Home > EMCDDA update on GHB/GBL.

Long, Jean (2008) EMCDDA update on GHB/GBL. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 26, Summer 2008, p. 19.

PDF (Drugnet Ireland, issue 26) - Published Version

On 17 March 2008, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) published a thematic paper, GHB and its precursor GBL: an emerging trend case study.1GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) is commonly known as liquid ecstasy. It was used in the eighties for its body-building effects, and in the nineties as a recreational drug at music venues. In 2000, the EMCDDA and its partners carried out a risk assessment on GHB and the drug was placed under international control by the United Nations in March 2001. Since 2001 the new controls have curtailed the open sale of the drug but there are now concerns over its chemical precursors, GBL (gamma-butyrolactone) and 1,4-butanediol, which are now being sold as substitutes for GHB, and are not controlled by international law.

 The chemical precursors of GHB are widely used for legitimate purposes (for example, in cleaning solvents) and can be purchased over the internet from 15 suppliers in Germany, The Netherlands, Poland and the UK. Health warnings are displayed on 12 of the 15 sites. Italy, Latvia and Sweden have introduced controls on one or both precursors. GBL and 1,4-butanediol can be used easily to manufacture GHB. Indeed, when ingested by humans the precursors are naturally converted to GHB.
The use of GHB/GBL in recreational settings is relatively uncommon when compared to that of ecstasy or cocaine. Little is known about the use of these chemicals in private settings. According to the authors, the effects of GHB/GBL on humans, when taken in small quantities,  are similar to those of alcohol, but increase greatly with each small increase in quantity consumed. The toxic effects of the drug include impaired consciousness and coma. Hospital emergency departments in Ibiza, Amsterdam and London reported a rising number of non-fatal overdoses due to GHB or GBL. These substances have rarely been shown to be implicated in the death of a drug user because forensic analysis is difficult due to the short period of time it can be detected in blood or urine and due to the fact that low quantities of GHB are normally present in the body. There is little or no evidence to implicate GHB in date rape.
1. Hillebrand J, Olszewski D and Sedefov R (2008) GHB and its precursor GBL: an emerging trend case study. Lisbon: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
Item Type
Publication Type
International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
CNS depressants / Sedatives, New psychoactive substance
Issue Title
Issue 26, Summer 2008
Page Range
p. 19
Health Research Board
Issue 26, Summer 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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