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What Is Sodium Oxybate?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sodium oxybate is a type of prescription medication that acts as a central nervous system depressant. This medication is used to treat medical conditions such as cataplexy and narcolepsy. Due to its potential to be addictive, sodium oxybate is sometimes used and sold illegally as the street drug called GHB. Some of the potential side effects of this medication include headaches, stomach pain, and drowsiness. Any questions or concerns about the use of sodium oxybate or possible side effects should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Cataplexy and narcolepsy are the medical conditions that are most frequently treated with sodium oxybate. Often confused with epilepsy, cataplexy is a medical disorder that causes sudden muscle weakness, especially in response to strong emotions. This condition often accompanies narcolepsy, a neurological disorder that causes the affected person to fall asleep at unexpected and inappropriate times, such as in the middle of a conversation.

In most cases, sodium oxybate must be taken twice each night, as the effects of the medication do not last long enough to get the patient through the night without taking a second dose. This drug is available as a liquid that is designed to be mixed with water and then taken as directed by a doctor. Due to the strength of this medication as well as the potential for abuse, sodium oxybate is available only through a strict mail order program and cannot be obtained through a neighborhood pharmacy.

The potential side effects of sodium oxybate can range from mild to severe, even when taking the medication exactly as prescribed by a doctor, making illegal use of this drug particularly harmful. Some of the most commonly reported side effects include drowsiness, headache, and dizziness. Gastrointestinal disturbances such as indigestion, nausea, or stomach pain may also occur. Symptoms of an infection, such as fever, chills, or sore throat, should be reported to a doctor right away for further medical evaluation.

Psychological disturbances may occur when taking sodium oxybate and should be reported to a medical professional immediately. The dosage may need to be changed, or the medication may need to be discontinued entirely. Some of these issues may include mood swings, behavior changes, or a desire to hurt others or cause self-harm. Hospitalization may be necessary when these symptoms develop in order to make sure the patient remains safe and receives the proper medical care in a controlled environment.

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