Last published: October 06, 2021
What is GHB?
GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a depressant drug, which means it slows down messages travelling between the brain and 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, often 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
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 around three to four hours:
- feelings of euphoria
- increased sex drive
- lowered inhibitions
The chemical composition of GHB can vary a lot and it’s very easy to take too much. The difference between the amount needed to get high and the amount that causes an overdose can be hard to judge. Being under the influence of GHB increases the risk of injury due to confusion, dizziness, or abrupt loss of consciousness. 4
If the dose is too high, you might overdose. Call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000) if you or someone else has 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 three to four hours
There is limited information about the impact of long-term GHB use on people's health. While the main long-term risk is dependence, other reported long-term effects include:
- severe memory problems
- heart disease
- extreme anxiety4, 5
- breathing problems.
Using GHB with other drugs
The effects of taking GHB with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could have the following effects:
Using GHB to help with the symptoms of the come down after using stimulants can lead to a dependence on both drugs.
Find out more about polydrug use
‘Polydrug use’ is a term for the use of more than one drug or type of drug at the same time or one after another.6 Polydrug use can involve both illicit drugs and legal substances, such as alcohol and medications.
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 6-72 hours after the last dose and can continue for about 5-15 days. These symptoms can include:
- confusion and agitation
- anxiety and panic
- rapid heart rate
- visual and auditory hallucinations
Sudden withdrawal from high doses can result in seizures, slow heart rate, cardiac arrest and renal failure.4
If your use of GHB is affecting your health, family, relationships, work, school, financial or other life situations, you can find help and support.
Not sure what you are looking for? Try our intuitive Path2Help tool and be matched with support information and services tailored to you.
Recent use of GHB by people aged 14 or older is very low.
- Only .01% of people had used GHB in the last 12 months, and 1.0% of Australians have used GHB over their lifetime.
- Australians first try GHB in their mid-twenties.7
Federal and state laws provide penalties for possessing, using, making or selling GHB, or driving under the influence.
- Julien R Advokat C & Comaty J. A primer of drug action. New York: Worth Publishing; 2011.
- DrugWise. GHB/GBL: DrugWise; 2017
- Hillebrand J Olszewski D & Sedefov R. GHB and its precusor GBL: An emerging trend case study. EMCDDA; 2008.
- Darke S, Lappin, J. & Farrell, M. The Clinician's Guide to Illicit Drugs. United Kingdom: Silverback Publishing 2019 [17.11.2020].
- Government of Canada. GHB: Canada.ca; 2020
- World Health Organisation. Lexicon of Alcohol and Drug Terms. World Health Organisation; 1994.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Canberra: AIHW; 2020.