Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) is another name for the generic drug sodium oxybate. Xyrem® (which is sodium oxybate) is the trade name of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved prescription medication. Xyrem® is approved as
a treatment to improve daytime sleepiness and muscle weakness with narcolepsy.
Analogues that are often substituted for GHB include GBL (gamma butyrolactone) and 1,4 BD (also called just “BD”), which is 1,4-butanediol. These analogues are available legally as industrial solvents used to produce polyurethane, pesticides, elastic fibers, pharmaceuticals, coatings on metal or plastic, and other products. They are also sold illicitly as supplements for bodybuilding, fat loss, reversal of baldness, improved eyesight, and to combat aging, depression, drug addiction, and
GBL and BD are sold as “fish tank cleaner,” “ink stain remover,” “ink cartridge cleaner,” and “nail enamel remover” for approximately $100 per bottle — much more expensive than comparable products. Attempts to identify the abuse of GHB analogues are hampered by the fact that routine toxicological screens do not detect the presence of these analogues.
GHB and its analogues are misused for their euphoric and calming effects and because some people believe they build muscles and cause weight loss. GHB and its analogues are also misused for their ability to increase libido, suggestibility, passivity, and to cause amnesia (no memory of events while under the influence of the substance) — traits that make victims vulnerable to sexual assault and other criminal acts.
GHB is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. FDA-approved GHB products are Schedule III substances under the Controlled Substances Act. In addition, GBL is a List I chemical. GHB was placed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in March 2000. However, when sold as FDA-approved GHB products (such as Xyrem®), it is considered Schedule III, one of several drugs that are listed in multiple schedules.