical interventions during GHB withdrawal can include medications to ease symptoms and manage any complications. These might be sedatives to help with sleep and anxiety, or other medications to address specific symptoms like nausea or high blood pressure.

Supportive care is also a core component of the withdrawal process. This includes ensuring proper hydration and nutrition, providing a calm and safe environment, and offering emotional and psychological support.

After the initial withdrawal phase, transitioning to a rehabilitation program is usually beneficial. Ongoing treatment can provide further therapy, counseling, and support to address the underlying issues of GHB addiction and promote long-term recovery.

A man stares out a window representing withdrawal from ghb

GHB Withdrawal Timeline

Most people will see their GHB withdrawal symptoms start to improve after 2 to 3 days. That said, those who have used GHB in high doses for a long period might face a condition called PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome). This means that they could experience symptoms from all stages of withdrawal.

In the second stage of GHB withdrawal, hallucinations and changes in mental and emotional state may occur. On day 4 or 5 of detox, changes in thinking and sleep patterns can manifest. These symptoms are similar to those of delirium tremens (severe alcohol withdrawal), including seizures and psychosis.

Withdrawal can make insomnia worse, especially if someone was using GHB heavily. After this stage, cravings, mood swings, tiredness, and anxiety might continue for a few more days.

Mild GHB withdrawal usually lasts for less than 5 days, but severe cases can persist for up to 2 weeks.

In rare cases, long-term health problems from GHB abuse have been reported. These might include:

  • Nerve damage in hands or fingers, leading to shaking, numbness, or a tingling sensation.
  • Ongoing issues with thinking clearly or remembering things.
  • Emotional changes, such as developing mood disorders like depression or anxiety.
  • Occasional cravings, often triggered by stress from work, family, or life changes.
  • About 7% of people withdrawing from GHB, particularly those who used it as a dietary supplement, might develop rhabdomyolysis. This condition starts with the breakdown of muscles, releasing harmful substances into the blood. These toxins can harm the kidneys, potentially leading to kidney failure. In extreme cases, rhabdomyolysis can be fatal. More commonly, it results in physical weakness due to muscle loss.

GHB Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms of GHB present when someone who has been using the drug regularly discontinues use. Since GHB is processed quickly by the body, missing even a single dose can lead to withdrawal in just a few hours. Early signs of GHB withdrawal include sweating, panic attacks, a fast heartbeat, and high blood pressure.

Common withdrawal symptoms from GHB are:

  • Feeling anxious
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Shaking
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe confusion
  • Delirium
  • Psychosis
  • Changes in mood
  • Aggressive behaviors

These symptoms can be so distressing that someone might start using GHB again just to avoid them. This is risky because stopping and then starting again can lower tolerance to GHB, increasing the chance of an overdose.

GHB Withdrawal Treatment

Treatment for GHB withdrawal should always occur under medical supervision. This is because withdrawal symptoms can be severe and potentially life-threatening. Medical professionals can monitor vital signs and provide medications to manage symptoms safely.

The detoxification process involves the gradual reduction of GHB in the body. This must be done carefully to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms. Detox facilities are equipped to handle this tapering process, providing a safe and controlled environment.

Medications may be used to ease withdrawal symptoms and manage any associated complications. These medications can help alleviate symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, and agitation, making the withdrawal process more manageable.

Psychological support like counseling and therapy can help address the underlying issues of substance abuse and prepare people for long-term recovery from GHB abuse. This support can also include strategies for coping with cravings and avoiding relapse.

Proper nutrition and hydration are essential during the detox process. GHB withdrawal can lead to dehydration and nutritional deficiencies, so ensuring a balanced diet and adequate fluid intake streamlines the process.

After the initial withdrawal phase, developing an aftercare plan is instrumental to long-term recovery. This plan may include ongoing therapy, support groups, and possibly continued medication management. The goal is to provide a sustainable path for recovery and prevent relapse.

Involving family members in the treatment and recovery process can be beneficial. Family therapy or education sessions can help loved ones understand the challenges of GHB withdrawal and recovery, and how they can offer support.

an image of people who with arms around each other representing Withdrawal symptoms of ghb

Get Treatment for GHB Addiction at Ohio Recovery

If you require help addressing withdrawal GHB, we treat all types of addictions at Ohio Recovery Centers. Supervised detoxification reduces the intensity of GHB withdrawal and prepares you for ongoing outpatient treatment.

Outpatient programs at our rehab center in Cincinnati, Ohio, are designed to enable you to fulfill your everyday commitments while engaging in evidence-based addiction treatment. Access talk therapies, motivational therapies, counseling, and holistic interventions as you unpack the psychological component of GHB addiction.

When you are ready to move beyond club drug addiction, call 877-679-2132.

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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