GHB Detox, Addiction, Abuse, Withdrawal, Timeline, Detox Process & Medications

What Is GHB? Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a Schedule I controlled substance. Many people mistakenly believe that this drug is relatively harmless and not addictive, but there is actually a high potential for abuse with GHB. Requiring Detox treatment where you have become addicted. Frequent use of this drug can result in physical dependence. With full-blown addiction […]

What Is GHB?

Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a Schedule I controlled substance. Many people mistakenly believe that this drug is relatively harmless and not addictive, but there is actually a high potential for abuse with GHB. Requiring Detox treatment where you have become addicted. Frequent use of this drug can result in physical dependence. With full-blown addiction thereafter resulting in the need for detox.

When you abuse this drug, you can develop a physical tolerance to the drug quickly. Tolerance is a phenomenon whereby your brain and body adapt to a drug’s presence in the body and need it to function normally. People who have developed a tolerance to GHB require increasingly larger amounts of the substance to achieve a high. If they take less of the drug or stop taking it, they will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from this drug is potentially fatal.

GHB Abuse

This drug’s popularity as a substance of abuse has decreased. It is most often abused as a date rape drug, so the person who consumes it will likely not know they have taken it.

GHB Detox
Many people mistakenly believe that GHB is relatively harmless and not addictive, but there is actually a high potential for abuse with GHB. Requiring Detox treatment where you have become addicted.

However, people who abuse GHB for recreational reasons may be:

  • Bodybuilders or athletes trying to lose weight
  • People who suffer from insomnia or irregular sleep patterns
  • Older adults who took GHB as an anti-aging compound
  • Adolescents or young adults who encounter the drugs at a night club, party, or rave
  • People who struggle with depression
  • People who previously abused alcohol or benzodiazepines
  • Those suffering from chronic pain who did not experience a benefit from other substances

People who suddenly quit GHB after abusing the drug for months or years are at risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. They are most likely to be uncomfortable during detox treatment. Intense cravings increase the risk of relapse back into drug abuse. Typical withdrawal symptoms from this drug include anxiety, insomnia, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, physical tremors, hallucinations, extreme confusion, delirium, psychotic thoughts & changes in mood, and aggression.

Safe GHB Detox

Detoxing at an inpatient rehab facility is the safest way to overcome this drug withdrawal and start the path to recovery. Gamma-hydroxybutyrate is a naturally occurring chemical produced by the human body. However, this chemical can be synthesized and consumed in large amounts, it can cause intense intoxication and lead to addiction. When the brain produces GHB naturally, it is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that interacts with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor cells.

GHB Detox Treatment 

Treatment will begin by removing the drug from your system while minimizing withdrawal symptoms. GHB withdrawal and detox must be carried out in a treatment facility because of acute delirium. One of the many side effects of withdrawing from this drug. Which needs to be treated with large doses of benzodiazepines.

Your withdrawal symptoms can be expected to last between three and twelve days. During this period, your treatment center will also look at any other issues you may have, from depression to insomnia, malnutrition, and anxiety. If you also have a problem with alcohol addiction, treatment will also be provided during this time. 

GHB Detox Withdrawal Signs

GHB detox withdrawal may begin soon after your last dose, within one to six hours. During withdrawal, your brain which has become used to having some depressed functions is suddenly freed from the drug. Resulting in a severe rebound effect. All previously held-back functions now start to flood your system.

And some dangerous psychological and even physical side effects may overload it. This is the main reason why you should never try to quit this drug suddenly or go ‘cold turkey. It is essential to have your vital signs monitored during GHB withdrawal to ensure your safety. The severity of your GHB withdrawal symptoms will depend on the level of usage before quitting.

If you were a heavy user, taking a dose of this drug every two hours for several years could place you at risk of more serious side effects. GHB withdrawal can be similar to the process of withdrawal from other illicit drugs. Like benzodiazepines, and may lead to life-threatening seizures. If you are dependent on this drug, abruptly quitting, or seriously reducing your use of the drug may lead to several unpleasant symptoms. Such as psychosis, delirium, increased heart rate, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, hallucinations, and so on.

GHB Detox
GHB detox withdrawal may begin soon after your last dose, within one to six hours

Types of GHB Withdrawal

Mild to moderate withdrawal without delirium effects

If your withdrawal is mild to moderate, you will experience anxiety, tremors, and insomnia, but remain normally interactive and lucid. Without signs of hallucinations or delirium. You are also at a lesser immediate risk for severe complications. But, may continue to a state of agitated delirium. Inpatient detoxification is a recommended treatment at this stage.

