"Raise your bar": What is GHB, the "date rape drug"?

The last few weeks, she seems to be everywhere. At student parties in Grenoble and Montpellier, as well as in bars and nightclubs in Oise, Strasbourg and Nancy. GHB, or "rape drug", circulates and continues to claim victims, most often young women, drugged without their knowledge.

This molecule, used for medical purposes, has gradually been diverted for recreational purposes. Before becoming a weapon in the hands of sexual predators. But what are the effects and risks associated with GHB? 20 Minutes explains.

What is GHB and what is its medical use?

This acronym designates “Gamma-Hydroxy-Butyrate”, a synthetic molecule with sedative properties. Packaged in the form of a soluble white powder or liquid, it is most often administered orally, but its use is very limited and strictly supervised in medicine. GHB is thus indicated in the treatment of sleep disorders such as "narcolepsy in adult patients, adolescents and children" in rare cases, specifies Vidal, the reference bible for health products.

GHB, “synthesized in the 1960s, enters the brain easily and quickly. It induces sleep close to physiological sleep, with a good quality awakening, and has indications in anesthesiology and in the treatment of narcoleptic disorders and alcohol addiction, ”explains Inserm.

What are the effects of this molecule and why has this drug become “the rape drug”?

“Its sedative, anxiolytic and euphoric properties have diverted this compound from its therapeutic indications, for recreational use and illicit consumption,” explains Inserm. In low to moderate doses, GHB provides peace of mind, mild euphoria and disinhibition, as well as a “sense of intoxication comparable to that of alcohol. At high doses, its effects are those of a powerful sleeping pill, ”describes Drugs Info Service. Hence its nickname “liquid ecstasy”.

Its form – odorless and colorless – and its sedative and amnesic effects “make it conducive to criminal use (sexual abuse or assault), alerts the national service for information, listening and help on drugs and addictions. It can be poured, without a person's knowledge, into a drink, without changing its taste or appearance.

In addition, “two closely related substances, GBL (gammabutyrolactone acid) – an industrial solvent – ​​and BD (butanediol), transform into GHB once in the body. They have the same effects and present the same risks,” continues Drogues Info Service. Cases of GBL poisoning have thus been regularly reported in recent years.

How do you know if you have been intoxicated with GHB without knowing it? What are the side effects of this molecule?

While it is possible to identify the presence of GHB in the body, its detection is however delicate and limited in time. Thus, “GHB can only be detected by specialized analysis laboratories, for less than 12 hours in the urine, and barely a few hours in the blood, warns Drugs Info Service. The difficulties in detecting GHB are due both to the rapidity of its disappearance from the organism and to the fact that it is naturally present in the human body”.

If GHB is therefore odorless and colorless, the Belgian association for prevention and listening Infor Drogues specifies however that it can have a “salty taste”. This is confirmed by a reader of 20 Minutes, who thinks she was drugged with: “I was served a vodka with an energy drink. My drink smelled of dishwashing liquid and tasted half sweet, half salty, that should have alerted me, ”regrets the young woman, who pleads for vast prevention campaigns against the use of this drug.

During intoxication, GHB acts very quickly. Its effects are felt 15 to 30 minutes after absorption and last about an hour, or even several, continues Drugs Info Service. “I felt, at one point in the evening, a real paralysis. I was conscious, but I had no more strength in me to push back anyone around me. Then my condition worsened. I ended up not seeing anything, not being able to speak, I could not even send a message. And I ended up falling asleep. The black hole, ”confided a few weeks ago to 20 Minutes a student from Montpellier who thinks she has been drugged without her knowledge. Headaches, dizziness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion and amnesia are among the main side effects of GHB.

How to prevent poisoning?

A few years ago, American students developed an anti-GHB varnish which, if a drink contains this substance, changes color when you dip your finger in your glass. A similar device, which has the shape of a shopping cart token, also allows, by pouring a drop of its drink, to detect the presence of GHB with an "efficiency of 99.3%", assure its creators. In a nightclub or in the evening, the first precaution is not to leave your drink unattended and not to accept a drink offered by an unknown person. Not to mention the "caps" for glass, transparent and reusable protections to prevent drugs from being slipped into them.

In response to the testimonies of women addicted to GHB that have accumulated in recent weeks, the Héro.ïnes 95 collective has launched a movement to boycott bars and night establishments from November 12, and calls on the leaders of festive places – bars, nightclubs and concert halls – to organize “staff training in the prevention of sexist and sexual violence”.

SocietyMontpellier: "I felt a real paralysis", GHB wreaks havoc in the eveningsSocietyAddicted to GHB without their knowledge, they no longer want to have this "fear of rape"

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