What is GHB?

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) is a central nervous system depressant. Meaning that it slows down certain cerebral and bodily functions such as breathing and heart rate. GHB usually comes in the form of an odourless and colourless liquid, white powder, capsules or water-soluble granules.

Illegal in Canada, GHB largely circulates in the black market, namely because it is easy to make. It is mainly associated with raves and used in the sexualized drug use (particularly chemsex) practice.


The effects of GHB

The effects of GHB are similar to those of alcohol. In lower doses one can feel:

  • calm and relaxed,
  • less anxious,
  • relaxed muscles,
  • euphoric,
  • sexually uninhibited,
  • moving in slow motion,
  • etc.

By increasing the dose, other effects can be felt:

  • drowsiness,
  • memory loss,
  • nausea and vomiting,
  • coordination problems,
  • loss of consciousness,
  • etc.

GHB’s various effects and the intensity of each depend on different factors such as the individual him/herself, the quantity that was taken and even the person’s surroundings. The effects of GHB usually show up 5 to 30 minutes after using and can last one to six hours.

In the case of an overdose, GHB can cause epileptic seizures, difficulties breathing, which can lead to coma and death. It is also very important to know that it is very easy to overdose on GHB, especially if mixed with other depressants like alcohol. In fact, mixing alcohol and GHB multiplies its effects to the point of rendering it highly toxic and dangerous, even at lower quantities.

The «date-rape drug»

 GHB is often called the «date-rape drug». In fact, slipping GHB into an alcoholic beverage can be used for criminal purposes like sexually abusing someone. This can be done because of certain GHB properties:

  • It is odourless and colourless which makes it undetectable by the victim when it is slipped into his/her drink,
  • It causes both a loss of sexual inhibition and a state of relaxation, as well as drowsiness and even unconsciousness,
  • It causes memory loss, even blackouts, meaning not remembering at all what happened for several minutes, if not several hours.

The GHB/alcohol cocktail can put someone in a very vulnerable position. Numerous cases of GHB poisoning, without the victim’s knowledge, have been reported since the mid-1990’s. Which is why it is recommended to always keep an eye on your drink during raves.

Did you know? GHB is quickly eliminated by the body. It cannot be detected after 8 hours in the blood and 12 hours in the urine. Therefore, if foul play is suspected, it is recommended to quickly report it so drug testing can be done on time.

Addiction and withdrawal

GHB is psychologically addictive because of the feelings of pleasure and euphoria it provides. But it can also cause physical addiction and tolerance. The person must then increase the dose to feel the same effects and stopping cold turkey can cause the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • anxiety,
  • irritability,
  • insomnia,
  • fever,
  • nausea or vomiting,
  • shaking
  • convulsions,
  • etc.

The withdrawal period varies between 5 and 15 days and can at times be dangerous. Medical support may be needed for severe withdrawal symptoms. These can be relieved thanks to certain medication such as benzodiazepines, which have a calming effect, or even sedatives.


We can help you

If your use of GHB, or that of a loved one worries you, you are not alone: call us at 1-800-265-2626 or chat with us, bottom right of page. We can provide support, personalized information and refer you to resources adapted to your situation. Our services are available 24/7.

To find a counseling center on addiction and substance use, go to trouvetoncentre.com.