Acute decompensation

To prevent acute decompensation, your doctor might treat your symptoms. Like diaphoresis, insomnia, anxiety, and tremors aggressively with sedative-hypnotic agents, such as Diazepam. Also, barbiturates such as phenobarbital and pentobarbital may be used. Your caregivers will monitor your pulse, mental status, and vital signs. With vitals reviewed approximately every two hours. Even though it’s possible to treat mild GHB withdrawal at outpatient centers, it is safer for you to be treated at an inpatient detox rehabilitation center.

Severe withdrawal with delirium effects

In severe withdrawal, you are at risk of self-harm and complications. Such as seizures, rhabdomyolysis, or hyperthermia, and will require treatment with large doses of sedatives. You will require close surveillance in an intensive care unit. Or rehab clinic to monitor your cardiac and pulse conditions. Respiratory depression because of high doses of sedatives used to control your withdrawals may require closer attention. As soon as your agitated state is under control and intravenous sedatives are no longer required, you may no longer need inpatient treatment.

Causes of Withdrawal

Withdrawal is your body’s natural reaction to being deprived of a chemical substance you have become addicted to. You will experience symptoms of detoxification withdrawals when attempting to quit or stop using the substance. This drug chemically alters your brain, making both your body and brain adjust to functioning in the presence of GHB.

This means your brain believes it needs the substance to function. Therefore, when you attempt to quit using the drug, it can result in both physical and psychological cravings, as well as other physical reactions. Such physical reactions are a result of withdrawal.

Signs and Symptoms of GHB Detox Withdrawal

This drug has a short duration of effects and is cleared from the body quickly. Because of this, you may experience a relatively rapid onset of withdrawal—typically within a few hours after the last use of the drug. The acute GHB withdrawal syndrome may include signs and symptoms such as Insomnia, Anxiety, Agitation, Sweating, Increased heart rate (tachycardia), Increased blood pressure (hypertension), Tremors, Confusion, Psychosis, Delirium & Seizures.

This drug is a dangerous substance, and its chronic use can negatively impact your health and wellbeing. When it comes to compulsive use, simply quitting can be difficult and, due to the presence of potentially dangerous acute withdrawal symptoms, may not be advisable.

GHB Detox & Withdrawal Timeline

GHB Detox Week 1

The first week of GHB withdrawal will be the most dangerous and intense by far. Within hours of the last use of this drug, symptoms will begin to appear. The most common initial symptoms include intense sweating, tremors, rapid heart rate, and elevated blood pressure. Anxiety and irritability will emerge early and persist throughout the entire acute phase of withdrawal, possibly persisting for several weeks.

Soon after these symptoms appear, they may be joined by tactile hallucinations such as strange feelings or sensations in the limbs or extremities. Body temperature may begin to rise or lower, accompanied by the tactile hallucinations transforming into a feeling of the skin burning or freezing. Around 48-72 hours after these symptoms begin, they will reach peak intensity.

Additionally, the appearance of GHB withdrawal delirium usually occurs during this timeframe as well and it may be very long-lasting, or even appear to resolve before reemerging. This may or may not include paranoid delusions, but may include profound confusion and disorientation. The symptoms of this drug’s withdrawal typically reach their peak intensity around the fourth day after they have begun and will begin a gradual decline from this point onwards.

Some of the symptoms of GHB withdrawal that may appear during the first week could include:

  • Delirium and Confusion
  • Hallucinations (visual, auditory, tactile, or a combination)
  • Psychosis and Paranoid Delusions
  • Seizures
  • Tremors and Shaking
  • Rhabdomyolysis (muscle tissue breaking down and entering the blood)
  • Hyper/Hypothermia (high or low body temperature)
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea
  • Extreme Anxiety
  • Intense Cravings for GHB
  • Agitation and Irritability
  • Diaphoresis (excessive sweating)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

GHB Detox Week 2

The beginning of the second week of GHB withdrawal is often much less severe than the first week, however, it is still may be extremely unpleasant. While the worst of the hallucinations and cardiovascular symptoms may have subsided, anxiety and insomnia may still be prominent. In addition, someone may expect delirium to persist to some degree early into the second week in some cases.

A unique feature of withdrawal compared to other drug withdrawal syndromes is that delirium may come and go over the first two weeks. Symptoms of delirium are inconsistent during withdrawal, and often emerge early, but have also been observed to manifest with a delayed onset.

Some GHB Detox withdrawal symptoms that someone may expect during the second week can include:

  • Delirium and Confusion
  • Hallucinations (visual, auditory, tactile, or a combination)
  • Psychosis and Paranoid Delusions
  • Seizures
  • Mild Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Strong Cravings for GHB
  • Intense Anxiety
  • Deep Depression
  • Agitation and Irritability
  • Diaphoresis (excessive sweating)
  • Nausea

Usually, by the end of the second week, these symptoms will have resolved for the most part, with only lingering vestiges possibly remaining by the week’s end.

