Usually, our attention is only drawn to this drug, known as Gamma hydroxybutyric acid, when it is related to a sinister sex offence.
Yes, it is true that, sadly GHB (also referred to as a “date rape” drug) can be used as a weapon by sexual predators, but more often than not, it is used as a recreational drug.
It has psychoactive properties and can be used to gain a number of sought after effects by those that abuse drugs. It also has a number of pharmaceutical properties that make it useful in medical environments such as hospitals.
GHB has similar effects to alcohol but on a much larger scale. In small quantities, it can make you feel more confident, less inhibited and more relaxed. It can also increase your sexual libido and produce feelings of euphoria.
However, what happens if you take too much? Or start to use it with any kind of frequency? Well, this is what this article is about. Here we look at the risks and effects of GHB abuse and addiction. We also take a look at the more sinister side of this drug and what to do if you or someone you love has a problem.
The pharmaceutical name for GHB is gamma-hydroxybutyric acid. You may know it by its common street names, including Liquid G, G, or Liquid X.
What is GHB?
GHB is a central nervous system depressant. As such, it commonly involves respiratory depression. Its effects can also interfere with how your physical body and brain communicate with each other. This particular effect can lead to feelings of paralysis and not being able to coordinate correctly.
Medically, it is used as a general anaesthetic to provide powerful sedation whilst undergoing short but very painful operative procedures.
If you have ever been given the drug in hospital, it is likely that you cannot recall anything that happened whilst under its influence. This is because it has strong amnesic effects that can cause loss of memory, as well as loss of consciousness.
GHB is a colourless and odourless liquid, making it easy to slip into someone’s drink without them knowing.
Like any drug, taking this drug frequently can lead to dependence and addiction.
What it feels like to take GHB
In small doses, it will have more stimulant-like effects, causing you to feel euphoric, with more energy, more confidence and even more sexy.
Once consumed, it takes anywhere between fifteen minutes to one full hour to take its full effect.
Taking too much or consuming a large dose will have the opposite effect.
In larger doses, it will make you feel unusually sleepy, dizzy and disoriented. You may find it hard to communicate with others and find yourself stumbling around, and you start to lose control of your limbs. Taking larger doses also puts you at high risk of losing consciousness, falling over, stopping breathing and death.
How quickly the effects happen for you will largely depend on the amount of the drug you use and other personal factors, such as whether you have eaten or not. If you have already consumed alcohol, you will likely feel these effects more quickly and more profoundly.
If you take it often, you are likely to need larger amounts of the drug to feel its aphrodisiac and ecstasy-like effects. This can lead you to develop a very dangerous and life-threatening addiction.
GHB is often called liquid ecstasy, Heaven or liquid X as in smaller doses, and it has effects similar to MDMA. This makes it a popular club and party drug.
What to do if your drink has been spiked with GHB
In an ideal world, date rape would not happen. Sadly it does, and it is one of the drugs that can be used to facilitate this.
The fact that GHB in its liquid form has no colour and no smell means a perpetrator can easily slip the drug into someone’s drink at a bar or club. It can also be obtained in the form of salt, making it even easier to sprinkle into a drink or onto food without someone knowing.
As most people don’t realise when their drink has been spiked until it is too late, it is wise to make sure your friends are clued up on the effects of GHB and other “date rape” drugs. Stay in a group whenever possible, and never leave your drink unattended.
If you start to feel strangely intoxicated or drowsy, tell your friends, or seek help from a member of staff at the establishment.
Whatever you do, do not leave the establishment and attempt to go home. If your drink has been tampered with, whoever has done it will be closely monitoring you and waiting for an opportunity for you to be separated from others.
If you ever suspect that you have been drugged and sexually assaulted, it is so very important that you contact the police before doing anything or contacting anyone else.
This drug has a very short time frame of detection in your system, making it vital that you seek help from the police or emergency services right away.
How long does GHB stay in your system?
GHB stays in your system for slightly less time than GBL. This is because it needs to be broken down and converted into GHB first.
The detection times are still very short, and they will only remain detectable in your urine for approximately twelve hours after last use. Whereas blood tests can only detect the presence in your system for up to eight hours.
In instances where the police suspect a crime has been committed, a hair strand sample may be taken. GHB can be detected in hair follicles for up to one month after use.
Who uses GHB?
It is commonly used by people to facilitate and intensify the experience of sex. The drug is therefore popular with those who are into the chemsex scene and within the gay and bisexual community.
It will make you feel more sexually confident and aroused whilst drastically reducing your inhibitions.
However, not everyone who abuses it takes it for its aphrodisiac properties. Some will take it for its ecstasy like stimulant effects or for its ability to deliver powerful sedation.
