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JZP-6 Sodium Oxybate

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Updated August 24, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What Sodium Oxybate Is:

JZP-6 (sodium oxybate) is the active ingredient in the narcolepsy drug Xyrem. Sodium oxybate carries a risk of addiction and abuse, so it's classified as a Schedule III controlled substance. That means it's only available to people meeting strict eligibility requirements, and close monitoring is required during use.

What Sodium Oxybate Does:

Sodium oxybate is a central nervous system depressant that's thought to help you attain the deeper stage 3 and stage 4 levels of sleep. It's currently approved in the U.S. for reducing daytime sleepiness and cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle strength) in people with narcolepsy.

Sodium Oxybate for Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:

The FDA is expected to announce a decision on sodium oxybate as a fibromyalgia (FMS) treatment in October 2010. However, an advisory panel recommended against its approval, and that recommendation generally carries a lot of weight with the FDA. Some patients already take the drug off-label for FMS and for chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Clinical trials on FMS have shown that the drug can significantly improve sleep quality and reduce pain. A 2010 study suggested it may be effective in ME/CFS as well, but this was the first study of this drug for ME/CFS.

Sodium Oxybate Dosage:

Sodium oxybate is taken in liquid form, mixed with water. A typical starting dose for patients with narcolepsy is 4.5 grams a night, divided into 2 equal nightly doses. People frequently work up to 6-9 grams nightly, still in 2 equal doses.

Generally, patients are advised to prepare both doses and put them on the nightstand, then take the first one while sitting in bed. You might need an alarm clock to wake you up for the second one. This drug works quickly, so you should stay in bed once you've taken it.

Sodium Oxybate Side Effects:

Stop using sodium oxybate and get immediate medical help if you have symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat

Stop using sodium oxybate and call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects, which include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Severe confusion
  • Shallow breathing
  • Sleepwallking
  • Waking up confused during the night

Other side effects may be less serious, including:

  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Bowel or bladder-control problems
  • Depression
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion and sore throat
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Tremors
  • Blurred vision

It's possible for you to have side effects not listed here. Be sure to discuss all side effects with your doctor.

Sources:

NIH Publication NO. 04-5326.

June 2007, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Living with Fibromyalgia".

Pain Pract. 2010 Jan-Feb;10(1):54-9. Treatment of the narcoleptiform sleep disorder in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia with sodium oxybate.

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