GHB and GBL are also know as GBH, Grievous bodily harm, Gina, G or liquid ecstasy
GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyrate) and GBL (Gamma Butyrolactone) are chems used in dance clubs or during sex. They’re depressant drugs (‘downers’), which means they slow your body and its functions down.
Both types of G have industrial solvent and paint stripper-type chemicals in them.
Because GBL turns into GHB inside the body, the effects of GBL can be stronger or more unpredictable than when taking GHB.
When the law on GHB tightened, GBL largely took over from it on the scene.
GHB is a clear, salty liquid with no smell. Sometimes it comes as a powder that’s added to a drink. GBL has a sharp, acidic taste and chemical odour. Both are mixed with a soft drink, but never alcohol.
The strength of G varies a lot so it’s hard to know what a safe dose is.
Doses are often measured with eye droppers. An additional danger comes when someone takes a dose, thinks nothing’s happening so takes more. Waiting at least an hour before taking a second dose makes overdosing less likely.
A word of warning: GBL is much stronger than GHB.
With G the high comes on after about 20 minutes, lasting about one hour but may last up to four hours.
A dose of G can make you feel chilled out, horny or mildly high. It’s often used to boost the effect of other chems like E.
Too much G leaves you dizzy, drowsy or vomiting - which could cause death from choking if G has knocked you out. The worst case scenarios with G are seizures, coma and death.
A little ‘Gina’ goes a long way, with not much difference (maybe only a millilitre or so) between the dose that gets you high and one that has you hitting the floor. Overdosing is easy to do and comes on with little warning. The list of party goers killed by G is growing.
Overdoses tend to happen either when people take a second dose before the first kicks in, the G is stronger than expected or they’ve been drinking alcohol.
The drug has a reputation for making people horny. Its relaxing effect can be used to help take things up the arse. Less welcome is how it can make it harder to come or how it can lower your inhibitions, making unsafe sex more likely – and with it passing on infections like HIV, syphilis, herpes, or gonorrhoea. But if you’re a bit out of it - or totally dead to the world it’ll be hard to control what’s happening or even remember it when (or if) you come round.
Regular users often build up a tolerance to G, needing more to get the same buzz. Some get dependent on it. Withdrawal symptoms include the shakes and heavy duty anxiety attacks.
Depressants - it’s very risky to mix G with other depressant drugs (downers) like alcohol and tranquilisers - but also ketamine or antihistamines (used in allergy medicines). Their combined action can dangerously slow down your breathing or cause a long ‘G sleep’ - which isn’t sleep at all, but unconsciousness. A fit, coma or death is possible. Even drinking booze a few hours earlier can leave enough in your system to risk a collapse.
HIV drugs - G can also interact with HIV meds, causing dangerously high levels of G and a bigger risk of collapsing.
If someone’s getting drowsy from GHB/GBL, don’t let them fall into a ‘G-sleep’ - they’re not ‘sleeping’, they’re unconscious and may not wake up. Try to keep them awake and moving until the effects wear off or medical help arrives.
If G knocks someone out, to stop them choking on their own vomit they should be laid on their side, not on their back.
If you or friends aren’t feeling well or can’t be woken up, get medical help straight away. There’s always a risk of sudden death if someone’s unconscious. You’ll be in a lot more trouble if you don’t get help and then have a dead body on your hands.
G should definitely be avoided if you have high or low blood pressure, epilepsy, convulsions or heart or breathing problems.
With no colour, smell and only a light salty taste that can be masked in drinks, GHB has been used as a date rape drug. So it’s best not to leave drinks unwatched. Be wary of taking drinks from strangers.
Both GHB and GBL are Class C drugs (GBL was made illegal at the end of 2009). Possession can mean up to two years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Intending to supply (including giving it to mates) can mean up to 14 years and/or unlimited fine.
Read our page on Drugs and the police for advice if you’re arrested.
This article was last reviewed on: 28/10/11
Date due for next review: 28/10/13