GHB: Safety Issues and
by John Morgenthaler and Dan Joy
As has been emphasized, the overall safety of GHB is well-established, and
no deaths attributable to GHB have been reported over the thirty year
period that this compound has been in use. In fact, as of 1990, only
forty-six adverse reactions had been reported in the United States surely
constituting only an infinitesimal fraction of actual usage, all followed
by rapid and complete recovery. Unlike a large proportion of other drugs
including alcohol and even Tylenol, GHB has no toxic effects on the liver,
kidney or other organs. One program of sleep therapy using six to eight
grams daily for a period of eight to ten days produced no side effects.
Vickers  even reports that doses as high as twenty to thirty grams
per twenty-four hour period have been used for several days without
negative consequences (don't do this at home kids!). In the Canadian
studies of narcolepsy mentioned earlier, the nightly use of two to six
teaspoons (one teaspoon equaling roughly 2.5 grams) for several years
resulted in no reports of long-term adverse effects, or problems with
issues of addiction or dependence. In one of these studies, one patient
inadvertently ingested fifteen teaspoons without adverse consequence
"other than deep sedation and headache the next day". And in France,
sub-anesthetic oral doses were used by "a large number of patients for
about six years" without untoward effect.
According to Dr. Gallimberti , the action of GHB is "without serious
side effects." Some research programs have reported no side effects at
all. Nonetheless, it's clear that some minor side effects can occur. Those
most commonly experienced are drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and sometimes
vomiting. As a sedative-hypnotic, GHB's effects bear some similarity to
those of alcohol and tranquilizers. GHB not only "may cause drowsiness"
like these other drugs, it will almost invariably do so. Ataxia, or
incoordination, can also be a side effect of GHB. Do not drive a vehicle
or operate dangerous machinery while under the influence of GHB.
As mentioned, clonic movements (muscle contractions or "seizures") have
been observed during the onset of GHB-induced sleep. Headache is sometimes
reported. A moderate slowing of the heart rate is a consistent effect, and
small changes in blood pressure can take place. Likewise, orthostatic
hypotension (a sudden drop in blood pressure caused by standing up
quickly) has also been reported. Sometimes this is experienced as brief
dizziness, and rarely people can briefly lose consciousness. At very high
doses, cardiac and respiratory depression can occur.
Sufficiently large doses of GHB can cause sudden sedation and loss of
consciousness. Do not take such doses except when reclining on a bed or
sofa. It is also a bad idea to take such doses in the presence of people
who don't know anything about GHB. You may alarm your family or friends
and wake up in an emergency room (with a large medical bill). More unusual
and extreme reactions have included diarrhea, lack of bladder control,
temporary amnesia, and sleep-walking. Whatever side effects may be noted,
they are often much more severe when GHB is combined with other central
nervous system depressants.