The growing trend of GHB and GBL
First known as a “rape drug”, then used at chemsex parties (drug fuelled sex parties), now popular amongst young clubbers all over Europe. A highly potent drug GHB comes back along with many overdoses and deaths. How did this drug become so popular?
What is GHB/GBL/Liquid Ecstacy?
GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) is a synthetic drug that is used by people as an aesthetic. Because of its chemical similarity, GBL (gamma-butyrolactone) is a “prodrug”, which means that after it’s swallowed it naturally converts into GHB in the body, having identical effects.
Both drugs are nervous system depressants, which make some parts of the brain less responsive and more excitable. Depending on the dose taken, GHB may either inhibit or facilitate the release of dopamine, increase the turnover of serotonin, triggering stimulating behaviour.
GHB Rising Popularity
Misuse of GHB and GBL has increased significantly since the 1990s, when it was available over the counter and used as a sleep aid and hormone enhancer. However, with time the sale of the drug was forbidden as some people were poisoned by it. Initially abused by bodybuilders to achieve better athletic results, then for decades called a “date rape drug” used to spike peoples drinks in order to ‘take advantage’ of their unconsciousness.
The use of this drug has largely declined in the last decade, but it has re-emerged in popularity and is now becoming a trend and an integral part of the dance music culture and is deliberately used by most users. GHB is also very popular among the gay scene promoting high levels of promiscuity and increased risks of HIV and other STDs .
Despite the illegality of drugs and serious safety issues, some people still use it to boost athletic results, improve sleep and sexual sensations. The use of the drug by different groups of people is likely to present a growing trend.
Are GHB & GBL Addictive?
Since these drugs have similar effects to alcohol, they are often used in a social context. People under their influence can become more confident, chatty, and outgoing. They can also make people say things that they would never say under normal conditions since the ability to think straight after consumption is interrupted.
While GHB and GBL can tempt people with their results after taking it, like all drugs becomes addictive to those people who continue to use them regularly for a prolonged period. Taking them every day can lead to increased tolerance, which in turn can contribute to drug dependence, psychological problems and can be fatal!
Many who have been reliant on GHB and GBL typically have issues with anxiety and depression. They can frequently experience cravings, mood swings, tremors, and seizures. Some people may even find it difficult to sleep without taking drugs every few hours. In such cases, GHB/GBL is used to alleviate symptoms of withdrawal rather than to have fun.
GHB/GBL Side Effects
Short-term effects of GHB and GBL can result in a relaxed mood, euphoria, increased libido, clumsiness, memory loss, and loss of consciousness. Effects with a higher dose may include dizziness, headache, nausea, diarrhoea, and vomiting. Another common trait is being violent and difficult to control.
GBL and GHB are much stronger than alcohol, which means that even a small amount of these drugs can be too much and negatively impact the ‘user’, even induce a coma. However, after-effects of GHB and GBL were stated to be milder than your average alcohol related hangover which is not universal! Whereas faster recovery allows people to take more of such drugs, this also causes them to become heavy users or addicted.
What Are The Risks of GHB?
There are many problems with using GHB, but the most concerning thing is that the distance between euphoria and overdose can be measured as a single milliltre of the substance. It may also be hard to find out what a safe dose is? That is why so many people risk falling into a coma, particularly if they are drinking alcohol and taking drugs at the same time. A state of unconsciousness can occur quickly, which is common and experienced by most users.
There is also a possibility of more severe symptoms of regular use of GHB and GBL, including extreme anxiety, paranoia, psychosis, delirium, and hallucinations. Taking large quantities of this drug can also cause the pulse to stop, which may lead to a state from which the person cannot be awakened.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process