1,4-Butanediol is a colorless, thick liquid that is converted into gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) after ingestion. GHB is a strong sedative that is often used as a date-rape drug because it is easily concealed in water due to a lack of smell and taste.
GHB is a metabolite of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and has been linked to cases of dependence, coma, and death. GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), a solvent commonly used as a paint stripper, is another precursor for GHB. 1,4-Butanediol itself is used as an industrial chemical to make some plastics and fibers.
GHB, GBL, and 1,4-butanediol are prevalent drugs of abuse in the United States. While available as a prescription drug for sleep disorders in some other countries, GHB was banned in the United States by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1990 because of the dangers associated with its use. It has since been approved only for the treatment of a rare form of narcolepsy (a sleep disorder that result in excessive daytime sleepiness). In Europe, GHB has been used as an anesthetic and experimentally to treat alcohol withdrawal.
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These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.