GHB Detox Weeks 3 & 4

There is quite a bit of variability in the individual experience of GHB withdrawal, with reports of acute withdrawal symptoms lasting between 2 to 15 days. On average, the beginning of week three will mark the end of acute withdrawal, and a probable transition into post-acute withdrawal over the third and fourth weeks.

This may exhibit symptoms of elevated anxiety, depression, irritability, continued insomnia, and intense cravings. This is often the time of greatest relapse risk, as the worst of the symptoms are gone, yet someone feels mentally drained and depressed with a strong feeling that more GHB will “fix” their state of mind and give them relief. It is highly recommended to enter counseling or therapy at this time if someone has not already done so.

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Cravings for GHB
  • Depression

The brain can restore the imbalances produced through heavy GHB use, but this must be given time. It is a slow process and even though it is uncomfortable, the symptoms should decrease gradually over the next few weeks.

Post-acute withdrawal

This phase is much less severe, but it is still very unpleasant. While the physical symptoms may have resolved, there are still multiple psychological symptoms that may persist for quite some time. The most common post-acute withdrawal symptom is anxiety.

Most anti-anxiety medications work in a very similar way as GHB, so dependence and tolerance to GHB will act to increase global anxiety and social anxiety in particular. These symptoms will begin very intense and slowly dissipate over the next few months.

Some of the most common symptoms of post-acute withdrawal from GHB are:

  • Anxiety
  • Cravings for GHB
  • Depression

There have been relatively few controlled studies done on the long-term withdrawal symptoms of GHB in humans. This phase of GHB withdrawal is not very well understood at present. The above symptoms are the common course of post-acute withdrawal, although not necessarily unique to GHB withdrawal.

While these symptoms are much less dangerous from a physical standpoint, they are unpleasant and very persistent. Issues with anxiety and depression are bad enough on their own, but these issues may also worsen cravings for GHB. This time is very sensitive and critical for someone trying to recover from GHB addiction, and professional medical detox help is often recommended to help reduce these symptoms.

GHB Detox Evaluation and Assessment

To figure out if you need a medical detox program to keep you safe and comfortable during the withdrawal portion of early recovery, you should ideally be evaluated by a medical doctor or other substance abuse treatment professional.

By evaluating the details of your substance abuse history, they can better gauge factors such as addiction severity, the magnitude of physical dependence, and the likelihood of a severe and/or complicated withdrawal to guide their recommendations for the appropriate level of treatment. They will be able to ascertain if your path to recovery needs to involve a period of medical detox that will put you in a situation where your withdrawal progress is monitored—and your safety ensured.

GHB Detox & Withdrawal Medications

GHB Detox is best carried out via inpatient or residential treatment. This way, you can be carefully monitored so that your comfort and safety can be assured, as your normal dosage of GHB is gradually tapered to control the severity of the withdrawal symptoms that might occur. There have been several fatalities occurring amongst patients who abruptly stopped medication, so sudden abstinence from GHB is not recommended – especially if you are a heavy user. The expected length of time required for GHB detoxification is about 10 – 14 days.

Standardized protocols for GHB addiction treatment have not yet been developed. However, some treatment centers are known to make use of anti-seizure medications, including benzodiazepine, as well as antipsychotic medications during the detoxification process. As a result of the sharp spike in blood pressure that could occur with GHB withdrawal, treatment centers also administer some types of medications to lower the increase in blood pressure.

GHB Detox
GHB Detox is best carried out via inpatient or residential treatment. This way, you can be carefully monitored so that your comfort and safety can be assured.

GHB Detox Therapy

Practically, you may find your addiction easier or more challenging to break than someone else. Medical supervision is a key part of the process, as the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms of GHB can be quite disturbing for you. The critical thing to remember with GHB addiction treatment is that you are not alone.

The right rehab will let you spend time in GHB addiction treatment therapy sessions, where you can explore why you started GHB. This will help you avoid a relapse in the future after your treatment is over. Therapies may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, motivational interviewing, motivational incentives, and multidimensional family therapy.

Reclaim your life from GHB Addiction: We Level Up WA

GHB addiction is a condition that can cause significant health, social and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Washington can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from mental health issues associated with GHB addiction with professional and safe primary mental health treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.

We Level Up Washington Mental Health Center: Primary Mental Health Treatment with Secondary Co-Occurring Treatments

The We Level Up Washington primary mental health center stands ready to help. Offering secondary treatment programs for underlying conditions like GHB addiction that frequently fuels harmful behaviors. Taking that first step to get the professional support you need can be life-transforming.

We know how mental health disorders and secondary co-occurring substance abuse diagnoses directly affect one another. The We Level Up Washington treatment center provides recovery programs through science-based mental health treatments that can help you feel better. Call us now for a free mental health evaluation! 

Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at affiliated facilities at other We Level Up Treatment Centers locations beyond the Washington treatment facility.