GHB: Chemical | Organic composition
Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 3:49 pm
GHB is a natural substance produced in small amounts in the human body. The active ingredient in GHB is a sodium salt known as sodium oxybate, which has a number of other chemical names.
GHB is believed to be a weak partial activator of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA-A) receptor (a specialized cell or group of nerve endings that responds to sensory stimuli). The receptor has binding sites present in areas of the brain, including the cortex, hypothalamus, midbrain, basal ganglia, substantia nigra, and the hippocampus.
It may not be possible to detect GHB and related compounds with common urine or serum (body fluid) tests. In cases where an unused portion of the drug cannot be recovered, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (a high-technology instrument that separates a chemical mixture and identifies its composition) can be used to detect GHB and related compounds from a sample of serum, plasma, blood, or urine.
In its naturally occurring, biological composition, GHB is not readily available. However, GHB can be made in unsophisticated home laboratories from easily obtained materials. By combining gamma butyrolactone (GBL) with either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, the chemicals give off heat as they react, creating the final product. GHB is a clear liquid that does not have to be isolated or separated from the solution. Some companies sell kits over the Internet that provide the customer with everything needed to manufacture GHB, and include how-to instructions. Selling kits created for the purpose of producing recreational GHB is illegal, however, as is purchasing such kits.
Precursors of GHB
GHB precursors, or analogs (similar chemical compounds also known as “chemical cousins”), were the legal way for users to achieve effects physiologically equivalent to GHB. Then, in February 2000, federal legislation made the GHB precursors controlled substances. However, ready availability of the precursors has made it very difficult to enforce the law.
Chemicals related to GHB may be listed as party drugs on the Internet, advertised in muscle-building magazines, or sold as dietary supplements in health food stores. A number of chemicals that convert to GHB after ingestion has been identified in scientific papers.
Two of the most potentially deadly precursors of GHB, both of which are converted into GHB in the body, have been identified by the FDA. One is gamma butyrolactone (GBL), which is marketed under brand names such as Renewtrient, Revivarant or Revivarant G, Blue Nitro or Blue Nitro Vitality, GH Revitalizer, Gamma G, and Reinforce. The other is 1,4 butanediol (BD), a chemical in products sold under brand names like Revitalize Plus, Serenity, Enliven, GHRE, Somato-Pro, NRG3, Thunder Nectar, and Weight Belt Cleaner.
Gamma butyrolactone (GBL). GBL is a widely used chemical solvent, and one of the more readily available analogues of GHB because it is used in many industrial cleaners. While GBL is not intended for use as a drug, because it converts into GHB inside the body when ingested, it is commonly sold illegally as GHB.
Some partygoers purposely drink small quantities of GBL straight since it is converted into GHB in the stomach. This can cause a severe physical reaction, usually violent vomiting of the fluid. But, as with GHB, GBL can be added to water and is nearly undetectable.
GBL has been marketed as a health supplement as well. However, these products, including Renewtrient, Longevity, Revivarant, Blue Nitro, Insom-X, Remforce, Firewater, and Invigorate, were removed from the market. Many, though, have been re-introduced under new names, utilizing 1,4 butanediol (BD) as a replacement for GBL, which became a List I chemical in February 2000.
1,4 butanediol (BD). The chemical BD has also become part of the recreational drug scene. BD, which is related to both GHB and GBL, also converts to GHB when ingested. BD is also widely available since it is used in making plastics and as an industrial degreaser. As of 2001, BD was not scheduled under federal guidelines, though it has been declared a Class I health hazard.
The purity and strength of GHB are difficult to determine because the drug can be made from a number of chemical formulas that produce different amounts of GHB when the user’s body metabolizes it. The fact that the drug is typically made in home laboratories increases its unpredictability, according to the DEA. A teaspoon of the drug may contain between 0.5 g and 5 g of GHB.
The dose response curve for GHB is varied. A small increase in dose can push the sedative effects to a lethal level. A high dose of GHB can inhibit the body’s ability to eliminate the drug, leading to greater effects or longer duration than expected.
As little as one teaspoon of GHB can result in an overdose, which can cause slowed heart rate, confusion, agitation, respiratory depression, seizures, loss of peripheral (outer) vision, agitation, hallucinations, hypothermia (low body temperature), nausea, vomiting, coma, and unconsciousness. The risk of a deadly overdose is increased if both coma and vomiting or coma and a blocked airway occur.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warns that GHB is unpredictable, making it a particularly dangerous drug to consume. A dose that might make a small woman high could kill a large man. Or, a person can get high one day while an equal dose another day might prove fatal for that same person.
Effects of long-term GHB use are largely unknown. Individuals who use GHB, however, have reported that they must increase dosage in order to maintain the desired euphoric and relaxing effects.
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