It has many names: GHB: G, Liquid E and Fantasy. GBL is closely related to GHB and it too has a string of catchy names: Midnight blue, Blue Nitro and Fire Water. Whatever you choose to call these drugs, taking too large a dose can be deadly.
Karen Griessel, a social worker at Rand Aid’s Wedge Gardens substance abuse treatment centre, says that GHB is abused by teens and young adults at bars, parties, clubs and raves and is often placed in alcoholic beverages.
Euphoria, increased sex drive and tranquility are the reported ‘positive effects’. On the other side of the coin, however, there is sweating, loss of consciousness, nausea, hallucinations, amnesia and even the possibility of a coma.
The US Food and Drug Administration warns against products containing GHB and its pro-drugs such as GBL. GBL has a distinctive taste and odour; it is often described as being comparable to stale water and may smell of synthetic melon or burnt plastic. This differs significantly from GHB, which is described as having a decidedly salty taste. It is frequently carried in water bottles, eye drop bottles or mouth wash bottle.
“There have been news reports of several deaths associated with GBL, usually in combination with alcohol or other depressants,” says Karen.
It is described on the internet as a coma in a bottle but despite this, GBL has gained a reputation as an easy to obtain party drug.
“The chemical is perfectly harmless if used for the purpose for which it was originally intended – as a paint stripper and rust remover for garages or industrial cleaning firms. And if it is capable of removing paint, it is clearly not a substance that would be well tolerated by the human body.”
It is easier to overdose on GBL than heroin, she adds. “Get the concentration even slightly wrong and you can end up unconscious or dead. GBL can damage your kidneys, liver and the lining of your stomach and can lead to psychosis,” says Karen, adding that people being weaned off GBL can develop symptoms similar to schizophrenia.
* Wedge Gardens can be reached at 011 430 0320. You can also ‘like’ Wedge Gardens on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WedgeGardensTreatmentCentre) or follow them on Twitter (@WedgeGardens)