The effects can last for several hours, making it appealing to clubbers, festival-goers and those who attend the rave scene.
The effects and risks
Taking GHB will have a number of effects on you and on your mind; not all will be enjoyable!
The effects and symptoms of GHB abuse include:
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
- Reduced inhibitions
- Slowed heart rate and respiratory rate
- Increased confidence
- Sexual arousal
- Impaired decision-making abilities
- Increased energy
- Reduced awareness of your surroundings
- Altered perception of sound, sight, touch, taste and smell
- Impaired memory
- Inability to move (feeling paralysed)
- Uncharacteristic behaviours
- Loss of consciousness
Because of its effects, it carries a number of risks, many of which are a real threat and could even cause death.
The risks include:
- Making decisions, you later regret
- Exposing yourself to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy
- You’ll be more likely to suffer a fall or injury
- You will be at higher risk of being taken advantage of or being assaulted
- Losing consciousness
- Taking too much or mixing it with other drugs can lead to overdose, respiratory arrest, coma and death.
- You may develop drug dependence and addiction if you take it too frequently.
The law on GHB in the UK
UK law restrictions on GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) are to be tightened, moving the drug from a Class C to a Class B. This follows concerns raised over the number of horrific crime offences and rapes recorded implicating its use.
In addition, the home secretary tightened restrictions on GHB under The Substance Misuse Act 1971 and it was moved from a Class C drug to a Class B.
The hope is that by adding further restrictions to availability that its drug profile will be raised, and it will be more difficult for the drug to fall into the wrong hands.
How to take GBL/GHB safely
If you plan to take GHB, there is probably little else we can say to deter you from trying it. However, there are some things that you can do to try and protect your safety whilst under the influence.
You mustn’t abuse this potent and addictive drug too often. Doing this can lead to you becoming dependent on the drug.
Reducing the risks
Stay with people you trust – it can cause you to act out of character and perhaps make some decisions around your sexual conduct that you later regret. To minimise the risk of this happening, ensure that you only take it with people that you know and trust and that they can help to keep a sober eye on your safety.
Ensure you have protection – If you are taking it to facilitate sex, you are more likely to throw caution to the wind. Ensure that you have protection to hand (condoms or PrEP) to avoid the risk of unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
Let people know where you are going – If you plan on taking it, let family or friends know where you are going and when they can expect you back.
Take less than you think you need, and wait a full hour for the effects – Taking more before the full effects of the first dose have kicked in, is one of the leading causes of overdose for this drug. Potency can be unpredictable, so, depending on where you source the drug from, it is always safer to take less than more. It is also important to wait at least a full hour before taking any more. Depending on your individual metabolism and personal factors, the drug can take a lot longer to work in you than it would in someone else.
Seek emergency help – If you suspect you have taken too much or consumed it accidentally, call the emergency services immediately.
If you take the drug often, you are at risk of developing drug dependence and addiction.
Taking it with any kind of frequency will cause you to become tolerant of the drug’s effects. This means that you will need to take more and more over time in order to feel the desired effects.
Stopping abruptly when you have developed a drug dependence will result in acute withdrawal syndrome and some extremely unpleasant, even dangerous symptoms.
Being addicted to GHB, or any drug for that matter can feel desperately lonely. You may feel hopeless and trapped. Addiction is likely to cause you to suffer from acute anxiety, and depression and you may have suicidal thoughts and urges.
It is so important that you seek the right professional help. GHB abuse and addiction are treatable. You can make a full recovery and lead the life you want to lead. Let us help you.
Call us today for a free and confidential addiction treatment assessment. Following your assessment, our friendly team of experts will be able to help you take the next right step towards your recovery.
What are the options for GHB addiction treatment?
If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of taking more and more of the drug and spending more time recovering from its use, it is time to seek professional help.
You may feel very scared at the prospect of giving up and wonder what your life will look like without the drug. These are perfectly normal apprehensions to have.
Trying to stop the vicious cycle of addiction on your own, without help, can prove near to impossible. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it alone.
Following a full medical detox, during which you will receive medication to help counteract withdrawal symptoms, you will be shown evidence-based strategies to help you deal with day-to-day life. Furthermore, you will receive professional counselling for any underlying issues that led to you developing an addiction problem.
Comprehensive rehabilitation is a vital part of treatment. Rehabilitation will help to heal the past and show you how to live for the future, all in small and very achievable steps.
Detox Plus specialise in the professional treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. We also treat dual diagnosis illnesses and addictions to an activity, such as sex or gambling. Our treatment centres offer a safe haven for anyone suffering from addiction. Here, you can take time out to recover whilst undergoing intensive healing and learning the latest relapse prevention techniques.