What to Know About GHB, A Common Date Rape Drug .

NYU Langone Medical Center, New York

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Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) — known as G, Easy Lay, Cherry Meth, or Liquid Ecstasy — is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug sodium oxybate.

GHB is one of the three most common date rape drugs according to many sources, including Womenshealth.gov. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) 2017 Fact Sheet on GHB indicates hard-to-detect analogues — which metabolize to GHB and have similar effects — are also present in industrial products, like ink cartridge cleaner. It has been sold as a supplement component for weight loss, body building and to combat aging, depression, baldness, etc.

Local governments, public safety and public health agencies are concerned about GHB for the following reasons.

GHB is Making a Comeback

While GHB can be diverted from controlled use, the drug has been found nationwide at clubs, bars and parties since the 1990s made locally in drug labs.

As a drug, GHB is a depressant that produces euphoria, drowsiness, decreased anxiety, confusion and memory impairment and can increase libido. It is sold in liquid form for $5 to $25 per dose.

GHB is listed as Schedule 1 under the Controlled Substances Act. However, FDA-approved products, like the generic sodium oxybate approved by the agency in 2017, which treat narcolepsy, are Schedule III substances.

In 1990, the Centers for Disease Control issued an emergency report about over-the-counter use of GHB in sleep aids. The FDA issued an advisory warning that use of GHB outside of FDA-approved protocols was illicit. Store shelves were cleared of related over-the-counter products containing it, although abuse in the body building community, as well as its notoriety as a date rape drug, has continued.

In the U.S., GHB is making a comeback in the nightclub scene, according to a 2018 report by Joseph Palamar, associate professor of population health, New York University, Langone Medical Center, in The Conversation.

In the United Kingdom, GHB is of concern as a drug of abuse in what is known as the ‘chemsex’ scene, which the British government named as part of a 2017 announcement about a new national drug strategy, according to New Scientist.

GHB is Rapidly Absorbed and Rapidly Released

GHB is available as a powder that can be mixed in a drink, but it is more often found as a clear liquid. It can be slipped unnoticed into drinks, or there may be a slightly salty taste detected.

It can affect a person within 15 to 30 minutes and the effects last from three to six hours. Small doses can cause nausea and overdose can cause death. There is currently no antidote for GHB intoxication, according to DEA.

DEA lists GHB as causing unconsciousness, seizures, slowed heart rate, greatly slowed breathing, lower body temperature, vomiting and coma.

By the time realization of date rape occurs, however, GHB may be long gone from the body. In Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault: A Forensic Handbook by Marc LeBeau, It is rapidly eliminated from the body, and once passed, it’s hard to differentiate it from natural trace amounts of GHB present in the human nervous system.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, GHB may remain in urine from eight to 12 hours and in blood for four to eight hours after ingestion. Certain date rape drug detection devices can detect its presence in a drop of a drink.

Intent to Distribute is Punishable with Prison

While abuse does not always involve rape or date rape, trafficking GHB is considered a crime. In 2002, a Federal investigation led to the arrest of 115 individuals in 84 cities in the U.S. and Canada involved in distributing the drug and its analogs over the Internet.

Distribution of GHB continues.

In 2016, a lab technician at Auburn University ordered analog 1-4 butanediol, from a manufacturer and sold it to undercover law enforcement. According to DEA, the convicted man was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison for possession with the intent to distribute, along with a related firearms and methamphetamine possession charges.

Analogs of GHB can be ordered and delivered by mail or package service.

In December the Albuquerque Journal reported that in one year, Customs Border Protection seized 179 kilograms of GHB coming in overseas. The agency uses handheld spectrographic lasers costing $75,000 to scan packages for illicit substances. Law enforcement will attempt to arrest individuals picking up packages, but package delay notifications can thwart these efforts.

Learn more about other drugs used for sexual assault:

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