Legal Socializer or Date Rape Nightmare?

May 24, 1999

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) has received some attention for its use by bodybuilders as an alternative to anabolic steroids. It is claimed by some that GHB stimulates the production of human growth hormone, although these claims seem to have little support. Nevertheless, numerous high school and college students have discovered that the effects of this drug make it ideal for recreational use, particularly at gatherings which have become known as "raves."

Originally discovered in France in 1961, GHB was first used to treat depression. Also known as Fantasy, Gamma-OH, or Liquid E ("E" being a slang reference to "Ecstasy," the common name for MDMA), this drug is generally manufactured in liquid form. Although much less common, it can also be found in a tablet or powder form. Gamma hydroxybutyrate became popular as a recreational drug because its most noticeable effect is euphoria. Proponents of the drug refer to it as a "socializer" because it has a tendency to stimulate the user's desire to communicate with others. It may also enhance the perception of movement.

Despite the alleged positive effects of this drug, it carries with it some substantial risks to the user. Common side effects of GHB include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, tremors and seizures. If mixed with alcohol, it can be very dangerous. Alcohol and GHB both have a sedative effect, and the combination could lead to loss of consciousness, coma, or death.

Another concern with GHB is that it can cause the user to experience amnesia regarding incidents which occurred during its use. As such, it has now taken its place alongside "Roofies" (Rohypnol) as a popular "date rape drug," and female college students are beginning to report incidents in which they were sexually molested after GHB was administered to them. In some cases, the victims have ingested the drug without their knowledge after it was mixed with a drink.

GHB has never been approved for pharmaceutical use in the United States. Currently, there is federal legislation pending which would make GHB a Schedule I controlled substance. To date, it is not a scheduled substance in Ohio, nor is it classified by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy as a dangerous drug.

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