Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Drink the Water

Recently I had the dubious pleasure of researching one of the new “designer drugs” GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid). It scared me to death.

My fear is that my young friends who are going off to college soon will innocently sip a drink at a party, fall unconscious, be molested and have no memory of it later. (As if there aren’t enough things to worry about!)

Here’s what I learned. GHB is one of two date rape drugs. (Rohypnol or “roofies” is the other one.) It was first developed in The United Stated as a pre-medication to promote sleep before surgery, and prior to 1990 when it’s sale was banned by the FDA, it was sold in health food stores.

Originally it was touted as a natural antidepressant, cure for insomnia and an aid for body builders, but that was before someone figured out how to abuse it.

The chemical formula is readily available on the Internet. I have actually viewed it myself on several sites. For someone who can read that sort of thing, I’ve heard it is fairly easy to make. All one has to do is order the chemicals, and it can be mixed up right at home. On one of the sites I saw the question, ” Can I use Red Devil Lye instead of pure sodium hydroxide?” “No, that could have unpredictable results on your health.” Does that scare you as much as it scares me?

Here’s why people like it so much. A low dose can cause effects similar to those of 1-3 drinks of alcohol. Users feel relaxed and more sociable.

A medium dose still seems to be okay. People report positive mood changes, silliness, an increased appreciation for music, dancing and talking.

A heavy dose can cause feelings of disequilibrium to the point of feeling quite ill. But here’s the really bad news, it is easy to accidentally move from a medium dose to an overdose. And unlike alcohol, an overdose can be really scary. It can cause the user to fall unconscious and be unarousable for up to four or five hours. An extra quarter (.25) gram can mean the difference between euphoria and unconsciousness or even death.

One of the obvious problems is that since amateur chemists make this drug at home, any dose could potentially be an overdose. The overdose range for GHB depends on body weight and individual sensitivity. When mixed with alcohol, GHB becomes more powerful, and dangerous, than it would be if it were used alone. The side effects include coma, seizures, insomnia, anxiety, dizziness, nausea, confusion, respiratory arrest, and death. The toxic substances produced in the body by alcohol and GHB can cause a 1-3 day hangover that one Internet source described as “comparable to having your brain rolled in broken glass.” He further states, “Doing the two together is downright stupid, and you could save time and money by simply bashing your head on the curb.”

Having said all of this, what can I tell my friends to protect them from the inadvertent ingestion of GHB?

Do Not drink beverages that you do not open yourself.

Do Not drink from a punch bowl.

Do Not leave a drink unattended, even for a moment.

Do Not accept drinks from anyone you do not absolutely trust.

Do Not drink anything that has an unusual taste or appearance.

Do Not be afraid to throw a drink out.

Do Not be afraid to say “No Thanks”. GHB has a taste that has been likened to a mixture of sweat and urine, so unless it is mixed with something other than water, it can’t be ingested by mistake.

Do appoint a designated sober person.

Do bring your own drinks to parties.

Do stay aware of your surroundings.

Do trust your feelings. If something feels wrong to you, GET OUT or call 911.

Do call for help immediately it you think something is wrong or you don’t feel right. That’s what 911 is for!

I want to close with a quote I found on the Internet by Andrew Fyall of Project LSD,

“There is something extremely dirty and desperate in the wish to do GHB. It is a cheap and overrated kick for dick-heads. On a sliding scale of glamour and intelligence, GHB is up there with drinking Tripp-Ex, or snorting ground glass.”

I’m going to take his word on this.