In 2021 ACON partnered with the National Centre for Clinical Research on Emerging Drugs, Thorne Harbour Health and WAAC on a research project to explore the cultures practices and experiences of sexuality and gender diverse people who use GHB.
Watch the video above (and read the text below) to learn a bit more about the topline findings from this important research!
The GHB Cultures Practices and Experiences Study was conducted by the National Centre for Clinical Research on Emerging Drugs (NCCRED), the AIDS Council of New South Wales (ACON), Thorne Harbour Health and the Western Australian AIDS Council (WAAC). We interviewed 31 sexuality and gender diverse people, living in Australia, about their GHB use. All participants had used G three or more times in the last 12 months and answered questions about
- Where they use G
- Who they use it with,
- What they enjoy about G &
- What they don’t like.
- We also chatted about how to stay safe when using G and asked about experiences of GHB overdose and using GHB for sex enhanced sex.
So what did we find?
Participants told us that they use G in nightclubs and at festivals, at home with close friends, or when having sex with both regular and casual partners . Overall, our participants enjoyed using GHB, enjoying: The sensation of the GHB high, describing it with the words like disinhibition, relaxation, euphoria, and aphrodisiac. GHB was considered a social drug and participants enjoyed how it created A strong sense of connection to self, peers, and community.
Although pleasurable, all However, participants felt noted that GHB can be dangerous, carrying risks associated with overdose, hospitalisation, and the violation of sexual consent boundaries. To increase the experience of pleasure and reduce risks participants used a range of strategies to stay in control . These included:
- Selecting safer environments to use
- Using with trusted friends &
- Educating each other and newcomers
- And not drinking when using GHB
Despite using caution, most had either personally experienced a GHB overdose loss of consciousness after taking GHB (n = 18, 58%) or had cared for a friend or acquaintance peer experiencing an overdose (n = 17, 55%) in this situation. This experience Usually referred to as called “dropping” or “blowing out” on many participants reported confidence to manage GHB overdose was mostly managed without medical help, despite fatality risks. While most of the time for most people friends, hook-ups, and intimate partners enhanced the safety and enjoyment of GHB use, a few participants in our study recounted experiences sexual violence and GHB drink spiking.
We did this study to inform GHB campaigns and services for sexuality and gender diverse communities and with this purpose in mind we arrived at a couple of takeaways.
1. Participants demonstrated strong knowledge of harm reduction strategies to prevent GHB overdose. However, overdose in our sample was common, with those new to using at high risk. due to lacking knowledge. In response, continued peer-led overdose prevention initiatives are key. Continued community education around commonly used overdose prevention strategies associated with dosing, timing, measuring and not combining G and alcohol is essential.
2. GHB education responses should address inconsistent understandings of the difference between GHB, GBL and 1,4-BD & address inconsistent understandings of what is a GHB overdose is and when it requires an ambulance should raise awareness about the potential danger of GHB overdose and reduce fatality risk by encouraging people to call for an ambulance and providing instruction around how to monitor breathing and keep airways clear.
3. Experiences of sexual violence when using G need more attention in both research and service-based responses. Challenges associated with sex and consent were reported and approaches to negotiating, understanding and preventing sexual violence in the context of GHB use needs more attention in research, community, and service-based responses.
Overall, most people in our study, reported that they enjoy using but emphasised that it is essential to be educated about G GHB and carefully practice harm reduction strategies to manage risk.
We’d like to thank the 31 participants who so generously shared their time and expertise with us, our academic team, and our partner organisations ACON, WAAC and Thorne Harbour Health all of whom made this research possible!