GHB Overdose Symptoms & Treatment
Can You Overdose on GHB?
Gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) (also known as Liquid Ecstasy, Goop, and Easy Lay) is a central nervous system depressant often abused for its ability to produce euphoria and reduce anxiety. It is a powerfully sedating, amnestic drug and has been implicated in date rape scenarios.
Overdosing on GHB is possible and can lead to respiratory depression, coma, and death.
GHB Overdose Symptoms
Signs of a GHB overdose may include:2,5
- Lack of coordination.
- Low body temperature.
- Slowed breathing.
- Slowed heart rate.
If you observe these GHB effects on the body happening to you or someone else, call 911 immediately.
If possible, be ready to tell the dispatcher:
- How much GHB the person took.
- The person’s age, weight, and condition.
- Whether the person took any other drugs.
Risk Factors For GHB Overdose
- Uncertain source. Those purchasing illicit GHB rarely know where it came from, how potent it is, and whether it’s contaminated with any other drugs. Though pharmaceutical grade GHB is manufactured for legitimate medical use, the supply of drug on the street is often produced illegally in U.S. and foreign clandestine labs.1,2,3
- Varying doses. Users may not know how much they are taking and how high the concentration of the dose is.2,3
- Mixing with other drugs. GHB is frequently abused with other drugs that also depress central nervous system functioning, such as alcohol and sedatives.2 This increases the risk of respiratory depression and coma.3 Studies have also found MDMA (Ecstasy), marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine in the systems of people who are admitted to emergency departments for a GHB overdose.5
GHB Overdose Treatment
Emergency departments see many cases of GHB overdose that present virtually indistinguishably from other substance overdoses (e.g., generally a profoundly decreased level of consciousness and potential respiratory compromise).5
As such, GHB overdose treatment will begin by maintaining the airway through a breathing tube, gaining IV access for fluid replacement, and other supportive measures. 7 No antidote is available for GHB intoxication.2
Pending blood toxicology reports to confirm the specific substance involved, other overdose treatments may be used, including:5
- Activated charcoal to eliminate the drug and prevent further absorption.
- Ethanol drip (should patients be acidotic and methanol ingestion has yet to be ruled out).
In addition, withdrawal may complicate recovery following GHB overdose treatment. However, there are GHB treatments for withdrawal and its related symptoms which include benzodiazepines. Symptoms of GHB withdrawal can include insomnia, tremors, increased heart rate, and psychotic thoughts.3,7
American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.
Can GHB Be Fatal?
GHB overdose death may be averted if the person receives medical care quickly enough.
Can too much GHB kill you? The answer is yes, a person can die from an overdose if their heart rate or breathing stops. However, the likelihood of a GHB death is low if the person can receive medical care soon after overdosing.7
Blood drawn from patients admitted to emergency departments for a GHB overdose have found levels of the drug ranging from 29 to 490 mg/L, with several fatalities reported at levels of 400 or above.5 The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists estimates a level of 280 mg/L is sufficient to lead to death.6
Recovering From A GHB Overdose
GHB is quickly eliminated from the body. If a person receives medical care soon after overdosing, they are likely to regain consciousness and fully recover within 1.5 to 6 hours.5,7
Since many people who overdose on GHB are abusing the drug or other substance, it is recommended that recovering users seek help at an addiction treatment program. A wide variety of options are available to help the person stop using drugs or alcohol and avoid serious side effects from substance abuse. Many GHB users respond well to residential rehab programs. 1
Common options for recovering from a GHB overdose include:
- Inpatient rehab clinics. Inpatient or residential programs usually last between 28 to 90 days. Participants live at the treatment center while receiving detox, medical care, and therapy. Luxury or upscale programs may also offer services such as yoga, art and music therapy, and meditation.
- Outpatient programs usually involve group therapy and/or individual therapy. Some programs only meet once or twice a week, while intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization programs may meet several times a week for 4–6 hours at a time.
- 12-step programs. Twelve-step programs use the sequence of recovery steps from Alcoholics Anonymous. Many people work with a sponsor while completing the steps and receive support from others in the program. Narcotics Anonymous is a popular 12-step program for people in recovery for GHB addiction.
- Individual therapy. A therapist can help you work on many different aspects of your addiction and recovery, from relapse prevention to managing mental health conditions that may have led to your drug abuse.
- Group therapy. Group therapy is a common feature of inpatient and outpatient programs. A therapist facilitates group counseling sessions that allow recovering drug users to give and receive feedback from each other.