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drug information

GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutrate)

  1. What it is

    Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a depressant drug that slows down messages between the brain and the central nervous system. At low doses it acts as a sedative, and at higher doses it acts likes an anaesthetic. 

  2. Health effects

    Short-term effects

    The effects of GHB vary each time it is taken and it affects each person differently. Within 15 minutes of taking it, the user usually experiences feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Immediate effects may last up to three hours depending on how much was taken.

  3. Dependence, addiction and overdose risk

    Dependence and addiction

    GHB can become both physically and psychologically addictive. Regular users say they often feel like they need a little GHB to feel normal.

  4. Law and penalities

    In 2000 GHB was easily available in New Zealand. On 1 April 2000 the media reported the first GHB fatality in New Zealand, and this was followed by numerous admissions to hospital of people with severe respiratory depression and coma after taking it. GHB and its related substances were scheduled as a Class B drug in May 2002 under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

  5. Drug trends

    According to the latest Drug Use in New Zealand Survey 2007/2008 published in 2009:

    • 1.1% of 16- to 64-year-olds have ever used GHB
  6. Reducing the harm

    The Drug Foundation’s message is clear: no drug use is the safest drug use. However, we know there will be occasions when people ignore warnings and use drugs in a dangerous manner. To help keep communities safe we therefore provide information about proven methods of drug harm reduction.

  7. How to get help

    If you feel you or anyone you know needs help, there are a number of treatment organisations you can contact in strict confidence.

  8. GHB and sexual assult

    GHB (and its related substances) can be used as a date rape drug because large doses can be easily mixed with liquids including water. GHB by itself has a soapy or salty taste but when mixed with a drink it can be very difficult for a victim to detect by sight or smell.

  9. Links

    A list of relevant links to further information and resources about GHB: