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GHB Detox Centers

Medically Reviewed By: Benjamin Caleb Williams RN, BA, CEN

Written By: Gary Bowers

Article Updated: 01/24/2021

Number of References: 3 Sources

Our in-depth guide to finding the right GHB detox center will better prepare you to take the vital first step towards freedom from this damaging drug. Learn about detox treatments, medications, risks, and what to look for in a GHB detox facility.

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When is GHB Detox Recommended?

In no uncertain terms, GHB detox can be fatal if not overseen by professional medical staff. For someone addicted to or dependent on GHB, sudden cessation or dramatic changes in use can trigger a wide range of uncomfortable, dangerous, and unmanageable detox symptoms. GHB detox centers should always be part of the recovery plan. Not only can these facilities oversee the medical needs of someone in detox, but the additional therapeutic offerings and overall care received will help create a path towards complete recovery. Though medical detox is always recommended, there are certain circumstances where it is virtually required.

For Those Experiencing GHB Withdrawal Delirium

Delirium is a state of confusion and disorientation which can be a frightening experience for the person experiencing delirium and anyone present to observe the symptoms. Anyone experiencing GHB detox-induced delirium should seek support from GHB detox centers as quickly as possible, as their safety and the safety of those around them could be in jeopardy. These programs and the trained medical professionals who work at them specialize in treating this dangerous condition.

For Those Experiencing GHB Withdrawal Seizures

During the detox process, one can have severe neurological symptoms. While rare, withdrawal from GHB can result in seizures and other potentially dangerous neurological events. GHB detox centers are fully equipped and prepared to address these distressing symptoms. Anyone experiencing seizures, tremors, muscle spasms, etc. should seek help immediately.

History of Mental Illness

Detox from GHB can bring about a long list of psychological symptoms, which can range from mild to severe depending on the extent of the addiction, and mental health history of the person in treatment. Anxiety, hallucinations (auditory and visual), paranoia, disorientation, confusion, and delirium have been documented during GHB withdrawal, and these symptoms can worsen any potential underlying mental health issues. These detoxes are equipped to handle the complicated nature of GHB detox and co-occurring mental illnesses. With professional support including medical and talk therapy, it is possible to recover from addiction and/or dependence to GHB.

Co-Occurring Addictions

GHB use is frequently linked to abuse of other drugs including alcohol, and studies have shown that alcohol and opiate use can increase the toxicity of GHB, and because they all share similar signs of toxicity, understanding which drugs are prevalent in the system can require intense medical supervision. If someone is exhibiting signs of GHB toxicity, they should absolutely call 911, as this can be a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment. Those addicted to or dependent upon GHB are much more likely to overdose or experience trauma when mixing GHB with other drugs, and even for the most seasoned GHB user, severe side effects such as coma can come on suddenly. Lastly, the pain and severity of GHB detox can often lead someone to pursue other drugs to alleviate that pain, thereby setting the cycle of addiction in motion again.

Co-Occurring Medical Conditions

GHB withdrawal can be challenging and dangerous without the presence of other conditions, and the rapid onset of detox symptoms can put the body in a state of disruption very quickly. Although rare, symptoms of GHB detox can include seizures, cardiac complications, kidney damage, and neurological symptoms. Never attempt GHB detox on your own without consulting a doctor first; entering a GHB detox center can help prevent or address these symptoms.

Intake: GHB Detox At A Glance

Entering into a GHB detox facility will be the first step towards successful recovery; almost immediately after entering the doors, care and attention will be paid to ensure safe and effective recovery. Detox symptoms from GHB can present themselves in as little as 30 minutes after the last dose, and those early moments in the detox process are key in charting a safe path towards recovery. One of the first things you can expect will be a preliminary health check as the staff will need to understand the body’s current state, before medical care can be administered. The basics would include:

  • Vital Signs: Such as heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen levels, etc.
  • Routine Blood Work: To measure liver and kidney function, and to determine toxicity from other sources.

Additional information may be gathered which can further inform care, and provide an effective foundation upon which recovery can flourish. Some basic information gathered would include:

  • Medical History
  • Presence of Any Co-Occurring Mental or Physical Health Concerns
  • Co-Occurring Substance Abuse

At the end of the day, the goal during intake is to gain information that can be used to ease the pain of withdrawal.

Medical Monitoring During Detox

GHB detox centers will have medical staff on hand at all times, closely monitoring the medical needs of each person in their care. Depending on the depth and extent of the addiction or dependency on GHB withdrawal can begin as soon as 30 minutes after the last dose, and for most people, the first 48 hours of GHB detox can be the most physically demanding. Symptoms can be severe and dangerous, but medical professionals have everything needed to address the needs of those in their care. Specifically for someone in GHB detox, medical staff will be closely monitoring these aspects of the patient’s overall health and wellbeing:

  • Neurological Health: Symptoms such as seizures, tremors, and muscle spasms are possible.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Increased heart rate, heart palpitations, and increased blood pressure are likely.
  • Mental Health: Anxiety, disorientation, aggression, hallucinations, and mood swings are all common symptoms of GHB detox.
  • Sleep Health: Insomnia is a very common symptom of GHB detox.
  • Gastrointestinal Health: Diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and nausea are common.

The preceding list was not meant to be exhaustive but will represent some of the common issues those in GHB detox face. All aspects of a person’s physical and mental health will be closely monitored to ensure safety. In addition to medical observations, patients will have regular visits with psychiatric staff who will closely monitor mental health as detox progresses.

