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Review
, 8 (12), 1188-202

Multi-faceted Aspects of Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid: A Neurotransmitter, Therapeutic Agent and Drug of Abuse

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Review

Multi-faceted Aspects of Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid: A Neurotransmitter, Therapeutic Agent and Drug of Abuse

M Paola Castelli. Mini Rev Med Chem.

Abstract

Gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), an endogenous constituent of the mammalian brain, acts as i) a neurotransmitter or neuromodulator, ii) a medicine used for the treatment of narcolepsy and alcoholism, and iii) a drug illicitly used for its psychotropic effects. GHB is thought to act as a specific GHB receptor agonist as well as a weak gamma-aminobutyric acid type B (GABA(B)) receptor agonist. Here, I review the in vivo and in vitro pharmacological properties of GHB and its interaction with GHB and GABA(B) receptors. When exogenously administered, GHB is rapidly absorbed, crosses the blood-brain barrier, penetrates into the brain and exerts a number of pharmacological effects including anxiolysis, sedation/hypnosis and anesthesia. Due to its effects on the central nervous system, GHB has been used for the treatment of narcolepsy and as an anesthetic adjuvant. More recently, a role for GHB in the pharmacotherapy of alcohol dependence has been described. In this review, I also focus on the abuse liability and reinforcing properties of GHB in humans and laboratory animals.

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