Clinical course of gamma-hydroxybutyrate overdose.Ann Emerg Med. 1998 Jun; 31(6):716-22.AE
To describe the clinical characteristics and course of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) overdose.
We assembled a retrospective series of all cases of GHB ingestion see in an urban public-hospital emergency department and entered in a computerized database January 1993 through December 1996. From these cases we extracted demographic information, concurrent drug use, vital signs, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score, laboratory values, and clinical course.
Sixty-one (69%) of the 88 patients were male. The mean age was 28 years. Thirty-four cases (39%) involved coingestion of ethanol, and 25 (28%) involved coingestion of another drug, most commonly amphetamines. Twenty-five cases (28%) had a GCS score of 3, and 28 (33%) had scores ranging from 4 through 8. The mean time to regained consciousness from initial presentation among nonintubated patients with an initial GCS of 13 or less was 146 minutes (range, 16-389). Twenty-two patients (31%) had an initial temperature of 35 degrees C or less. Thirty-two (36%) had asymptomatic bradycardia; in 29 of these cases, the initial GCS score was 8 or less. Ten patients (11%) presented with hypotension (systolic blood pressure < or = 90 mm Hg); 6 of these patients also demonstrated concurrent bradycardia. Arterial blood gases were measured in 30 patients; 21 had a PCO2 of 45 or greater, with pH ranging from 7.24 to 7.34, consistent with mild acute respiratory acidosis. Twenty-six patients (30%) had an episode of emesis; in 22 of these cases, the initial GCS was 8 or less.
In our study population, patients who overdosed on GHB presented with a markedly decreased level of consciousness. Coingestion of ethanol or other drugs is common, as are bradycardia, hypothermia, respiratory acidosis, and emesis. Hypotension occurs occasionally. Patients typically regain consciousness spontaneously within 5 hours of the ingestion.