Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is used therapeutically and recreationally worldwide. Since the scheduling of GHB by the USA and the United Nations in 2000-2001, the recreational use of GHB precursors has reportedly increased. The aim of this study was to examine if potency differences of GHB and GHB-like compounds are due to their blood-brain barrier permeability. The effects of peripheral and central administration of GHB, GHB precursors gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4-butanediol (1,4-BD), and the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) B receptor agonist baclofen on schedule-controlled responding were examined in rats. GHB and baclofen were 276- and 253-fold more potent, respectively, after intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) administration than after intraperitoneal (i.p.) administration, whereas GBL and 1,4-BD, up to a dose of 1780 μg were without effect after i.c.v. administration. These data suggest that GBL and 1,4-BD are not metabolically converted to GHB in the brain, that enhanced brain penetration cannot account for potency differences between compounds, and that baclofen, like GHB, can readily cross the blood-brain barrier.
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