What is the drug GHB?
GHB is an acronym for gamma-hydroxybutyric acid. It is a very simple chemical compound consisting of a four carbon hydrocarbon chain with a carboxylic acid at one end and an alcohol on the fourth (or gamma) carbon on the other end. In health and medicinal situations it is most commonly found as the sodium salt called sodium oxybate which exists as a white crystalline powder that readily dissolves in water.
GHB is actually a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the central nervous system of animals, including humans. It binds to numerous protein receptors in the body and can affect tryptophan and seratonin levels in brain tissues. It is also found naturally in some food products, and it is also produced in small quantities as a byproduct of the fermentation process and as such is found in beer and wine.
In most of the western world, GHB and its salt forms are considered prescription drugs so their manufacture and sale are regulated. In the US, it is approved by the FDA for use in patients with narcolepsy. Some other countries also allow its use for depression and sleep disorders. GHB does have some illegal recreational use as well. It it sometimes abused as an intoxicant in party scenes and has also been abused as a date rape type agent due to its ease of dissolving in beverages and mild taste.
GHB is illegally produced in home basement labs, usually in the form of a liquid that has no odor or color. It is known as a designer drug because it is specifically made for the purpose of getting people high. Like Ecstasy, GHB is a popular drug with club-goers and those who go to "rave parties," including teens and young adults. Its side effects can be very dangerous, especially if the drug is mixed with alcohol.