This news item was created by students Rachel Kerford, Heather Maddox and Kyle Major as part of their Chemistry 210 Semester Project in WS99 under the guidance of Prof. Rainer Glaser.

Glaser's "Chemistry is in the News"
To Accompany Wade Organic Chemistry 4/e.
Chapter 24. Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins.

For each of the following questions, please refer to the following article:

The Oakland Post, November 19, 1997.

Editorial Comments

Gamma-hydroxy butyrate (GHB) can be described as a nutrient found in human body cells.  GHB was originally synthesized by Dr. H. Laborit who was interested in exploring the effect of GABA in the brain. GABA is an aminobutyric acid and when the amino group is substituted with a hydroxy group, GHB is formed. GABA cannot cross the blood brain barrier, but GHB, a precursor for GABA can cross and affects the brain. GHB has many effects on the body, including muscle relaxation, tactile pleasure enhancement, and as a neurotransmitter that increases dopamine levels in the CNS. The medical field has used GHB for growth stimulation, anesthetics before surgery and pregnancy, and for dieting. Recently however, it has been used as a date rape drug.

When mixed with alcohol or other drugs, its effects of sedation and lowered inhibitions are intensified.  Since the recipe for the drug is easily obtained off the internet, "at home chemists" often manufacture GHB for profit and use at parties or clubs. It is odorless, colorless, and slightly salty tasting.  The salty taste can be easily masked by a sweet drink. Users of the drug, as well as unsuspecting victims, have felt a pleasant high with prosexual effects. Because the drug can be made at home different quantities can have more serious effects. The making of GHB by unprofessional chemists leads to more likely overdoses. When the drug is used in large quantities it can result in seizures, coma, or even death.

Despite the surmounting research showing evidence of the drugs harm, a controversy still surrounds GHB. Many argue that because of its benefits, such as treatment for insomnia, alcoholism, and depression that it should be made legal. GHB is still a comparatively new drug and is still being studied. Some research provides evidence for the beneficial effects of GHB. As of now the FDA has made GHB illegal.  Our group agrees that the adverse effects of GHB on the human body greatly outweigh the positive. GHB should remain illegal, unless being used for medical purposes.

Pertinent Text References
Chapter 24. Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins.


Question 1: What are GHB and GABA?

A. GHB substitutes a hydroxy group for the amino group in GABA. GABA metabolizes to GHB.

Question 2: What enables GHB to have neurological effects when taken?

A. GHB is able to cross the blood brain barrier.

Question 3: What are some of the medicinal uses for GHB and what are some symptoms if taken in large quantities?

A. GHB can be used as a muscle relaxer and an anesthesia.  It can also be used in the treatment of alcoholism and sleeping disorders.  When taken in large quantities GHB can cause seizures, coma, and death, among other things.

Question 4: How is GHB dangerous as a date rate drug and what could cause a GHB abuse case in Oakland to be especially dangerous?

A. GHB only requires a small dose to be effective.  it is relatively inexpensive and can be easily made, and concealed in drinks.  In Oakland, there have been so few date-rape cases that the police and hospitals are not well prepared to handle GHB.

Question 5: After reading all of the information, do you think GHB should be legal? Support your answer.