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GHB is known as both an ecstasy substitute and as a rape drug, but can this liquid high cause you grievous bodily harm? TheSite has the answers.

GHB (gammahydroxybutyrate) is a colourless, odourless, salty tasting liquid which often comes in small bottles and capsules. It was originally developed as an aesthetic in the 1960s, but soon fell into disuse because of unwanted side effects.  GBL (gammabutyrolactone) is a similar type of drug with similar effects.

What are the effects of GHB?

  • GHB can increase sociability and sexual desire. It also lowers inhibitions and can bring on a state of euphoria.
  • The effects can take anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour to kick in and have been known to last for a day.

What are the risks of taking GHB?

  • Badly produced GHB can burn the mouth.
  • The difference between the dose needed to get you high and an overdose can be as little as half a capful. Dosage is also difficult to calculate as the strength of GHB varies from bottle to bottle.  
  • Higher doses can cause nausea, muscle stiffness, vomiting, confusion and convulsions.
  • In some cases it can lead to coma and respiratory collapse. There's also a danher of choking on vomit whilst unconscious.
  • Mixing GHB with alcohol or other drugs can be extremely dangerous, even fatal, because of its depressant effects.
  • TheSite strongly recommends asthmatics and those with other respiratory problems or low blood pressure should avoid GHB for similar reasons.
  • Both GHB and GBL are used in drug-assisted rape.

The law, GHB and GBL:

On July 01, 2003, GHB was officially classified as a Class C drug, with penalties of up to two years for possession and five years for dealing. This followed widespread concern regarding the significant risk of overdose and use of the drug in cases of date-rape.

GBL used to be a legal product available from sources such as the internet, but on December 23, 2009 it became a Class C drug (when intended for human consumption). The maximum penalty for possession is 2 years in prison and 14 years for supply.

If GHB and GBL are linked to drug assisted sexual assault, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 states that it is an offence to administer a substance to a person with intent to overpower that person to enable sexual activity with them.  This is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

GHB is also known as:

Liquid E, Liquid X, GBH, Liquid Ecstasy, 1,4-BD.

If you are planning on taking GHB:

  • The amount of GHB you need to take to feel the effects is very close to the amount needed to knock you out. This increases the risk of seizures or coma.
  • Top ups must be restricted to no more than every two hours. Anything more frequent increases the risk of overdose.
  • As a sedative drug, there is a far greater likelihood of serious illness or overdose if other sedative or depressant drugs are used. Drinking alcohol while using GHB can lead to respiratory collapse or coma.
  • If you are with someone who is using GHB and they become ill, collapse, or start vomiting, call an ambulance immediately. Let the paramedics or doctor know what they have taken so that help can be given quickly.

Updated: 08/01/2010

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