Last published: October 14, 2019
What is GHB?
GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a depressant, which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body.
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.1
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
G, fantasy, grievous bodily harm (GBH), juice, liquid ecstasy, liquid E, liquid X, Georgia Home Boy, soap, scoop, cherry meth, blue nitro, fishies.
How is it used?
GHB is usually swallowed, but sometimes it’s injected or inserted anally.3,4
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
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.
If the dose is too high, you might overdose. Call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000) if you have any of these symptoms (ambulance officers don’t need to involve the police):
- irregular or shallow breathing
- confusion, irritation and agitation
- blackouts and memory loss
- unconsciousness that can last for 3 to 4 hours
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 seizures.3
Using GHB to help with the symptoms of the come down after using stimulants can lead to an addiction to both drugs.
Giving up GHB after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. This is why it’s important to speak to a health professional when planning to stop using GHB.
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
- fast heartbeat.2
Sudden withdrawal from high doses can result in bowel and bladder incontinence and blackouts.5
If your use of GHB is affecting your health, family, relationships, work, school, financial or other life situations, you can find help and support.
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- Julien, R., Advokat, C., & Comaty, J. (eds.). (2011). A primer of drug action (12th ed.). New York: Worth Publishing.
- DrugWise. (n.d.) GHB/GBL/1,4-BD.
- Hillebrand, J., Olszewski, D. & Sedefov, R. (2008). GHB and its precusor GBL: An emerging trend case study.
- Dore, G. (2009). How to treat party drugs.
- Miotto, K., Roth, B. (2001) Emerging trends in GHB withdrawal syndrome, detoxification.
- Galanter, M. & Kleber, H. (Eds.). (2008). The American Psychiatric Publishing textbook of substance abuse treatment (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.
- 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.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013. Canberra: AIHW.