GHB Withdrawal: Symptoms and Timeline

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 withdrawal symptoms, which are likely to be uncomfortable. Intense cravings increase the risk of relapse back into drug abuse.

Typical withdrawal symptoms from GHB include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Physical tremors.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Extreme confusion.
  • Delirium.
  • Psychosis.
  • 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.
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.

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 different stages through the withdrawal process.

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.

Rhabdomyolysis is associated with about 7% of people withdrawing from GHB, especially when the drug was used or misused as a dietary supplement. This condition begins with the breakdown of skeletal muscles, which releases toxins into the bloodstream.

These toxins can make their way to the kidneys, causing kidney failure. At its worst, rhabdomyolysis leads to death. More commonly, a person will become physically weaker due to muscle loss.

Although rare, some people have reported persistent, chronic health effects from GHB abuse. These can include:

  • Neurologic damage to extremities, like fingers or hands, leading to tremors, numbness, or tingling.
  • Persistent struggles with clear thinking or memory.
  • Emotional changes, including triggered mood disorders like depression or anxiety.
  • Occasional cravings, especially associated with stress from work, family, or change.

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.

Some medical detox specialists also use small 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.

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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