GHB Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline & Detox
The drug GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyrate, is a naturally occurring chemical produced by the human body, but when it is synthesized and consumed in large amounts, it can cause intense intoxication and lead to addiction.
This article will discuss the withdrawal syndrome that may occur when people abruptly stop using GHB and how to get help if you or a loved one has lost control of their GHB use.
GHB Withdrawal Symptoms
People who suddenly quit GHB after using the drug for months or years are at risk of experiencing GHB withdrawal symptoms, which are likely to be uncomfortable. Missing a dose can trigger withdrawal symptoms within just a few hours because GHB is metabolized rapidly. Sweating, anxiety attacks, rapid pulse, and high blood pressure are the first indications that one is experiencing GHB withdrawal.
Typical withdrawal symptoms from GHB include:
- Increased heart rate.
- High blood pressure.
- Physical tremors.
- Extreme confusion.
- Changes in mood and aggression.
The discomfort caused by these symptoms can cause a person to begin abusing GHB again, in an effort to stop withdrawal. This puts a person at risk of overdose because their body will have a lower tolerance to the substance.
GHB Withdrawal Timeline
Most symptoms associated with GHB withdrawal will typically resolve after 2–3 days, but if a person has used GHB in large doses for a long time, they are more likely to develop post-acute withdrawal syndrome and experience many of the symptoms present in each of the withdrawal stages.
The second stage of GHB withdrawal may include hallucinations and an altered mental and emotional state. Changes in thinking and sleep can begin around day 4 or 5. These symptoms can mimic delirium tremens, which is a condition associated with long-term alcohol abuse that includes seizures, psychosis, and uncontrollable shaking.
Insomnia may be complicated by sleep deprivation, due to GHB intoxication before withdrawal. As this stage subsides, cravings, mood changes, exhaustion, and anxiety may linger for a few days more.
Mild GHB withdrawal takes fewer than 5 days; severe withdrawal may last up to 2 weeks.
Treatment Medications for GHB Withdrawal
While there is disagreement in the medical community about specific protocols to treat GHB withdrawal, many detox facilities offer closely monitored, small doses of benzodiazepine drugs—especially long-acting Valium—to ease the initial symptoms of withdrawal.
Avoiding prolonged withdrawal and easing the body off this sedative-hypnotic drug can improve a person’s mood and physical experience, which may reduce the risk of relapse early in treatment.
Other GHB treatment medicine protocols used by some medical detox specialists include doses of barbiturates, anticonvulsant medications, or antipsychotic medications to treat specific symptoms of GHB withdrawal like sleeplessness, seizures, and hallucinations. It is important to reduce psychological and physical distress as much as possible, so the person can safely detox and enter an evidence-based rehabilitation program.
Medications are typically combined and shown to be most effective when combined with behavioral therapy. Both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs focus on changing thoughts and behaviors centered around drug use, which further reduces the risk of relapse, overdose, and subsequent addiction.
Medical Detox for GHB Withdrawal
Withdrawal from GHB may require medical detox at a professional addiction treatment facility.
Because GHB acts on the GABA receptors like benzodiazepines and alcohol do, GHB has similar withdrawal symptoms. This also means withdrawal can be complicated, may lead to post-acute withdrawal syndrome, and can cause life-threatening symptoms.
Treatment for GHB Withdrawal & Addiction
At Oxford Treatment Center, we offer different types of addiction treatment, including medical detox, inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment programs, and more, and we customize treatment programs to meet the individual needs of each patient.
To learn more about the programs offered at our Mississippi rehab, ways to pay for rehab, or using insurance to pay for rehab, contact us at . Our admissions navigators are available around the clock to answer questions and help you start the admissions process.
You can also quickly check your insurance coverage by filling out this secure .
It’s never too late to reach out for help. If you or someone you love is struggling with the devastating side effects of addiction and unsure where to turn, call us today at .
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