Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid in the treatment of alcohol and heroin dependence

Luigi Gallimberti, Maurizio Raffaele Spella, Carlo Alberto Soncini, Gian Luigi Gessa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We briefly review two double-blind, placebo-controlled surveys conducted in this laboratory with the aim of evaluating the efficacy of gamma- hydroxybutyric acid in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome as well as alcohol craving and consumption in alcoholics. In the first study, acute administration of 50 mg/kg gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, a nonhypnotic dose in alcoholic patients, resulted in a rapid and significant reduction of the severity score of alcohol withdrawal signs and symptoms that lasted as long as 7 hours. In the second study, treatment with 50 mg/kg/day gamma- hydroxybutyric acid for 3 consecutive months (1) reduced the number of daily drinks by approximately 50%, (2) increased the days of abstinence approximately threefold, and (3) reduced the alcohol craving score by up to 60%. These results feature gamma-hydroxybutyric acid as an effective agent for the treatment of alcohol dependence. Data on the effect of gamma- hydroxybutyric acid on opiate withdrawal syndrome also are reviewed. Administration of 25 mg/kg induced a marked reduction of opiate withdrawal score in both heroin- and methadone-dependent subjects. Finally, we report the cases of adverse reactions to and abuse of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid revealed in a retrospective analysis of patients recruited in this laboratory over a 10-year period. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-262
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2000


  • Alcohol craving and consumption
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • Alcoholics
  • Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid
  • Heroin addicted
  • Opiate withdrawal syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Medicine(all)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology
  • Health(social science)


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