Narcolepsy is a severe medical condition that can cause some individuals to fall asleep at inopportune moments, such as when they are driving a car, in the middle of a conversation, or even while standing up, which can result in injury due to falling. What does narcolepsy have to do with the club drug GHB? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this powerful central nervous system depressant is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for only one purpose – to treat narcolepsy. The restrictions on GHB are so tightly controlled that, unlike other drugs which can be prescribed for a variety of conditions at the discretion of doctors, individuals who are legally prescribed the drug are tracked by the government. Unfortunately, like so many prescription drugs that have a potential for abuse, GHB has made its way into the clubbing and drug abuse underworld. GHB, because of its depressant qualities, can have similar effects as alcohol intoxication. While both alcohol and GHB are depressants, in certain doses they can reduce inhibitions and create a relaxed, euphoric state. This is generally the overall goal for those who engage in GHB abuse.

Information published by the self-help group Narconon, however, indicates that GHB abuse can lead to serious injury because of the physical effects the drug abuser is likely to experience, including:

  • Falling to the ground
  • Uncontrolled movements (flopping)
  • Incoherence
  • Uncontrolled facial expressions
  • Rolling of the eyes

Once the drug has worn off, it is important to realize that an individual may have no recollection of bringing harm to himself, or even if he were harmed by another person. The drug causes amnesia for the time period that one is under the influence and the memories may never come back.

Perhaps the greatest risk of GHB abuse is the risk of coma and death.

CNS depressants, when used in excessive quantities, can slow the breathing and heart rate to a point that is life-threatening, particularly if someone mixes two types of depressants, such as GHB and alcohol, at the same time.

Treatment for GHB Abuse and Addiction Can Help

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has spent many decades studying the effects of drugs on the human brain and the epidemic of drug abuse in the United States and around the world. While they are still searching for a possible cure for addiction, they are also working to understand why some individuals suffer from addiction and others do not. For instance, some individuals may choose to experiment with drugs like GHB because so many of their friends have used the drug and nothing bad has happened to them. The individuals they’ve watched abuse the drug may have moved on to successful careers and families and had no lasting effects. They may then believe that the drug is simply not harmful, so they begin to experiment at parties or with friends. If a substance is truly dangerous and addictive, it would be addictive for everyone, or so they believe. Why this phenomenon occurs isn’t fully understood, even by the experts. What is understood is that there are specific risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood to suffer from addiction if they choose to abuse GHB or any other addictive substance. These risk factors vary from person to person, of course, and not every person suffering from addiction will have any, or all, of these factors at work in their lives.

For instance:

  • There may be a genetic component involved in addiction because individuals who have family members who suffer from addiction are more likely to develop addictions themselves if they abuse drugs. If they do not abuse drugs, of course, that risk is no longer an issue. Drug addiction is not “hereditary” like some other diseases or illness, and it is 100 percent preventable.
  • The environment in which a person lives or socializes affects the risk factors of addiction because a person can only become addicted to or abuse drugs if the drugs are, in fact, available.
  • The age at which a person is first exposed to drugs can also have an impact. The younger a person is at their first exposure, the higher the risk for addiction because the adolescent brain is still in a state of development. Teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, and the physical changes that occur in the brain due to drug abuse can have a longer-lasting effect.
  • Individuals with mental illness, whether diagnosed or unknown, have increased odds that they will develop an addiction if they abuse drugs. It is estimated that people with mental illness are twice as likely to abuse drugs and become addicted than the general population.

When these factors come together, playing off each other in the lives of one person, a perfect storm of risk is possible.

Drug Addiction Is a Treatable and Manageable Condition

The good news is that an individual who has engaged in GHB abuse and developed an addiction can receive treatment for this disease. Drug addiction does not have to be a sentence that relegates anyone to a life fraught with danger and risks; it can be addressed and managed with evidence-based therapies. With help, a person can stop abusing drugs and regain control and composure over their life for a successful and productive future. The first part of any treatment program is a period of detoxification. This is the period of time that begins the very last time a person takes a drug. As the body metabolizes the drug and the effects of the “high” wear off, the individual may experience withdrawal symptoms. The severity of the symptoms depends upon how long they’ve been abusing the drug, what kind of drugs they abuse, and the amount of drugs they have been taking regularly. In the case of GHB, it is advised that detox occurs with medical supervision. After the detox period has ended, psychological treatment begins.

A treatment plan should be tailored to the needs of each individual seeking help.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. For instance, if the individual has been abusing drugs that have damaged their organs, a treatment plan should include helping the recovering addict regain physical health. If the individual suffers from a co-occurring condition, such as anxiety or depression, the treatment plan should include counseling or, if necessary, medications to treat those conditions. Once a full assessment has been completed, the staff of the treatment facility can create a plan and begin to implement it.

The treatment process should also be flexible. As the needs of the recovering addict change, the treatment plan should also change. Some individual progress through counseling services more quickly than others and some respond differently to various types of treatment, whether it be talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapies or alternative therapies, such as art therapy or music therapy. Finally, when treatment has been successfully completed, it is important for the individual to participate in continual follow-up care. Relapse is always a risk for someone living in recovery, so participation in support groups and honest, open communication with family and loved ones about any slips or falls after treatment are crucial. Relapse does not mean that treatment failed, nor does it mean that the individual has not been working to remain sober. Relapse means only that the treatment plan should be adjusted to meet the changing needs of the recovering addict. If you are, or someone you love is, engaging in GHB abuse or the abuse of any other drugs, please contact us at Futures of Palm Beach right away to learn how we can help you overcome addiction. It is never too early to get the help you need.

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