Other Uses of GHB
by John Morgenthaler and Dan Joy
GHB has a decades long track record of use as a general anesthetic.
Administered intravenously, an anesthetic dose of GHB is in the range of
4-5 grams for a 150-pound person. Its advantages as an anesthetic include
low toxicity, relatively few contraindications, slowing of the heart rate
without loss of blood pressure, the absence of irritation to the veins
with intravenous administration, muscle relaxation, absence of respiratory
depression (usually), reduction of body temperature (hypothermia), and
various protective and anti-shock actions. However, GHB can almost never
be used in anesthesia without the additional administration of other drugs
because it does not produce complete surgical anesthesia except in
children. The autonomic nervous system remains active during GHB-induced
anesthetic coma, and thus the body continues to respond to surgical
stimuli through increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and cardiac
output, as well as through sweating, peripheral vasoconstriction,
vocalization, and reflex muscle action. Local anesthetics or other drugs
which suppress these responses must therefore also be used, like the way a
dentist or orthodontic surgeon might use Novocaine to kill pain along with
nitrous oxide to render a patient unconscious.
It is suspected that part of GHB's protective function involves a slowing
of the metabolism of brain cells, thus reducing their requirements for
oxygen and glucose. Another factor in GHB's anti-shock capability may be
the marked vasodilation induced in the liver and kidney, thus increasing
blood flow to those vital organs.
GHB's efficacy for treating anxiety has been positively demonstrated in
tests involving schizophrenic subjects. Its sedative properties have
earned it a role as a psychotherapeutic adjunct. It has also been used to
assist the process of "abreaction," or the release (usually through
verbalization) of repressed emotion. Unlike other "anxiolytic" (or
anti-anxiety) drugs, GHB's effect is non-toxic.
Furthermore, GHB's reduction of inhibitions, its tendency to encourage
verbalization, and the typical lack of fear during the GHB experience
would seem to provide an ideal context for the verbal exploration of
difficult emotional territory during therapy.