Every year, millions of people take drugs for recreational purposes. Unfortunately, some individuals are given drugs without their knowledge or consent. This is often done to sedate a person or reduce the individual’s inhibitions in order to take advantage of that person in a sexual manner. This practice is sexual assault and 100 percent illegal. The drugs used for this purpose are commonly referred to as “date rape drugs.”
One of the drugs used for this reprehensible practice is GHB. Technically known as 4-hydroxybutanoic acid, GHB is a psychoactive drug that works by interacting with the GABA receptors in the brain. This produces sedation, euphoria, enhanced libido, an enhanced sense of empathy, and a decrease in inhibitions. It comes in a colorless, odorless powder that’s ideal for slipping into people’s drinks. People drugged with GHB against their will come to feel groggy and more willing to engage in sexual activity, and often can’t remember what happened to them after the high wears off.
Because of the increase in date rape cases involving drugs like GHB, information campaigns have popped up across many nations to help people guard themselves against it. Unfortunately, no matter how careful people are, it’s still possible to become unwillingly drugged, especially in bars, nightclubs, or at parties where it can be hard to keep perfect track of every drink you consume. It’s therefore very important to be aware of the signs of date rape drugging and know what to do if you suspect someone has been drugged in this fashion, especially since 30 percent of women report contemplating suicide after being raped.
The high produced by GHB is often described as sharing traits with both alcohol and MDMA (ecstasy) intoxication. Watch out for the following symptoms when drinking at a public event where drugs may be present:
Reduction in inhibitions
Sudden increase in empathy and friendliness
Increased sexual desire
Sudden spike in happiness
Loss of coordination
Strange, erratic body movements
Erratic facial expressions
Any time someone begins exhibiting unusual behaviors or seems to be acting out of character when they haven’t been taking drugs or drinking alcohol, this is a sign that they may have been drugged. Once this has been suspected, immediate action should be taken.
Steps to Take
If the symptoms of GHB intoxication are identified and it’s clear that the victim did not willingly take the drug, it’s important to act right away. Take the following steps to get the drugged person out of danger:
Step 1: Get any drinks or other intoxicants away from them.
Step 2: Alert trusted individuals about the situation.
Step 3: Remove the victim from the situation, whether it’s a bar, party, or nightclub.
You likely want to report the incident to the police once the victim is safe. It can be very difficult to determine who drugged the victim, but if you were in a public place like a bar or restaurant, there may be video footage of the illegal act that police can access.
GHB stands for gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, a drug that has some legal standing in the US in specific applications but is largely a drug of abuse. There is one prescription version of GHB available in the US, sold as sodium oxybate, under the brand name Xyrem. The drug is also a metabolite of several industrial solvents. In addition, GHB is a naturally occurring metabolite from the human body breaking down food, although not in the same large quantities as when the drug is ingested for recreational purposes.
Illegally, GHB can be found in fat loss supplements, bodybuilding drugs, and some supplements that allegedly reverse balding, poor eyesight, aging, depression, insomnia, and more. GHB is also referred to as “liquid ecstasy,” as it has become a replacement for MDMA among some people who regularly get high at clubs or raves. GHB induces similar “touchy-feely” effects as ecstasy. It has also been used as a date rape drug because it creates a sense of calm, induces sleepiness or fatigue, and increases passivity. Nonmedical possession of GHB has been illegal in the US since 2000.
Yes, it is possible to overdose on GHB. The drug has been linked to several deaths around the world since 1990. While mixing GHB with other drugs increases the risk of overdose, simply taking too much GHB can cause an overdose. GHB overdose symptoms include:
Incoherent if conscious
Irregular or shallow breathing
Loss of physical coordination, including inability to stand
Involuntary muscle contractions, shaking, twitching, or tremors
Low doses of GHB induce effects similar to those of alcohol intoxication: relaxation, stumbling, slurred speech, euphoria, confusion, low inhibitions, and poor decision-making abilities. While these symptoms can be dangerous on their own, higher doses of GHB can cause much more serious problems. At larger doses, especially like those seen on the club scene, GHB can cause dangerous effects. Some of these include:
Nausea, vomiting, and stomach problems
Dehydration from excessive sweating
Injury from loss of coordination
Hypothermia, or low body temperature
Bradycardia, or slow heart rate
Respiratory depression, leading to lack of oxygen in the body
Suppression of the gag reflex, leading to choking on vomit
Since too much GHB can also cause overdose, long-term brain or organ damage can also be caused by GHB. Death can occur in certain instances.
This drug begins to induce euphoric effects within 10-20 minutes after ingestion, and the peak of the high occurs within an hour or less. The high typically lasts 2-5 hours, after which the person will begin to experience the “comedown” as the drug is metabolized and expelled from the body.
The most common comedown symptoms involve feeling depressed, emotionally drained, and exhausted. This is because the brain is recovering from a sudden release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. As these are used up in the brain, and brain chemistry returns to normal, the body can feel the opposite of the positive and euphoric effects induced by the excess neurotransmitters. This can include low mood and negative emotional effects, as well as physical exhaustion, aches, and pains.
A person may struggle with cycles of GHB abuse, or binges, to avoid comedown effects. This puts the person at risk of overdose and addiction.
When sold online or in dietary supplement form, GHB is typically found as a pill or powder. It can also come as a clear liquid. The drug is odorless, colorless, and mostly tasteless, although some people who have accidentally taken GHB as a date rape drug report that it can make beverages taste a little saltier. GHB is also a secondary chemical in products like paint thinner or adhesives, so people who “huff” solvents like these may get high from these industrial products that are not for human consumption.