Last published: December 14, 2020
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
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. 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 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
There is limited information regarding the impact of long-term GHB use on people's health. The main long-term risk is dependence. Other long-term effects that have been reported include:
- severe memory problems
- heart disease
- extreme anxiety4,5
- breathing problems.
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 a dependence on 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 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.4,5
If your use of GHB is affecting your health, family, relationships, work, school, financial or other life situations, you can find help and support.
Call 1300 85 85 84 to speak to a real person and get answers to your questions as well as advice on practical ‘next steps’.
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- 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.6
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. [Accessed 27 November 2020].
- 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. [Accessed 27 November 2020].
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Canberra: AIHW; 2020.