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How Does GHB Tolerance Work?

GHB abuse causes neurotransmitter fluctuations and withdrawal symptoms that work to fuel the addiction cycle.

GHB, also known as gamma-hydroxybutyrate, belongs to the dissociative class of hallucinogen drugs and also exists as one of the brain’s neurotransmitter materials. GHB produces anesthetic-like effects making for an effective intravenous anesthetic as well as an effective sleep disorder treatment. These effects play into GHB’s tolerance mechanisms in terms of how the brain interacts with this drug.

According to the Journal of Behavioral Pharmacology, GHB produces a range of effects when used for recreational purposes, bringing on euphoria, sedation, stimulant-like effects as well as instilling a sense of disconnection from one’s body.

As one of the few hallucinogens that carry a high abuse/addiction potential, GHB tolerance mechanisms play an active role in driving the abuse/addiction cycle. For these reasons, anyone who uses GHB on a frequent basis may well require some form of treatment help in order to stop using the drug.

GHB Dosage Level Effects

GHB effects can vary considerably depending on the dosage amount ingested. In effect, it can be difficult to calibrate the dosage level needed to induce a “high” state since amounts capable of causing overdose aren’t much higher at all.

GHB Tolerance

Sleep problems and agitation are common GHB withdrawal symptoms.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, less than one gram of GHB produces heavy relaxation to the point where substantial loss in muscle tone occurs. This low a dosage level also drops a person’s inhibitions.

Doses of two to four grams can bring on a comatose-like state that requires medical attention to revive the user. Ultimately, the higher the dosage amount used on a regular basis the faster GHB tolerance levels rise.

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GHB Tolerance Mechanisms

Neurotransmitter Fluctuations

GHB tolerance develops out of the ongoing effects this drug has on the brain’s neurotransmitter systems. GHB interferes with GABA neurotransmitter production rates, which essentially sets off a chain reaction that offsets dopamine, glutamate and norepinephrine production outputs. These interactions combined work to alter the brain’s electrical activity, individual cell activity and brain reward system functioning.

Over time, the brain adapts to these changes with individual cells becoming less responsive to the drug’s effects. Herein lies the GHB tolerance mechanism. When this happens, users take to increasing their dosage amounts in order to keep experiencing the drug’s “high” effects.

Withdrawal Episodes

As GHB tolerance levels increase, the brain becomes physically dependent to the point where it can no longer maintain normal bodily functioning in the absence of the drug’s effects. According to the Texas Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, withdrawal episodes and increasing GHB tolerance level effects become the driving forces behind a developing addiction problem.

Symptoms commonly experienced during a withdrawal episode include:

  • Agitation
  • Tremors
  • Problems sleeping
  • Suspicious thinking patterns
  • Muscle cramps
  • Mental confusion
  • Feelings of panic

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For the most part, GHB tolerance level increases drive the addiction cycle in the same way tolerance level increases lead to opiate- and stimulant-based addictions. The higher tolerance levels climb the faster the rate of addiction.

Once addiction reaches full force both the body and the mind become dependent on GHB effects. At this point, professional treatment help is needed to stop using the drug.

If you suspect you or someone you know may be experiencing GHB tolerance level increases and are considering getting treatment help, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-609-2774 (Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addictions specialists.

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