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GHB - Drug of the Day

by Annette Steinmetz

Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate (GHB) is a chemical that was previously sold in health food stores as a supplement for body builders to aid in fat reduction and muscle building. Other uses for GHB include general anesthesia, as well as a treatment for insomnia and narcolepsy which is a daytime sleeping disorder. However, the drug eventually gained popularity as a “recreational drug” passed around club scenes. Available in powder form, but used mainly in liquid form, it is squirted into a drink or swilled straight out of small plastic bottles, like the small shampoo samples found in hotel rooms. This clear liquid is also kept in small bottles similar to those used for nasal spray or eye drops. The sought after effects produce a euphoric high, enhanced sexual feelings, and relaxation. Users feel more energetic, happy, and extroverted, but also feel the effect of being intoxicated, loss of coordination and then sleepy. A dose takes 5-20 minutes to have its full effect which can then last up to three hours. The standard $5.00 dosage for one capful can create different levels of high for different people. In larger doses, it can cause memory loss, dizziness, reduce heart rate, bring on seizures and even death. Also mixed with alcohol, it can be a deadly combination. Public safety prompted the Food and Drug Administration to ban the sale and distribution of GHB in 1990.

GHB, whose street names include “Grevious Bodily Harm”, “Liquid X”, “Liquid Ecstasy” “Liquid E”, “Fantasy”,“Scoop”, “Heebee Geebees”, is also being labeled as a “predator drug”. It has many similarities to Rohypnol, otherwise known as the “Date Rape Drug”. Doubling the dose of GHB can cause the user to fall unconscious, and as with Rohypnol when the user wakes from the drug, they are often left with little recollection of what happened to them. Many women have been raped under this state of unconsciousness. The low cost of $5.00 per hit for GHB is also comparable to the cost of $2-$5 for a tablet of Rohypnol. Though both can easily be slipped into the drink of an unsuspecting person, GHB has a salty taste to it. Rohypnol on the other hand, is tasteless and odorless. Unlike Rohypnol, GHB is a low toxicity chemical which is not known to have addictive qualities. Rohypnol is manufactured in Europe and Latin America, and is mainly smuggled into and transported in the U.S. via mail or delivery services. GHB is also manufactured in Europe, and is available in some European countries with a prescription. It is legal in South Africa and it’s distribution there is not restricted. But, in the United States, GHB is easily and often manufactured by “kitchen chemists”, making it more readily available across the nation.

It is still not illegal to possess GHB in most states. It has, however, been banned from over-the-counter (non-prescription) sales by the FDA. It is also illegal to manufacture the drug except for licensed research. And, although there are warnings that GHB is an illegal substance in California, Florida, Georgia and Rhode Island, and legislature of this kind is also pending in Alaska, Texas, Massachusetts, and Hawaii, GHB kits can be purchased through the Internet for approximately $80.00. This includes the basic ingredients needed to boil up a batch of GHB, along with step by step instructions. One kit includes: 1 bottle Food Grade Potassium Hydroxide, 1 bottle 99+% pure gamma Butyrolactone, and 1 pH strip. Equipment or supplies needed but not furnished in the kit include: Eye protection and rubber gloves, 1 quart distilled water, a clean, dry Pyrex dish or stainless steel pot with loose fitting lid, a measuring cup, and a clean, empty glass quart bottle to hold the finished product which will then be refrigerated. Furthermore, recipes and helpful “manufacturing” hints are also exchanged on the Net. The accessibility to these kits and recipes could make the drug available any place in the U.S.. Further concern should not only be the availability, but also the quality and purity. Users and club-goers who unsuspectingly may be slipped this homemade substance must understand that there is a greater safety risk in drugs which are not produced in a controlled laboratory. A bad batch can be deadly.

The Drug Enforcement Agency has reported that from March 1995 to February 1997, seventeen cases of deaths, four of which were in Florida, were known to have GHB in the bloodstream. Many overdose victims have been rushed to the hospital unconscious with temperatures so high that sometimes hospital thermometers couldn’t measure them. Organs began to fail at this stage. However, there is a rising controversy whether this drug, which is not addictive and has a low toxicity level should not be banned just because some people choose to abuse this drug. Whatever the legal status of GHB possession in your state, law enforcement must be aware of its possible abuse on unsuspecting victims, its physical effects, and the fact that manufacturing it, other than for research purposes, is illegal. The low cost and even availability of “do it yourself” kits and recipes also contributes to the widespread use of GHB, and is quickly becoming a favored drug among social settings of high school and college students.

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