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Key Issue:

Rape and Sexual Assault

Gamma Hydroxy Butrate (GHB) is a fast-acting central nervous system depressant that is naturally present in small amounts in the body. During the 1980ís, GHB was legally sold over-the-counter in health food stores to enhance athletic performance, decrease body fat, and build muscle, but was banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1990 due to side effects.

GHB has sedative and euphoric effects, and is abused by young people recreationally as a steroid substitute or in drug-facilitated sexual assault. Among those who frequent the rave or club scene, GHB is used as an alternative to ecstasy or speed.

GHB is manufactured in illegal laboratories, often with ingredients bought on the Internet. Because these laboratories are not regulated, those who use GHB may not know what they are ingesting. Manufacturers may substitute ingredients or use chemicals in varying concentrations, making the drug especially dangerous for users.

GHB is inexpensive to purchase, and may be sold as a clear or colored liquid or as a white or beige powder. In liquid form, GHB is sold by the ìcapful,î measured in the caps of drinks such as a soda. In powder form, GHB may be sold as a gummy ball called a ìbooger.î

In street terms, GHB is known as:

  • Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid X, Liquid E
  • Cherry Meth
  • Georgia Home Boy
  • Grievous Bodily Harm
  • Organic Quaalude
  • G
  • GBH
  • Scoop
  • Sleep 500
  • Vita G
  • Salty Water
  • Soap
  • Somatomazc

GHB acts quickly. Users will experience effects within 15 to 30 minutes, and effects last for approximately four hours. GHB is abused because it has relaxant properties, slowing the heart rate and respiration, inducing feelings of intoxication, and causing relaxed muscle tone and reduced inhibitions. GHB also interferes with blood circulation, motor coordination, balance, and speech. Users may experience nausea, vomiting, sweating, headache, decreased heart rate, impaired breathing, loss of reflexes, tremors, delusions, seizures, amnesia, respiratory depression, coma, and death. When mixed with alcohol or other drugs, these depressant effects are enhanced. Those who take GHB may experience a coma-like sleep, requiring immediate medical attention. Long-term or excessive users of GHB may experience high blood pressure, mood swings, liver tumors, violent behavior, irregular respiration, tremors, and coma.

If used for prolonged periods, GHB is addictive. If abusers suddenly stop taking the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms for several months, including abnormally fast heart rates, hallucinations, sweating, insomnia, anxiety, seizures, and delirium. The withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and those trying to break an addiction to GHB should seek professional medical assistance.

GHB and Sexual Assault
GHB is currently the most commonly used drug in drug-facilitated sexual assault. As with Rohypnol, the drug can be slipped into a victimís drink, causing mental and physical paralysis shortly after ingestion and rendering victims physically helpless and unable to consent to sex. This paralyzing effect is intensified if GHB is administered in conjunction with alcohol. Even if someone is using GHB recreationally, he or she may become incapacitated by the drug and fall victim to sexual assault.

True prevalence estimates of GHB-induced date rape are non-existent. Because the drug is quickly metabolized in the body, it may not be detected by law enforcement or medical personnel unless victims seek immediate help. Moreover, because the drug may impair a victimís memory, he or she may not even realize that a sexual assault has taken place.

As with other ìdate rape drugs,î there is the potential for students to fall victim to GHB-facilitated date rape. Whether attending on- or off-campus parties, young men and women should be advised to never accept a drink from a stranger, to keep their drinks with them at all times, to avoid punch or other open beverages, and to stay in close contact with friends while out. If students begin to experience any of the effects of GHB, they should contact emergency services immediately.

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