GHB is a liquid drug that is sometimes used recreationally and is also sometimes used to spike drinks and lower someone’s inhibitions. From there, a number of things could happen. We’ll talk you through it, and how to keep safe.

A young man is walking on the pavement. He is looking at his phone. He is researching GHB. This is full-body image.

What is GHB (and GBL)? 

GHB (gammahydroxybutyrate) is a colourless, odourless, salty tasting liquid which often comes in small bottles and capsules. It’s sometimes prescribed for sleep conditions and was originally developed as an anesthetic in the 1960s, but doctors quickly stopped using it because of unwanted side effects. Nowadays, it’s rarely seen in the medical world, but it is extremely prevalent in the clubs. 

Commonly called liquid E, it can be taken as a recreational drug in small doses. The effects are similar to being on MDMA. But using it regularly, like any drug, can cause you to become physically dependent on it and develop an addiction. Withdrawal symptoms from GHB are not going to be pretty when you’re using high doses and can include hallucinations, psychosis and delirium. If you’re a light to moderate user you may encounter anxiety and sleep-related issues such as insomnia. Find out more on

The GBL drug (gammabutyrolactone) is a similar type of drug but distinct come up times, risks, duration and dosing ranges, which means it can be dangerous to take it if you think you’re taking GHB. Read this resource from Dance Safe to find out more. Both drugs, when taken in high doses, are central nervous system depressants meaning they can cause black outs and memory lapses. For this reason, they are commonly known as a ‘date rape drug’. To find out more about drug assisted rape, read our article here. 

What are the effects of the GHB drug? 

GHB has similar affects to alcohol and can increase sociability and sexual desire. It also lowers inhibitions and can cause a state of euphoria, high levels of empathy and has the potential to give you very vivid dreams.

It’s important to note that the effects can take anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour to kick in. After that, they typically last for the whole day. So, don’t go downing more after feeling nothing for 5 minutes.

What are the risks of taking GHB? 

Grab some popcorn, cause this could take a while:

  • The difference between the dose needed to get you high and an overdose can be as little as half a capful. Plus, dosage is difficult to calculate as the strength of GHB varies from bottle to bottle.
  • Higher doses can cause nausea, muscle muscle relaxation, breathing irregularity, vomiting, confusion and convulsions.
  • In some cases it can lead to coma and respiratory collapse. There’s also a danger of choking on vomit whilst unconscious.
  • Mixing GHB with alcohol or other drugs can be extremely dangerous, even fatal, because of its depressant effects. To find out more about mixing drugs, click here.
  • It’s strongly recommended that asthmatics and those with other respiratory problems or low blood pressure should avoid GHB.
  • Both GHB and GBL are used in drug-assisted rape.

The law, GHB and GBL:

On July 01, 2003, GHB was officially classified as a Class C drug, with penalties of up to two years for possession and five years for dealing. This was a result of widespread concern regarding the significant risk of overdose and use of the drug in cases of date-rape.

GBL used to be available legally online, but on December 23, 2009 it became a Class C drug (when intended for human consumption). The maximum penalty for possession is 2 years in prison and 14 years for supply.

The use of GHB and GBL in drug assisted sexual assault is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

If you want to know more about drugs and the law, read our article.

GHB is also known as:

Liquid E, Liquid X, GBH, Liquid Ecstasy, 1,4-BD.

If you are planning on taking GHB:

  • The amount of GHB you need to take to feel the effects is a literal hair strand away from the amount needed to knock you out. This wildly increases the risk of seizures or coma and makes it extremely easy to overdose.
  • Leave at least two hours between top-ups. Anything more frequent increases the risk of overdose.
  • As a sedative drug, there is a far greater likelihood of life-threatening illness or overdose if other sedative or depressant drugs are used. Drinking alcohol while using GHB can lead to respiratory collapse or coma. 
  • If you are with someone who is using GHB and they become ill, collapse, or start vomiting, call an ambulance immediately. Let the paramedics or doctor know what they have taken so that help can be given quickly. For more information on drugs first aid or overdosing, click the links. 

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drugs a-z| rape

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 01-Sep-2021