GHB – get the facts

GHB (Gamma-Hydroxyburate) is a central nervous system depressant drug that slows the heart and breathing.

This page offers evidence-based information about GHB, including its effects, methods of administration, dosing, and advice on how to stay safe.

In Australia, GHB is often used within the dance and party scenes.

It is often referred to by nicknames including liquid ecstasy, fantasy, G, or grievous bodily harm.

At room temperature, GHB is a colourless, odourless, slightly oily liquid that is clear to semi-opaque.

It has a strong and distinctively chemical taste that is often described as salty-soapy or bitter.

GBL and 1,4BD are commonly sold in Australia as substitutes of GHB.

They are chemically similar and when consumed they quickly convert to GHB in the body.

GBL is commonly stronger than GHB and effects can be felt faster, so this dramatically increases the chances of an accidental overdose.

Download the GHB resources here:

GHB Training – effects, risks and safer using (seminar video on YouTube)

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GHB Social Media Guide

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There is increasing evidence of GHB contributing to harms in Australia.

GHB-related ambulance call-outs in Victoria increased by 147 per cent between 2012 and 2018, peaking at a record 1,339 attendances in 2017.

GHB has been implicated in fatal and near fatal overdoses including in Western Australia and South Australia.

It is important to know that the effects of GHB will vary and not everyone will experience all common effects and side-effects.

GHB is a sedative and can make you feel relaxed, happy, reduce inhibitions, increase sex drive and enhance sociability.

As seen in the table below, GHB can have many common effects, including:

  • Improved mood
  • Decreased motor skills and loss of physical coordination
  • Sleepiness, grogginess and slurring of speech
  • Slowed/depressed breathing
  • Blackouts and memory loss
  • Increased sex drive.
PHYSICAL EMOTIONAL PSYCHOLOGICAL
Decreased motor skills and lack of coordination

Relaxation

Slurring of speech

Involuntary / tonic muscle twitches, which can cause your legs to give way under you

Repetitive motions or actions

Sleepiness

Grogginess

Depressed breathing

Other effects similar to alcohol intoxication

Irregular shallow breathing

Blackouts and memory loss

Sweating

Mood lift

Euphoria

Happiness

Relaxation

Increased appreciation of music, dancing and talking

Increased sexual desire / sexually stimulating

Others appear more attractive

Changed (often increased) response to sexual stimuli

At high doses, side-effects can include unconsciousness and even death.

Less common effects can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Anxiety/paranoia
  • Psychosis as GHB leaves your system
  • In rare cases, death.
LESS COMMON RARE
Nausea / Vomiting

Unconsciousness (can last for 3-4 hours)

Urinary incontinence

Diarrhea

Headaches

Dizziness

Ringing in the ears

Seizures

Convulsions

Death

Physical dependence (withdrawal symptoms become apparent within 1-6 hours of dose)

Anxiety / Paranoia

Psychosis (as it leaves the system)

The onset of GHB and individual responses to the drug vary greatly depending on a range of factors including sex, weight and by how recently and how much you have eaten.

10 MINS 90 MINS 5 HRS 12 HRS
The effects are usually felt around 10-30 minutes after ingestion and peaks somewhere between 45-90 minutes. Most of the effects of GHB wear off after 90 minutes. GHB remains active in your system fo up to 5 hours. Remember this if you’re planning to use other drugs. After-effects like grogginess and sleepiness can be felt for as long as 12 hours after use.

GHB is taken orally.

Make sure you have the proper equipment to be able to measure your dose, such as a 3ml slip-lock plunger/barrel without a needle. You can get it from a pharmacy or a needle and syringe program (NSP).

Don’t store GHB in a water bottle. It’s a good idea to put some food colouring dye in your GHB so you know it’s not water.

Never pour GHB casually into a cup, and never drink directly from the bottle.

Always measure precisely to the 0.1ml.

Remember, as with any drug, there are risks with taking GHB.

It is very easy to overdose on GHB, both because the strength can vary from bottle to bottle and because the doses involved are measured in such small quantities.

The image below displays the amounts typically associated with small, medium and large doses.

LOW DOSE
0.3 – 0.6 mls
MEDIUM DOSE
0.6 – 1.25 mls
HEAVY DOSE / OVERDOSE
1.25 – 2 mls

Because batches vary and everyone’s body is different it is always best to start with a low dosage.

When you get a new batch, start with a small dose to test how strong it is.

Different people react very differently to GHB, so never assume you can safely take the same amount as your friends.

Measure your dose precisely using a syringe barrel without a needle.

Always tell your friends when and how much you are taking. Write the time and dose to the 0.1ml on your arm.

Successive doses will have a stronger effect than the last dose. Think of it as a stacking effect.

If you are re-dosing, it’s always best to lower your dose slightly each time. For example, if your first dose was 1ml, consider making your second dose 0.9ml and your third dose 0.8ml.

To be safe, try to wait at least two hours before re-dosing.

There is a thin line between a fun time and an overdose (also known as ‘blowing out’).

When overdosing, one may experience extreme grogginess, nodding in and out of consciousness, extreme dizziness and disorientation, irritation and agitation, memory loss, vomiting, convulsions, irregular or shallow breathing, and potentially depressed breathing.

The below table provides guidance for what to do if you find yourself with someone who has overdosed or ‘blown out’.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE WITH SOMEONE WHO’S OVERDOSED OR ‘BLOWN OUT’
IF THEY ARE STILL CONSCIOUS OR ABLE TO BE WOKEN IF THEY ARE UNCONSCIOUS OR NOT RESPONDING TO PAIN IF SOMEONE IS UNCONSCIOUS & UNRESPONSIVE CALL 000
• Keep them awake and seated on the floor.

• If you feel comfortable, sit behind them, brace their shoulders, and keep them responsive by asking questions at a loud volume.

• To continue to try to get a response, pinch shoulders / fingertips or rub their chest with your knuckles. A person in this state may make sudden jerking, tonic (rigid) movements.

•  Assess what they are doing in response to your loud voice. Make sure they remain responsive to you.

• Put them in recovery position (lie them on their side).

• Ensure they are breathing.

• Continue to check their breathinng until they wake up.

Medical first responders are only interested in a patient’s health, not the criminal implications of drug use.

As with any drug, mixing increases the risk of overdose.

Combining GHB with methamphetamine (ice)/amphetamine and other stimulants like cocaine and MDMA can be extremely dangerous and even fatal as such combinations place the heart under strain.

If you are feeling sick or unwell, tell your friends and seek help immediately. Use the timer on your phone to record when you take each dose.

Combining GHB with stimulants does not prevent or reduce the likelihood of an overdose.

Never mix GHB with alcohol. Both GHB and alcohol are metabolised by the liver. The presence of one can slow the metabolism of the other. Using both can cause a build-up of GHB and increases the risk of overdose.

Combining GHB with other depressants like opioids and benzos, or dissociative drugs like ketamine or nitrous oxide can be extremely dangerous and even fatal as such combination can further decrease heart rate and breathing.

GHB is addictive and it is possible to quickly become dependent.

Try to avoid frequent use, especially daily use.

Severe and potentially serious withdrawal symptoms occur if you are dependent and miss a dose or suddenly reduce the amount you take.

Withdrawal symptoms can include confusion and agitation, anxiety and panic, feelings of doom and paranoia, restless sleep, muscle cramps and tremors, sweating, hallucinations, fast heartbeat.

Symptoms of sudden withdrawal from high doses include blackouts and bowel and bladder incontinence.

Find medical support for GHB detoxification and don’t stop taking abruptly without first consulting a medical professional.

If you have acute withdrawal symptoms, seek medical help immediately.