Before GHB got a name for itself as a recreational drug and a date rape drug, it was a bodybuilding drug. Bodybuilders started to use the substance after studies showed that GHB boosts the secretion of growth hormone. [J Clin Invest. 1997 Aug 1;100(3):745-53.] This is probably the case if you use GHB occasionally, Dutch neurologists discovered. But if you take GHB for a few days in succession, the growth hormone-boosting effect disappears.
The Dutch researchers examined the effect of oxybate – the sodium salt of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid [structural formula shown above] – on eight men with narcolepsy.
People suffering from narcolepsy, a congenital disorder, fall asleep spontaneously during the day. The condition is probably caused by a genetic error which means that too little of the protein hypocretin-1 is present in your brain cells. Taking GHB in the evening sometimes helps.
The researchers were particularly interested to find out about the effect on growth hormone secretion in narcolepts who were using GHB. Narcolepts on GHB lose weight. The researchers wanted to know whether that was because GHB boosts concentrations of growth hormone. And while they were at it, they wondered about the effect of GHB on individuals not suffering from narcolepsy? To answer this the researchers also carried out their experiments on eight normal men.
For five days the researchers gave their subjects 3 g GHB every hour during the evening and at three o’clock in the morning. Then they measured the concentration of growth hormone in the blood. The figures below show that while asleep the peak growth hormone secretion was higher than normal as a result of taking GHB.
When the researchers looked at the total amount of growth hormone that the men produced as a result of taking GHB, they saw that the amount increased in the men with narcolepsy, but that GHB had no positive effect on total growth hormone production in the control group. In fact, the total growth hormone production actually decreased in this group. Click on the table below to access the full information.
The Dutch researchers think that the slimming effect of GHB on narcolepts may well be the result of a rise in growth hormone levels. In healthy people, however, GHB does not cause growth hormone levels to rise. “We believe that subchronic administration of sodium oxybate may elevate growth hormone levels to induce feedback inhibition in controls but not in narcoleptic patients”, the researchers write.
If only the bodybuilders who first used GHB 10 to 15 years ago had known. They’d have saved themselves a lot of grief. [Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2003 May;29(2):487-96.]