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7-minute read

Key facts

  • GHB is an illegal party drug.
  • GHB is often used in drink spiking as it cannot be detected easily in a drink.
  • People who take GHB experience similar symptoms to being drunk and may behave out of character.
  • It is easy to overdose on GHB, which can be fatal.
  • If you want to stop using GHB, it's important to talk to your doctor.

What is GHB?

GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is an illegal drug commonly found around the dance and party scene. It's known as a 'date rape' drug, because it is hard to detect if it is slipped into a drink at a party.

GHB was originally developed to be used as an anaesthetic. It is a central nervous system depressant. This means that it slows down brain activity and produces feelings of relaxation and drowsiness.

GHB usually comes as liquid. It can be bitter or salty tasting and is odourless or has a slight odour. It can also come as a powder or in crystal form.

GHB typically doesn't have any colour but it can make a transparent drink cloudy. Sometimes, it can be coloured bright blue.

It can be:

  • swallowed
  • injected
  • inserted anally (into your back passage)

GHB is also known as:

  • G
  • Gina
  • GBH (grievous bodily harm)
  • fantasy
  • gamma G
  • blue nitro
  • liquid E
  • liquid X
  • Georgia Home Boy
  • soap
  • scoop
  • cherry meth
  • fishies

GHB is sometimes called liquid ecstasy due to its effects. It's not chemically related to the drug ecstasy (MDMA).

What are the effects of taking GHB?

The effects of GHB start after about 5 to 20 minutes. They can last from a few minutes to a few hours. People who take GHB may:

  • slur their speech
  • feel confident, excited or upset
  • have a heightened sense of touch
  • have a higher sex drive

People who use GHB can also have unwanted effects, such as:

These effects can last for up to 4 hours and may appear earlier if GHB is taken with alcohol.

GHB can affect people differently based on:

  • how much they take
  • how strong it is
  • their height and weight
  • their general health
  • their mood
  • their previous experiences with GHB
  • whether they take other drugs at the same time

What can go wrong with GHB?

GHB is linked to date rape and sexual assaults as it can be used to spike drinks. It is hard to detect, particularly in opaque and strong-tasting drinks. GHB also leaves the person who took it unable to remember much of what happened while they were affected.

It's very easy to overdose on GHB, especially if taken with alcohol. Even small amounts can cause some people to overdose.

Signs someone has overdosed on GHB are:

  • they cannot be woken up
  • they are incoherent
  • they are hallucinating
  • they are sweating
  • they are vomiting
  • they can't stand up
  • their heartbeat is slow and irregular
  • their breathing is slow or irregular
  • they have blackouts or memory loss

An overdose can cause:

  • seizures
  • a stroke
  • a cardiac arrest (where your heart stops beating — this is a medical emergency)

These can lead to coma and death.

If you think someone has overdosed on GHB, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

Ambulance officers don't have to call the police.

Find out about party drugs, including where to find help and support.

Can GHB cause long-term problems?

Using GHB long term can cause:

What if I use other drugs or alcohol together with GHB?

It is dangerous to take GHB along with other things that slow the central nervous system, such as:

  • alcohol
  • some prescription medicines

The risk of overdose is increased if you take GHB with alcohol.

Using GHB with amphetamines increases your risk of a seizure.

Can I become dependent on GHB?

Regular users of GHB can develop a tolerance to the drug very quickly. This means they need more of the drug to get the same effects.

It's also possible to become addicted to GHB. This is when you spend a lot of time thinking about the drug and trying to get it. This can impact your:

  • life
  • work
  • relationships

People can also become dependent on GHB. They may find it difficult to stop using GHB or control how much they use. This is often due to withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms may occur in people who have used GHB for a long time. Symptoms start about 6 to 72 hours after the last dose, and often last for 5 to 15 days. They include:

People who suddenly stop GHB after taking it at high doses long-term can have serious complications, such as:

How can I stop using GHB?

Getting off GHB can be difficult. Speak to your doctor first. They can provide options, which can include:

  • participation in support groups
  • counselling and therapy
  • referral to an addiction specialist
  • inpatient detox and rehabilitation

Resources and support

See 'What are the effects of taking drugs?' on the Department of Health website for more information.

Find out more about how drugs and alcohol can impact your health, including where to find help and support.

You or someone you know may be finding it hard to manage issues related to drug use. You can try healthdirect's Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek professional help.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare step for you. This could be:

  • self-care
  • talking to a health professional
  • going to a hospital
  • calling triple zero (000)

You can find support and more information about GHB through the:

Support for injection behaviour

If you inject GBH, you can reduce your risk of blood-borne disease by attending a Needle and Syringe Program (NSP).

Needle and Syringe Programs provide clean needles or syringes to people who inject drugs. It's sometimes referred to as 'needle exchange'.

The types of Needle and Syringe Programs vary, from pharmacies to vending machines.

You can also find a local Needle and Syringe Program using the healthdirect Service Finder. Select 'By name' and type 'needle' into the search bar.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2023

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