The dangers cannot be understated, GHB detox can be very serious. Professional help at a detox center will be there every step of the way, taking care of the delicate medical needs of each patient. While this can look different for each person, and a variety of medical factors can alter the course of care, the most important thing to remember is that professional medical staff will oversee this phase of recovery.

GHB Withdrawal Timeline

Medications Used by GHB Detox Centers

The most commonly prescribed medications used to treat GHB detox are benzodiazepines, however, there aren’t currently any medications specifically designed to treat GHB detox symptoms. While GHB detox can present many symptoms, GHB detox centers have an abundance of options in treating those symptoms. Here are some that are most usually prescribed under typical circumstances:

  • Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines frequently prescribed and can address a number of troubling issues, including anxiety, sleep disorders, and alcohol detox (which closely mirrors GHB detox. Benzodiazepines work via the GABA system (more below) by enhancing naturally occurring tranquilizing compounds in the brain. This class of medications can also reduce the risk of seizures during GHB detox.
  • Barbiturates: Barbiturates will work very similarly to benzodiazepines and would be used to treat the same symptoms, however since benzodiazepines are considered safer, barbiturates would only be prescribed in the event that treatments with benzodiazepine fail or do not achieve desired results, although this is rare
  • Non-Benzodiazepine Anti-Anxiety Medications: While benzodiazepines can be used to address anxiety symptoms during GHB detox, other or additional anxiolytic medications can be employed. Anxiety is a frequent symptom of GHB detox, and depending on the frequency or intensity of those symptoms, different medications can be used; some medications treating symptoms of acute anxiety, while others treat the underlying brain chemistry that causes chronic anxiety.
  • Anticonvulsants: Tremors, muscle spasms, and seizures can be potentially dangerous uncomfortable side effects of GHB detox. Anticonvulsants can help by calming the neurotransmission signals in the brain. While these medications can be used to treat symptoms as they present themselves, they may also be used in preventative situations, bridging the gap between a brain that is used to extreme stimulation, to a brain that functions naturally, with minimal influence from medication.
  • Antidepressants: Depressive symptoms are common both during and after GHB detox, and antidepressants can be very effective in alleviating those symptoms by addressing the imbalance in brain chemistry that is often the cause of depression.
  • Blood Pressure Medications: Detox from GHB can result in a host of cardiovascular symptoms, including increased blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. Thankfully, doctors have a deep well of safe and effective medications available to treat these symptoms as they arise.
  • Sleep Medications: GHB detox can bring about significant changes in sleep patterns including the amount of sleep and quality of sleep. Sleep medications can be used on a short-term basis to help correct sleep patterns and restore balance. Proper sleep is a key component of overall well-being and should never be overlooked.
  • GABA Agents: GABA Agents are used for correcting neurotransmission problems that can frequently present themselves during detox from GHB. Simply put, Gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA is responsible for helping to manage neural transmission in the central nervous system. Different GABA agents can be used to improve, inhibit, or modify the neurotransmitter balances that may be causing symptoms like tremors, convulsions, and anxiety.

Therapy During GHB Detox

Therapy, in its wide range of possible permutations, is an all-too-important aspect of complete recovery from addiction and substance abuse disorders. While medical therapy will address the biological aspects of a person’s health, the disease of addiction is always driven by the invisible wheels of trauma, risky behavior, thought patterns, beliefs, and personal experience. Therapy works to address a person’s responses to both the internal and external forces of life. Therapy offered in GHB detox centers can support growth and vitality by addressing one’s thoughts and behaviors. Some examples of therapy options available to someone in recovery.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

An extremely common and effective form of therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). GHB detox centers can introduce CBT in a variety of ways, but in a general sense, CBT works well in addressing issues of substance abuse disorder because it seeks to uncover and address the cognitive (thought-based) actions of a person when they are faced with choices, negative or positive influences and external forces that influence behavior. Through bringing subconscious thoughts to the conscious mind for examination, this can help by getting to the root of WHY someone responds the way they do. CBT can quite literally change the way someone acts, behaves, and interacts with the world.

Group Therapy

GHB detox centers will offer options in the form of group therapy, which can be a very valuable tool in recovering from addiction. Group therapy works well because it helps to destigmatize and normalize the issues which can be prevalent in those who battle addiction. By working in groups, formally or informally, this form of therapy introduces and reinforces important societal practices such as empathy, cooperation, listening, and communication, which, for someone in the midst of addiction can be parts of living that are often sorely neglected.

12 Step Programs

12 step programs have been successful in treating almost every form of addiction. With decades of definitive success, 12 step programs offer fellowship, accountability, and service which can lead to personal growth; mentally, spiritually, and societally. Additionally, 12 step programs, while they may be executed differently from group to group, will be foundationally the same, and are prevalent all over the world. This means that almost anywhere a person goes, there will be someone there to support them. Someone who understands addiction, and will offer support in the form of experience, strength, and hope!

Continuing GHB Addiction Treatment

While being in a GHB detox center can be a transformative experience, it is really just the beginning of the lifelong journey of recovery. While it may feel daunting to begin this phase, the experience and education gained during the time at the GHB detox center will continue to pay dividends. By continuing medical treatment of physical symptoms, and the use of other forms of therapy to improve thought patterns and behaviors, a life of happiness free from addiction is possible!

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