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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2012 Apr;36(4):1217-27. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.02.002. Epub 2012 Feb 10.

Possible long-term effects of γ-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) due to neurotoxicity and overdose.

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  • 1National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), P.O. Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


In several countries, including the Netherlands, the use of GHB seems to be rising. GHB is regarded by recreational users as an innocent drug without any side effects. Recently, the number of patients in treatment due to GHB addiction sharply increased. In addition, various studies report incidents following risky GHB use or GHB overdosing. Other sedative drugs, like ketamine and alcohol have been shown to result in unintended neurotoxic harm at the level of memory and cognitive function. As outlined in the present review, GHB and ketamine have a common mode of action, which suggests that GHB may also lead to similar neurotoxicity as ketamine. GHB overdosing, as well as binge drinking (and high ketamine doses), induce profound coma which is probably neurotoxic for the brain especially in the maturing brain of young adults. It is therefore advocated to investigate possible long-term neurotoxic effects in recreational GHB users e.g. by studying the residual effects on cognition and memory.

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