GHB: Know the effects and risks of taking GHB
GHB is also known as liquid ecstasy, liquid X
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
Remember: All drugs, including the misuse of prescribed medication, can pose serious health risks, up to and including possible death. This information has been provided by drugs.ie.
G is the name used for the drugs GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) and GBL (gamma butyrolactone). Both are depressant type drugs which can make a user high by taking small doses and also cause unconsciousness if slightly higher doses are taken.
What are the effects of taking G?
G can cause a person to feel high, lower their inhibitions, making them more confident and increase their confidence and sex drive. The feeling on G can be similar to the feeling of being drunk. The effects will vary depending on how much is taken.
G breaks down in the body into carbon dioxide and water, and does not stay in the system for long. It is not detectable after 8 hours in the blood and after 12 hours in urine. The normal purpose of G is as an industrial solvent and paint stripper. Taking G is against the law.
The effects can begin about 20 minutes after taking the drug and may last up to four hours. A dose of G can make a person feel chilled out, aroused, and/or mildly high. Too much G can cause a person to feel dizzy, confused, drowsy or vomiting. G use can also result in seizures, coma and death.
Some sought after effects:
- Euphoria (being high)
- Relaxation & a sense of calm
- Increased sociability
- Greater confidence
- Disinhibition/sexual disinhibition (can make people do things they wouldn’t otherwise do)
- Increased sexual arousal/enhancement of sexual arousal
- Enhanced libido (sex drive and stamina)
- Helps sleep
Some unwanted effects:
- Loss of body control – effects similar to alcohol which can last for several hours
- Difficulty concentrating
- Come downs
- Loss of muscle control
- Audio and visual hallucinations
- Grogginess after use
The risks when taking G
G is physically addictive and dependence can develop very quickly or from regular use over a period of time. Dependence can mean that people will experience withdrawal symptoms if they reduce their usage or after stopping use, which can be severe or life threatening.
In certain situations, people may need hospital treatment for G dependence. It is not recommended that a person suddenly stops taking G themselves or attempts to self-detox. Withdrawal should be a slow and with medical supervision of a doctor.
The start of withdrawal can begin 1-2 hours after the last dose and can progress rapidly. Withdrawal can last up to 12 days.
- Mild withdrawal symptoms include: anxiety, tremors, insomnia and vomiting, and high blood pressure
- Moderate withdrawal symptoms include: severe anxiety, confusion, delirium; feeling of skin crawling and hallucinations
- Severe withdrawal symptoms include: agitation, paranoia and psychosis, muscle breakdown, seizures and death
Overdose (going under)
There is only a small difference between the amount of G that causes a person to get high and the amount that would cause them to become unconscious. Therefore, it is very easy to overdose on G.
G can take longer than expected to kick in. This means that someone may take a dose, think nothing is happening, and then take another dose. This can lead to accidental overdose. Common signs of overdose can include: confusion, vomiting, dizziness, seizure, temperature, agitation, hallucinations, difficulty breathing and coma.
G and Other Drugs
GHB has the same/similar effects as benzodiazepines or alcohol, which can result in drowsiness, sedation, respiratory depression and death. The risk of using GHB/GBL is greatly increased when used in combination with other drugs like alcohol, ketamine and prescription tablets.
The use of G with stimulant drugs like cocaine, MDMA, mephedrone and crystal meth (Tina) can also be dangerous. Using G with other stimulants can make a person feel more awake. This can mean that someone can take more G than they normally would; increasing the risk of an unexpected overdose.
- Drugs.ie: Online information and support for drug and alcohol use. Includes a national directory of drug and alcohol services
- HSE Drugs, Alcohol, HIV, Hepatitis and Sexual Health Helpline: Freephone 1800 459 459.
- The Club Drug Clinic offers advice, support and detoxification for GHB (Liquid Ecstasy, G) and other chemsex and club drugs is an integrated person centered specialist addiction service
- Rialto Community Drug Team
- Find a local service through the National Directory for Drug and Alcohol Services at Drugs.ie/services
Read our article on how to reduce harm when taking G.