Gamma Hydroxybutyrate – Does It Cause Weight Loss?

Developed (and used initially) for its general anaesthetic abilities, gamma hydroxybutyrate (otherwise known as GHB) finds several other applications as well – mostly as a medicine and an ingredient of food supplements.

Pills in blister packAlthough its use as a general anaesthetic was discontinued (owing to side-effects), GHB is still used today in treating conditions like sleep disorders (especially, narcolepsy) and alcohol dependence (Carter, Pardi, Gorsline, & Griffiths, 2009; Lee & Levounis, 2008). There is a strong suspicion that GHB may also be positively associated with symptomatic relief – especially pain – in cases of fibromyalgia (WebMD, 2013).

In the late 80s, gamma hydroxybutyrate enjoyed popularity as a performance-enhancing and weight-reducing supplement. Additionally, it was also (promoted and) sold by supplement companies for its ‘mood-elevating’ and ‘sexual pleasure-improving’ abilities (Stein et al., 2011).

Subsequent reports, however, of adverse effects – 3 deaths and 122 cases of effects of the serious kind (WebMD, 2013) – associated with the use of GHB supplements lead to a federal ban (in 1990) on its presence in food supplements (Stein et al., 2011). Currently, GHB is a schedule III prescription drug used only in conditions like narcolepsy and paralysis associated with it (WebMD, 2013).

What is Gamma Hydroxybutyrate?

Although used for treatment of clinico-pathological conditions (and as an illegal drug of abuse), gamma hydroxybutyrate was used (prior to 1990) as a supplement ingredient; this was to:

  • Induce weight loss,
  • Enhance exercise performance, and
  • Increase lean muscle mass

Recommended Doses of Gamma Hydroxybutyrate

Dosage of gamma hydroxybutyrate (to cause weight loss) have not been defined. For use in other conditions, GHB is recommended in a dose of (WebMD, 2013):

  • 25mg/Kg of body weight at bed time and repeated 3 hours later (narcolepsy), and as
  • 3-6 divided doses of 50-150mg/Kg per day (treatment of alcohol dependence).

How does Gamma Hydroxybutyrate work and What Adverse Effects are Expected?

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (also called ?-hydroxybutyrate, GHB, Liquid Ecstasy, Midnight Blue, Blue nitro or Cherry Meth) is a drug that works by its action on the central nervous system. It enhances transmission across cholinergic (and dopaminergic) synapses in the brain; producing euphoria, mental alertness and dissociation from social inhibition (Enevoldson, 2004; Miotto et al., 2001; Sumnall, Woolfall, Edwards, Cole, & Beynon, 2008). Improved talkativeness, skill learning and improved dance performance are some of the effects reported on short-term use.

Not surprisingly, these actions make GHB a ‘club drug’ and a potential drug of abuse.

Interestingly enough, in high doses, GHB can cause opposite effects – drowsiness, induction of sleep, an altered state of consciousness and temporary amnesia – not surprisingly, it has gained notoriety as a ‘date-rape drug’ (along with flunitrazepam, Rohypnol)!
As stated previously, GHB causes:

  • elation and
  • mental alertness

However, larger doses can cause (Enevoldson, 2004):

  • Sedation,
  • Induction of sleep,
  • Altered state of consciousness,
  • Disorientation,
  • Vomiting, and
  • Muscle twitching

In extreme cases, seizures, respiratory arrest and death can occur!

Additionally, there are certain conditions under which GHB should be strictly avoided; GHB may aggravate these conditions: some of these are:

  • Heart disease,
  • Cardiovascular disease,
  • Convulsive disease (like seizures),
  • Pregnancy, and
  • Lactation

Furthermore, combining GHB with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants like benzodiazepines (as is the practice with drug abusers) may expedite the onset of adverse effects (, 2013). A particularly scary observation is that regular use of GHB increases the susceptibility of an individual towards use of other substances of abuse – including alcohol – as well (Buckman, Yusko, White, & Pandina, 2009).

On account of GHB posing a serious threat to human health, use of GHB (or closely related analogues like gamma butyrolacton (GBL) and butanediol) in food supplements remains BANNED!

How does GHB Improve Exercise Performance and Cause Weight?

Possible mechanisms (WebMD, 2013) through which gamma hydroxybutyrate induces improved exercise performance and loss of body weight while maintaining or improving lean mass are:

  • Increasing plasma level of growth hormone (GH)
  • Stimulation of the opioid system (pain-killer system) – thus altering pain perception, assisting better recovery and improved exercise sessions

Our Verdict on GHB

Although shown to be effective in treating pathological conditions, there is severe dearth of scientific literature about its efficacy in causing weight (or improving exercise performance and lean muscle mass). Add to that the fact that GHB is a potential drug of abuse, has a serious adverse effects on human health and increases the likelihood of addition to other drugs, makes GHB an ineffective and dangerous ingredient of food supplements!

Thus, we are of the opinion that gamma hydroxybutyrate cannot be recommended for weight-loss under any pretext!

Useful References

  • Buckman, J. F., Yusko, D. A., White, H. R., & Pandina, R. J. (2009). Risk profile of male college athletes who use performance-enhancing substances. J Stud.Alcohol Drugs, 70, 919-923. Pubmed:19895768
  • Carter, L. P., Pardi, D., Gorsline, J., & Griffiths, R. R. (2009). Illicit gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and pharmaceutical sodium oxybate (Xyrem): differences in characteristics and misuse. Drug Alcohol Depend., 104, 1-10. Pubmed:19493637
  • (2013). GHB Facts.
  • Enevoldson, T. P. (2004). Recreational drugs and their neurological consequences. J Neurol.Neurosurg.Psychiatry, 75 Suppl 3, iii9-15. Pubmed:15316039
  • Lee, S. J. & Levounis, P. (2008). Gamma hydroxybutyrate: an ethnographic study of recreational use and abuse. J Psychoactive Drugs, 40, 245-253. Pubmed:19004416
  • Miotto, K., Darakjian, J., Basch, J., Murray, S., Zogg, J., & Rawson, R. (2001). Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid: patterns of use, effects and withdrawal. Am J Addict., 10, 232-241. Pubmed:11579621
  • Stein, L. A., Lebeau, R., Clair, M., Martin, R., Bryant, M., Storti, S. et al. (2011). A web-based study of gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB): patterns, experiences, and functions of use. Am J Addict., 20, 30-39. Pubmed:21175918
  • Sumnall, H. R., Woolfall, K., Edwards, S., Cole, J. C., & Beynon, C. M. (2008). Use, function, and subjective experiences of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB). Drug Alcohol Depend., 92, 286-290. Pubmed:17766059

Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.

Have Your Say

1 comment on 'Gamma Hydroxybutyrate – Does It Cause Weight Loss?'

  1. I agree it shouldn’t be recommended for weight loss, however I am surprised there is a lack of scientific information about weight loss considering the fact that weight loss is a huge issue for many people using Sodium Oxybate (Xyrem) for narcolepsy/cataplexy. While many with narcolepsy are overweight and don’t mind the weight loss at first, once they hit their target weight it is difficult to stop it. Weight loss is listed as a side effect of Xyrem.

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