Author(s): Nicholson KL, Balster RL
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Abstract There has been increasing attention in the United States to problems of abuse of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), with some evidence for problems in other parts of the world as well. In vitro and animal research show that, while GHB shares some properties with abused central nervous system depressant drugs, it has unique aspects of its pharmacology as well, including actions at a specific neural receptor which probably mediates many of its effects. Abuse potential assessment of GHB using standard animal models has not yielded a picture of a highly abusable substance, but little human testing has yet been done. Very little systematic data exist on tolerance and dependence with GHB, but both have been seen in human users. Quantitative data on the prevalence of GHB abuse is incomplete, but various qualitative measures indicate that a mini-epidemic of abuse began in the late 1980s and continues to the present. GHB is often included with the group of 'club drugs', and can be used as an intoxicant. It also has been used as a growth promoter and sleep aid and has been implicated in cases of 'date rape', usually in combination with alcohol. Undoubtedly the easy availability of GHB and some of its precursors has contributed to its popularity. Recent changes in the control status of GHB in the US may reduce its availability with as yet unknown consequences for the scope of the public health problem. Drug abuse experts need to familiarize themselves with GHB as possibly representing a new type of drug abuse problem with some unique properties.
This article was published in Drug Alcohol Depend
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals