GHB: how you can avoid the ‘drop zone'
WHAT IS GHB?
GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a central nervous system depressant. This means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body. It usually comes as a colourless and odourless salty tasting liquid. It sometimes comes as a blue liquid and rarely in tablet or powder form.
GHB is usually swallowed but can be injected or shelved/booty bumped.
HOW GHB WORKS
Effects of GHB may be felt after about 5-15 minutes and more strongly after 20-30 minutes with a peak of one hour. Effects can last for up to 2-4 hours.
At low doses, GHB produces a high or euphoric feeling and a loss of inhibitions. As dosage increases depressants begin to affect the parts of the brain controlling the body’s automatic processes such as heartbeat and breathing.
A large dose of GHB may result in involuntary muscle contractions and spasms (seizure-like movements), confusion, memory loss, vomiting, irregular or depressed breathing and a coma.
GHB is known for its steep dosage response. This means that a tiny increase in dose may cause a big increase in effects.
There is no ‘quality control’ in the production of GHB, so the concentration of the drug could be high or low or it might be GBL, 1,4BD or another chemical entirely. These factors combined with the steep dosage response means that an amount that works one time may result in an overdose the next time.
Another overdose risk occurs when people re-dose too soon after a previous dose. Take your time and wait 2 – 3 hours between doses. Noting the time each time you dose and setting an alarm on your phone may help with this.
After a long session of partying the effect of GHB can build up in your body and overdoses can happen so if you are dosing more than once, make sure that your second, third, fourth etc. doses are reduced.
Long term use of GHB can lead to tolerance and dependence meaning that larger amounts of GHB are needed to get the same effect and care is needed to avoid overdosing. Keep in mind that if you use GHB regularly at higher doses, the same size dose might be enough to cause an overdose in someone who doesn’t use GHB as regularly as you.
MINIMISING RISKS OF OVERDOSE
Mixing GHB with other depressants such as alcohol, painkillers, tranquilisers, antihistamines and opiates increases both the depressive effects and the risk of an overdose being fatal.
Wait to feel any effects of GHB before taking more. Sometimes the chemicals, GBL and 1,4BD are sold as GHB, these are precursors to GHB, meaning that they need to convert to GHB in the body, this conversion process delays the feeling of any GHB effects.
Avoid using alone, without your friends or partners at home, or in other situations where help might not be available.
Keep in mind a “g nap” is not just a nap – you can have too little oxygen to your brain during the time you are ‘sleeping’ and risk brain damage.
GHB & SEX
GHB can make you want to have sex. Its effects can also cause short-term memory loss and can decrease the ability to consent to sex. Having sex with someone too ‘out of it’ to say yes or no is not OK and is considered sexual assault.
If using GHB and having sex be mindful of your sexual health. It is good practice to test regularly for HIV and other STIs, take your HIV treatments or PrEP as prescribed and use condoms.
GHB & SEX VENUES
Using GHB at clubs and sex venues can be risky, due to the possibility of overdose in a locked cubicle where help is not available, and of injury from falling onto hard surfaces such as stairs and shower floors.
In saunas or at home, avoid using spas or swimming pools. Overdosing on GHB can happen suddenly and if you are in deep enough water, the chance of drowning is increased.
If you see someone who looks like they are asleep and can’t be woken, is incoherent or can’t control their movements, let staff know immediately.
SIGNS OF A GHB OVERDOSE
A GHB/GBL overdose can be fatal. If someone is showing signs of overdose:
- inability to be woken from sleep
- profuse sweating
- breathing irregularly
- inability to stand
CALL 000 IMMEDIATELY!
WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF AN OVERDOSE
- Get (medical) help immediately if you or someone else experience any overdose symptoms.
- If you are in a club or at a dance party, attract the attention of medical or security staff, or ACON Rovers. In a private setting or in a location where medical assistance is not available, call 000.
- Ask for an ambulance and you will be connected to a control centre for Ambulance NSW. A control centre assistant will ask you a standard set of questions. Answer their questions in a calm and clear manner. Once you have answered all questions, do not hang up the phone, stay on the line and follow any instructions that they give you.
- Regular use of GHB can lead to dependence and withdrawal and it is important to talk to a health professional if you are planning to stop using GHB. If you or someone you know is experiencing any problems and issues using GHB or any other drugs you can get help and support:
- ACON Phone: 02 9206 2000 Freecall: 1800 063 060 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pivot Point
- ADIS (Alcohol and other Drugs Information Service) Sydney: 02 9361 8000 Country NSW: 1800 422 599
- Alcohol and Drug Foundation
- Touch Base
To download this information as a pamphlet, click here or to download a poster about the signs of GHB overdose click here .