Melbourne police continue its crackdown on GHB abuse in the city, seizing $550,000 worth of drugs in recent raids.
Local authorities found large amounts of GHB in homes in Rowville, Hallam, and Seaford in April. They also arrested four individuals, who were all charged with trafficking the drug in large commercial quantities. The seizure of the drugs in three prominent Melbourne suburbs is a cause for concern for the community.
What GHB is and how can it affect your health and well-being? Our Chief Toxicologist Dr Phil Tynan explains.
Dangers of GHB Abuse
“Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (a.k.a. Grievous Body Harm, Liquid Ecstasy of Liquid X) is a notorious party drug that acts as a central nervous system depressant. It has only one legitimate use – treating narcolepsy (it allows these people to have a ‘normal’ sleep/wake cycle),” Dr Tynan said.
GHB can cause a feeling of deep, profound relaxation and restful euphoria, according to Dr Tynan. However, repeated use of the drug can easily lead to addiction, especially for non-narcoleptics.
If you happen to develop a GHB addiction, you might find it harder to shake it off.
“Addiction is difficult to manage because drug withdrawal is marked by insomnia and intermittent, frequent bouts of anxiety with tremors and sweating, which resolve quickly if the person uses GHB again. At higher doses it can induce sleep, coma and eventually death.” Dr Tynan said.
Doctors administer GHB in medical settings only. But somehow the drug found its way into bars and nightclubs. Many people take advantage of the GHB’s potency to commit criminal acts.
“GHB is also used as a date-rape drug, where the drinks of unsuspecting party-goers are spiked, as it is colourless (but does have a salty taste!) – leading to someone suddenly waking four or five hours later with no memory of what may have happened,” Dr Tynan said.
Traditionally, Australia’s supplies of GHB come from overseas. But with the disruption of foreign drug supply chains, Dr Tynan believes drug abusers likely switched to home-made substitutes.
Drug Testing for GHB
If you think that you’ve unknowingly ingested GHB, you can have yourself undergo drug testing.
However, you have to act quickly since there’s only a small window to catch the drug in your system.
“Testing for GHB is difficult, because it has a two-hour elimination half-life. Consequently, it is cleared from the body in six to eight hours at most,” Dr Tynan said.
“If a person does think their drink was spiked they must get a urine sample taken as soon as possible to have any hope of detection.”
Drug sellers market GHB abuse as ‘harmless fun’. But in reality, the party drug is a lot more dangerous than what many people might care to think. It’s always better to stay clear of such illicit drugs instead of ending up sick or even dead.