Front cover image for γ-Hydroxybutyric Acid: Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics, and Toxicology


γ-Hydroxybutyric Acid: Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics, and Toxicology

Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a short-chain fatty acid present endogenously in the brain and used therapeutically for the treatment of narcolepsy, as sodium oxybate, and for alcohol abuse/withdrawal. GHB is better known however as a drug of abuse and is commonly referred to as the "date-rape drug"; current use in popular culture includes recreational "chemsex," due to its properties of euphoria, loss of inhibition, amnesia, and drowsiness. Due to the steep concentration-effect curve for GHB, overdoses occur commonly and symptoms include sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death. GHB binds to both GHB and GABAB receptors in the brain, with pharmacological/toxicological effects mainly due to GABAB agonist effects. The pharmacokinetics of GHB are complex and include nonlinear absorption, metabolism, tissue uptake, and renal elimination processes. GHB is a substrate for monocarboxylate transporters, including both sodium-dependent transporters (SMCT1, 2; SLC5A8; SLC5A12) and proton-dependent transporters (MCT1-4; SLC16A1, 7, 8, and 3), which represent significant determinants of absorption, renal reabsorption, and brain and tissue uptake. This review will provide current information of the pharmacology, therapeutic effects, and pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics of GHB, as well as therapeutic strategies for the treatment of overdoses. Graphical abstract
Article, 2021