Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Drink spiking

Drink spiking
beginning of content

GHB

6-minute read

What is GHB?

GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a drug commonly found around the dance and party scene. It’s known as a ‘date rape’ drug, because users might not notice if it is slipped into their drink at a party. The main risk with GHB is from an overdose, which could kill.

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

It is taken as a bitter or salty tasting liquid that is odourless or has a slight odour. It can also be found in powder or pill form. GHB typically doesn’t have any colour, but can make a transparent drink cloudy or can be coloured bright blue. It is usually swallowed but sometimes it is injected or inserted anally.

It’s also known as G, GBH (grievous bodily harm), fantasy, gamma G, blue nitro and liquid E, liquid ecstasy, liquid X, Georgia Home Boy, soap, scoop, cherry meth, and fishies.

Although 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 about 5 to 20 minutes after it’s taken and can last from a few minutes to a few hours. At first the effects of GHB are the same as alcohol intoxication, such as reduced inhibitions and having slurred speech. People may feel confident, excited or upset. They may also take risks or behave in ways they wouldn’t normally, have a heightened sense of touch, or want to have sex.

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:

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

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

What can go wrong with GHB?

Users can become uncoordinated, dizzy, forgetful, feel sick and vomit. They may get headaches, shake, have diarrhoea or urinary incontinence, have blackouts or a fit, feel disorientated and uncoordinated, get confused or hallucinate. These effects appear earlier if GHB is taken with alcohol. The effects last for up to 4 hours.

GHB is linked to date rape and sexual assaults. It can be camouflaged in drinks, particularly opaque and strong tasting drinks, and leaves the person who took it unable to remember much of what happened.

It’s very easy to overdose on GHB, especially if it’s taken with alcohol. Even small amounts can cause some people to overdose. The signs someone has overdosed on GHB are:

  • they cannot be woken up
  • they are incoherent
  • they have hallucinations
  • they are sweating, vomiting or their breathing is irregular or shallow
  • they can’t stand
  • they have muscle seizures
  • their heartbeat is slow and irregular
  • their breathing is slow or irregular
  • they have blackouts or memory loss

An overdose can cause seizures, or a stroke or a cardiac arrest, leading 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 memory problems, heart disease, hallucinations, anxiety and breathing problems.

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 or prescription medications. The risk of overdose is increased if you also take alcohol.

If you use GHB along with amphetamines, you are at 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 is also possible to become dependent on GHB, which means people spend a lot of time thinking about the drug and trying to get it.

Resources and support

Find information about cocaine on the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website or by calling DrugInfo on 1300 85 85 84.

You can find help on the Drug Help website or by calling the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015. You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you or someone you know are finding it difficult to manage issues as a result of drug use, try healthdirect’s Symptom Checker and get advice on when to seek professional help.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

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

Last reviewed: January 2021


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

GHB - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a depressant, which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

GHB - Better Health Channel

betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Read more on Better Health Channel website

What is GHB: effects, addiction, abuse and treatment - MyDr.com.au

Using GHB carries a high risk of overdose due to the small difference between the amount required to produce a high and that which causes overdose.

Read more on myDr website

GHB Effects, Overdose and Poisoning | Your Room

GHB comes with many short and long term side effects. Find out what to do in the case of overdose or poisoning and places to get help.

Read more on NSW Health website

Types of drugs | Australian Government Department of Health

Drugs can be grouped together in different ways — by the way they affect the body or by how or where they are used. Find out which drugs we are focused on reducing in Australia.

Read more on Department of Health website

Illicit Drugs - General - Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre

Illicit Drugs – General An illicit drug is one that is illegal to have (for example, cannabis, heroin, and cocaine), and the non-medical use of drugs that are legally available such as pain killers and sleeping pills [22491][33425]

Read more on Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website

Chronic Disease - Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre

Chronic Disease Alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs have been linked to a greater likelihood of developing a chronic disease, or worsening the symptoms of an existing chronic disease

Read more on Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website

Why do people use alcohol and other drugs? - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

People use alcohol and other drugs (AOD) for a variety of reasons. The vast majority of people who use alcohol and other drugs do not become dependent.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Drugs and the darknet - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Developments in information technology are changing the way that we purchase almost all of our consumer goods from books and art through to fresh fruit and vegetables. The purchase of illicit drugs is also following a similar trend, with many drugs now being bought and sold through online anonymous markets.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

New psychoactive substances - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

New psychoactive substances (NPS) are a range of drugs that have been designed to mimic established illicit drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo