Inpatient Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate Detoxification: A Case Report Describing Day-to-day Therapeutic Management

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Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a synthetic drug increasingly used by consumers of psychoactive substances. The sought after psychoactive effects of GHB have resulted in an increase in recreational use in Europe. GHB is considered to have a high dependence potential, and abrupt discontinuation after long-term use can result in a severe withdrawal syndrome. Despite a large number of publications related to GHB withdrawal and detoxification, to date, no evidence-based protocol or consensual international therapeutic guidelines are available (over and above the administration of benzodiazepines). We hereby present a day-to-day description of inpatient GHB detoxification management, from admission to discharge.

Case Summary:

This case report pertains to a 47-year-old patient hospitalized for a severe GHB use disorder. The patient had independently made several unsuccessful attempts to stop GHB use. Following to these failures, the patient was oriented to our addiction department for inpatient detoxification. Withdrawal symptoms appeared 4 hours after the last dose of GHB, and consisted of diaphoresis, coenesthetic hallucinations, tremors, motor instability, tachycardia, and a hypertensive peak. Symptoms were successfully managed with diazepam titration and nonpharmacological treatment. The duration of hospitalization was 13 days. At discharge, detoxification was complete and the patient was engaged in relapse prevention therapy. Three months after discharge, the patient had maintained abstinence.


GHB withdrawal, which can be severe, is better prevented or attenuated by daily medical monitoring and adjustment of treatment dosage. Failure of outpatient detoxification should be included in the indication criteria in the guidelines for inpatient detoxification.

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