GHB is currently extremely popular in the dance club and rave scene. It is also popular among the gay community as well as with exotic dancers and strippers. It is primarily used for its ability to produce euphoria, intoxication, and enhanced sexual feelings. Others use it as a sleep aid or to enhance bodybuilding. Still others use it intentionally as a date rape drug. Abusers of other drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, often take GHB to reduce the withdrawal ironic and paradoxical, given that GHB itself can cause excessive sleepiness and loss of muscle tone similar to that observed in narcoleptic patients. Scientists speculate that the sleep-inducing effects of GHB may counteract the abnormal sleep tendency seen in narcolepsy that contributes to the disease. This is similar to the paradoxical way in which the stimulant Ritalin is used to treat hyperactivity disorders in children. Scientists are currently investigating how the body's own GHB systems may contribute to the development of narcolepsy, and they are exploring possible GHB-like medications that can be used to treat the disorder without all the dangerous side effects. Because there are so few effective medications to treat narcolepsy, in July 2002, the FDA approved the use of GHB under the trade name Xyrem® for the treatment of the disease.
GHB has also been reported to have other medical benefits, such as a sleep aid for people suffering from temporary insomnia and for treating alcohol withdrawal and alcoholism. However, the risks and dangers of taking GHB, especially in combination with alcohol, have prohibited the FDA from approving its use for conditions other than narcolepsy.
symptoms that occur after the effects of these stimulants wear off.
Regardless of the purpose, GHB is primarily taken by teenagers and young adults ages 18-25. A recent survey found that in 2001, approximately 1% of eighth grade students had tried GHB in the past year, whereas 1.6% of high school seniors had tried the drug. On college campuses, the use of GHB is even more prevalent, with as many as 20% of all college students having tried GHB or knowing someone who has.
To determine the prevalence of GHB-related overdoses, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) recently surveyed reports from emergency rooms across the United States for mentions of GHB. As seen in Figure 4.2, the number of times GHB has been mentioned in emergency room visit reports has skyrocketed in the past decade, with around 55 in 1994 to more than 4,000 in 2000. Of GHB-related emergencies, most victims appear to be middle-class, male Caucasians. More than 75% of all GHB-related emergency room visits have also involved the use of alcohol, showing how dangerous the combination of the two drugs can be. GHB-related emergency room visits that involve the co-use of cocaine, Ecstasy, and marijuana occur less frequently than with alcohol.
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