GHB's unique attributes have some legitimate uses. In Europe, it is still used as an anesthetic, for alcohol and opiate addiction therapy, and for narcolepsy therapy. Only this last indication of narcolepsy is recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration, which recently approved GHB (ie, sodium oxybate [Xyrem]) to treat a small subset of patients with narcolepsy who have episodes of weak or paralyzed muscles (ie, cataplexy). Because of sodium oxybate's history of abuse as a recreational drug, the FDA approved it as a Schedule III Controlled Substance. A limited distribution program that includes physician education, patient education, a patient and physician registry, and detailed patient surveillance has been established. Under the program, prescribers and patients will be able to obtain the product only through a single centralized pharmacy.
Most drugs of abuse are addictive. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite negative consequences and by long-lasting changes in the brain. People who are addicted have strong cravings for the drug, making it difficult to stop using. Most drugs alter a person’s thinking and judgment, which can increase the risk of injury or death from drugged driving or infectious diseases (., HIV/AIDS, hepatitis) from unsafe sexual practices or needle sharing. Drug use during pregnancy can lead to neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition in which a baby can suffer from dependence and withdrawal symptoms after birth. Pregnancy-related issues are listed in the chart below for drugs where there is enough scientific evidence to connect the drug use to negative effects. However, most drugs could potentially harm an unborn baby.