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Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) was originally synthesised for use as an anaesthetic. Gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL) is a more potent version of GHB. It usually comes as a clear liquid with a bitter aftertaste, but can also be a white powder or a bright blue liquid known as blue nitro. It is usually swallowed as a liquid or mixed in a drink and is uncommon in New Zealand.
GHB slows down the body and the most common effects include feelings of euphoria, increased sex drive and lowered inhibitions. GHB can also cause memory lapses, clumsiness and/or loss of motor control, dizziness or headaches, lowered body temperature and heart rate, nausea, diarrhoea and difficulties urinating. The effects of GHB depend on the size, weight and health of the person taking it.
The effects of GHB/GBL are usually felt within 15 to 20 minutes and may last up to three or four hours depending on the strength and quantity consumed.
All drug use brings a risk of harm. The best way to stay safe is to plan, know your limits and how GHB affects you. Go out with people you trust, and know how you are getting home, or where you are staying.
It only takes a small amount of GHB to get the desired effects, and the difference between how much you need to get high and how much could be fatal can be difficult to judge. Research has also shown that GHB can vary widely in strength. Always start with a small dose if you are taking GHB/GBL for the first time or using a new batch.
Mixing drugs is always risky because it is hard to predict how they will interact. Especially avoid using other depressants and alcohol alongside GHB as this greatly increases the risk of overdose and death.
There is a high risk of overdose with GHB. A standard dose is very small and using a bit more can result in an overdose which can be fatal.
Signs of GHB overdose include: vomiting, loss of control over bodily movements, shaking, tremors or seizures; absence of pain response, profuse sweating, loss of consciousness/unresponsiveness, lowered body temperature, breathing that has slowed below 15-20 breaths per minute (respiratory depression).
Call 111 if you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms.
You may be experiencing substance use disorder if you are:
If you decide to cut back or stop after using GHB frequently, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your plan and ask them to look out for you and support you. Alternatively, call the Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797 for confidential, non-judgmental advice and referral to a local service provider.
If you are only ready to think about cutting back, you might want to consider starting by buying less so you use less, delaying your first session of the day, and using a smaller amount than usual.
GHB has been referred to as a 'date-rape' drug due to the small amount that results in intoxication and the reduced inhibition and memory loss that occurs. While it has been used this way, it is generally less common than thought. It is expensive, has a strong taste and is much more likely that drinks are spiked with additional alcohol.
If someone's drink has been spiked it will affect them very quickly with a dramatic increase in their intoxication with difficultly staying awake or communicating. Look after them and ensure they get home safe. If they are falling unconscious ring 111.