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GHB. 3 small bottles containing blue, clear and yellowish liquid.© Australian Drug Foundation 2010GHB facts

What is GHB?

Effects of GHB?

Withdrawal

Further information

 

What is GHB?

GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a depressant drug that slows down the messages travelling between the brain and body1.  

GBL (gamma butyrolactone) and 1,4-BD (1,4-butanediol) are chemicals that are closely related to GHB. Once GBL or 1,4-BD enter the body, they convert to GHB almost immediately.2

GHB usually comes as a colourless, odourless, bitter or salty liquid, which is usually sold in small bottles or vials. It can also come as a bright blue liquid known as ‘blue nitro’, and less commonly as a crystal powder.2

Other names

G, fantasy, grievous bodily harm (GBH), liquid ecstasy, liquid E, liquid X, Georgia Home Boy, soap, scoop, cherry meth, blue nitro.

How is it used?

GHB is usually swallowed, but sometimes it’s injected or inserted anally3,4.

Effects of GHB

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

GHB affects everyone differently, based on:

  • The amount taken
  • The strength of the drug (varies from batch to batch)
  • Size, weight and health
  • Whether the person is used to taking it
  • Whether other drugs are taken around the same time


The following effects may begin within 15 to 20 minutes of taking GHB and may last for around 3 to 4 hours:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Increased sex drive
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Memory lapses
  • Drowsiness
  • Clumsiness
  • Dizziness or headache
  • Lowered temperature, heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Urinary incontinence2


The chemical composition of GHB is highly variable. It’s very easy to take too much GHB: the difference between the amount needed to get high and the amount that causes an overdose can be hard to judge.

Symptoms of a GHB overdose include:

  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Irregular or shallow breathing
  • Confusion, irritation and agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Blackouts and memory loss
  • Unconsciousness that can last for 3 to 4 hours
  • Seizures
  • Death3

Long-term effects

Little is known about the long-term effects of GHB use. However, it is known that regular use can lead to tolerance and dependence, which means larger amounts of GHB are needed to get the same effect.

Using GHB with other drugs 

  • GHB + alcohol or benzodiazepines: chance of overdose is greatly increased.
  • GHB + amphetamines or ecstasy: enormous strain on the body and risk of seizures5.


Using GHB to help with the symptoms of the ‘comedown’ after using stimulants can lead to a cycle of dependence on both drugs.

Withdrawal

Giving up GHB after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Advice on doing so should be sought from a health professional.

Withdrawal symptoms usually start about 12 hours after the last dose and can continue for about 15 days.

These symptoms can include:

  • Confusion and agitation
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Feelings of doom and paranoia
  • Restless sleep
  • Muscle cramps and tremors
  • Sweating 
  • Hallucinations
  • Fast heart beat3


Sudden withdrawal from high doses can result in bowel and bladder incontinence and blackouts7.

Find out more about withdrawal.

Further information

Statistics

Reducing the risks

Resources


ADF SEARCH – Find further credible research and information on GHB. 
ADIN – Find other credible websites and apps on GHB.

References

1. Julien, R., Advokat, C., & Comaty, J. (eds.). (2011). A primer of drug action (12th ed.). New York: Worth Publishing.

2. DrugScope. (n.d.) GHB/GBL/1,4-BD.

3. Hillebrand, J., Olszewski, D. & Sedefov, R. (2008). GHB and its precusor GBL: An emerging trend case study.

4. Dore, G. (2009). How to treat party drugs

5. Miotto, K., Roth, B. (2001) Emerging trends in GHB withdrawal syndrome, detoxification.

6. Galanter, M. & Kleber, H. (Eds.). (2008). The American Psychiatric Publishing textbook of substance abuse treatment (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.

7. Galloway, G., Frederick, S., Staggers, F., Gonzales, M., Stalcup, S. & Smith, D. (1997). Gamma-hydroxybutyrate: an emerging drug of abuse that causes physical dependence, Addiction, 92(1) 89–96. Retrieved from Wiley Online Library.

 

Last updated: 25 March 2015

Information you heard is intended as a general guide only. This audio is copyrighted by the Australian Drug Foundation. Visit www.DrugInfo.ADF.org.au for more