Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is an illegal drug that is used as a muscle builder, a "party drug" and a "date-rape" drug. Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a neuromodulator with high affinity binding sites in the mammalian brain. There are indications that GHB and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) mediate their effects via the same receptor.
Gamma-hydroxybutyrate is also known chemically as 4-hydroxybutyrate and oxybate. It typically is in the form of sodium oxybate, sodium gamma-hydroxybutyrate or sodium 4-hydroxybutyrate. Other names used for GHB have been liquid ecstasy, liquid X, somatomax PM and Gamma-OH. Some of the effects of GHB are reported to be similar to the effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA, more commonly known as ecstasy. GHB is found naturally in animal tissues, including the brain, kidney, heart muscle and fat. It was synthesized in 1969 and used in Europe as an intravenous anesthetic agent. It was also found to be useful for narcolepsy and is being developed for that use in the U.S. Studies to date indicate that GHB may reduce EDS or excessive daytime sleepiness in these patients.
GHB is derived from the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and is also converted to GABA. GHB is thought to function as an inhibitory chemical transmitter in the central nervous system. Further, it is thought that its central nervous system depressant effect is probably mediated through specific receptors for GHB as well as interaction with the GABA (B) receptor. GHB is also thought to be a specific inhibitor of central dopamine release. And, under certain conditions, e.g. during sedation or anesthesia or in the presence of a high concentration of calcium, GHB may stimulate dopamine release.