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by Dr Matthew Goldin and
Dr Jenny Bearn
Published: June 2013
Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is an endogenous brain
compound. In pharmacological doses it is a rapidly acting central
nervous system depressant.
Although in the past GHB has been used
for various clinical reasons, its recreational use is now
increasing (along with the use of its precursors,
gamma-butyrolactone and 1,4-butanediol). Medical literature reports
rising cases of GHB intoxication, dependence and severe
withdrawal, which are potentially fatal, and the clinical
effects of the drug can be unpredictable and difficult to
This module outlines the history, epidemiology and pharmacology of
GHB, and provides a summary of the medico-legal issues
associated with the drug. By the end of the module you should be
able to recognise the clinical features of GHB intoxication,
dependence and withdrawal, and be aware of the clinical
management options available.
If you like this module, you may also be
Buprenorphine in opioid dependence by Dr
Lucinda M. Cockayne and Ms Elizabeth Hutchings
Stimulants: epidemiology and impact on mental
health by Professor Fabrizio Schifano and Dr Antonio
treatment approaches and organising services by Professor
Fabrizio Schifano and Dr Antonio Albanese
Drug Misuse: Psychosocial Interventions – The NICE
Guideline (book from RCPsych Publications)
Download take-home notes to print and