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most widely consumed drugs. Certainly, the minor tranquilizers have their place in medicine, but prescribing them for weeks or months at a time to people who are anxious, depressed, or unable to sleep is symptomatic treatment of the worst sort.

Suggestions for Avoiding Trouble with Tranquilizers

1. Be aware that these drugs are strong depressants, similar in effect to alcohol, and can cause unpleasant reactions and dependence.

2. All of the cautions about downers apply to the minor tranquilizers as well.

3. If you take these drugs, whether on medical prescription or for fun, don't use them every day. Take them intermittently or occasionally to avoid falling into a pattern of habitual use.

GHB (Gammahydroxybutyrate)

GHB is an endogenous downer, made in small amounts in the bram as a metabolite of the sedative neurotransmitter GABA. In studies going back to 1960, scientists have found it to be a safe inducer of sleep that does not cause tolerance or addiction. In the early 1990s synthetic GHB became popular among bodybuilders because it stimulates the pituitary gland to release growth hormone, which can help convert fat to muscle. The drug was unregulated, and manufacturers sold it through mail-order catalogs and to health food stores, where it was often described as a nutrient rather than a drug.

A teaspoon of GHB powder (about 2.5 grams), dissolved in warm water and taken on an empty stomach, produces within 15 minutes a dramatic effect akin to alcohol or methaqualone intoxication. Most people find the effect pleasant, but in some individuals, especially with higher doses, GHB can cause nausea and marked incoordination along with "hypersomnolence" (a kind of temporary stupor). When combined with alcohol, adverse effects are more likely.

Unlike most psychoactive drugs and certainly most depressants, GHB increases rather than suppresses dreaming, and the sleep it induces closely resembles natural sleep. It does not pose the risks of other drugs in this class, but users should be aware of the potential dangers of overdoses, especially in situations that require full alertness, such as driving.

The Food and Drug Administration has declared GHB to be a prescription drug and has halted distribution of it through the

From Chocolate to Morphine 78

The first public demonstration of anesthesia; the anesthetic used was ether. Massachusetts General Hospital, 1846. (Courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston)


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Eliminating Stress and Anxiety From Your Life

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