All about GHB
What is GHB?
GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) and its precursors GBL and 14,BD when taken at high doses are central nervous system depressants. 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
GHB affects different people differently. Effects vary depending on how much you take, your size, your genetics and general health, your mood, how much you have eaten beforehand, other drugs and prescription medications you are taking, and the route of administration.
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, coma and death.
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 mean 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 the drug can have a stacking effect which can increase the risk of overdose.
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.
Use barrels to measure your dose carefully, never eyeball your GHB dose.
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 horny. 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. Remember to use lube and to talk about your sexual boundaries before you use drugs and keep checking in throughout sex.
GHB & sex venues
Using GHB at clubs and sex venues can be risky, due to the possibility of an 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, you might save their life!
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/unresponsiveness
- profuse sweating
- breathing irregularly
- inability to stand
What to do in case of an overdose
- Get (medical) help immediately if you or someone else experience any overdose symptoms or is not responding to you.
- If you are in a club or at a dance party, attract the attention of medical or security staff, ACON Rovers or DanceWize NSW.
- In a private setting or in a location where medical assistance is not available, call 000. In a private setting or in a location where medical assistance is not available, call 000.
- If you have notified someone or are waiting for an ambulance, lay the person on their left side (recovery position) so if they vomit, they won’t choke. Make sure their air passage is clear and their chin is not pressed in against their chest.
- If you have contacted an ambulance, answer their questions honestly 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.
DanceWize NSW have also published a useful resource about GHB on their website, you can check it out here.
Remember when you call for help that you won’t get into trouble!
Also in this section…
- ACON Rovers & DanceWize NSW
- Staying safe: Preparing for the party
- Staying safe: During the party
- Staying safe: Calling for help
- All about MDMA
- All About Poly Drug Use
- How to Cope with a Come Down
- Post-Event Loneliness
- Drug Laws in NSW & Policing
- Tips to take control of your drinking
- Drink Free Events During Sydney WorldPride