News - G use on the rise

Mr-E-man

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Home > National News > Article
The $5 rush with a fatal sting
December 27, 2003







The popularity of the party drug G is soaring - and so are the rates of overdose. Ruth Pollard reports on a dangerous trend.

It was 1997, and one of the most popular nightclubs on Sydney's golden mile of Oxford Street knew it had a problem. It couldn't get its glasses clean. A strange line that had appeared around the inside of glasses was there to stay. It was the first sign that the party drug G had hit town.

Back then, just 3 per cent of people who used party drugs reported using G, or GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate). And as Paul Dillon, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, says, that 3 per cent was a "sub-group of a sub-group of a sub-group" of the gay community.

In 2003 the profile of G users is very different. Thirty-five per cent of people using party drugs take G, gay and straight alike.

"It is in every jurisdiction, in every state, and in the general population," says Dillon. "The affordability has made the difference. Now it is younger people taking it; it is easy to make - it has so many things going for it to make it more popular."

A month ago, Dillon went to a school in Sydney's inner-west to talk about drugs to 15- and 16-year-olds. There was just one drug they wanted to know about - G. "They were all being offered it, many of them had tried it, and because it was so cheap, it was the drug they were going to start messing around with - and they knew nothing about it, not a thing."




Those who hadn't used it had seen overdoses. Most had been offered a dose for as little as $5.

G is both a powerful depressant and a powerful disinhibitor, and many users report a feeling of wellbeing similar to being in the "fun" stage of drinking alcohol, but multiplied a thousand times.

It has had many incarnations over the years - liquid ecstasy, GBH (grievous bodily harm), blue nitro, fantasy. Simple to manufacture, the drug's main ingredient, gamma butyrolactone - an easy-to-obtain solvent used in tyres and other industrial products - is mixed with two other common compounds.

It is the solvent in the drug that marks the nightclub's glasses, Dillon says.

Is is taken orally in liquid form, and most users add it to a small amount of soft drink to mask the bitter, chemical taste.

Perfume sample vials, contact lens cases and, more recently, the small plastic fish that are usually filled with soy sauce are used as containers for G, Dillon says.

Add some colour to the clear liquid, and the little fish become very attractive to a younger crowd.

"The colour was originally put in it because dealers were responding to a call from their buyers, who were saying, 'I can't see it when it is just a clear liquid'. Now it is just marketing," he says.



According to US newspaper reports, emergency admissions involving GHB nearly quadrupled from 1998 to 2000, when 4969 cases were reported, while the US Drug Enforcement Administration says 73 people have died from taking GHB since 1995, compared with 27 ecstasy-related deaths.

It is difficult to put a figure on deaths in Australia, although David Caldicott, a research fellow at Royal Adelaide Hospital, says G has been responsible for more fatalities than any other party drug over recent years.

Caldicott, who will release death figures in research to be published next year, says 300 people overdosed in South Australia alone in the past four years, most of them from the straight rave scene.

"A substantial proportion who use G actually get into medical trouble on it - and yet they do not actually see that as a problem. They arrive on our doorstep in a comatose state. Many require intubation and ventilation, and when occasionally that is unsuccessful people do die."

People who overdose range from appearing to be merely asleep, to deeply comatose, to those who have stopped breathing. Some suffocate when their airways become blocked; others choke after they have vomited. Many suffer a state of extreme agitation, literally jumping up and down on the spot, before they collapse.

"A lot of people who use recreational drugs were saying that G was perfectly safe, and that the dangers begin if you mix G and alcohol. This did not tally with our experience at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, or Royal Adelaide's experience," Caldicott said.

At the heart of the club scene in Darlinghurst, St Vincent's Hospital emergency department has recorded more than 130 G overdoses since January, sometimes up to 10 a night.

Staff specialist Fiona Chow says overdose numbers have doubled every year, from 25 in 2001, 50 in 2002 to at least 130 this year.

"When you think that potentially at least 50 to 70 per cent are going to be on a ventilator, that is a big deal. With heroin overdoses you can give them a shot [of narcan]. We have an antidote for heroin, we don't ... for GHB," Chow says.

Her research into the drug found 76 per cent of patients were comatose when they arrived at St Vincent's and many needed to be put on life support. "Since that we have had two definite known deaths at the hospital," Chow says.

Emergency department staff are getting used to treating G overdoses, predicting its clinical paths and the length of time its anaesthetic effects last. Outside hospitals, there is increasing anecdotal evidence that as G users and their friends become more familiar with how it affects people, many are starting to look after those who have overdosed at home, Chow says.

Buck Reed is a trained first aid officer who has worked on many of Sydney's major dance events and clubs. He has seen G use and overuse increase over time.

In his experience, it is the younger crowd that is most in danger of overdosing on G. They are rebellious yet inexperienced drug takers, just on the club scene and ready to experiment.

Reed says he has seen more than a handful of G overdoses in the past six months, many of which needed an ambulance. Those that don't need hospitalisation are moved to a quiet area of the dance party or club, where they are closely monitored.

"Most illicit drugs people use in a dance party are very reactive to stimuli, to light and sound ... so when you reduce the stimuli, they are able to cope a lot better," Reed says. "G ... is a time-critical drug in its overdose phase, so people who are recognised and helped early have a better chance than those left alone. Anecdotally, you seem to get more problems in the lounge room of your mate's flat than in a club or at a party."

For many like Reed who deal first-hand with partygoers who overdose the myths surrounding G are as frustrating as they are dangerous. Many users believe they simply go into a "G-sleep".

"There is a big difference between being asleep and being unconscious," Reed warns. "Once you become unconscious you risk having problems with your breathing and your airways. But if you recognise it early in that chain of events and give them some help, the chances of the person having a really serious outcome are greatly minimised."

The problem is that when users ingest GHB several times in a night there appear to be ever-higher peaks, where the third dose is usually an overdose. And experts say it is unclear whether the drug causes any detrimental long-term side effects.

Earlier research from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre indicates repeat overdoses are all too common. Of those who had used G, 53 per cent had overdosed and a third had overdosed more than three times, Dillon says. A further 43 per cent had received medical attention after using the drug, while 28 per cent had been taken to hospital.

"You become so disinhibited you just don't remember simple rules you have made prior to taking the drug, like allowing at least two hours between doses," Dillon says. "People ... make rules, promise friends, promise partners, do all that sort of stuff. Then they are out and it all goes by the wayside."

A major danger with G is its liquid form, which makes monitoring the strength of the dose almost impossible.

"It is so variable in strength, and it doesn't matter how much you try and tell people this, they don't listen," Dillon says. "You could get one dose that is so powerful that it could knock you for six. You are not going to find that with an ecstasy tablet.

"It is my fear that we are going to start to see a whole pile of really young people messing around with this drug, and some [will die]."
 

twominds

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Do you think they classify 1-4Bd as GHB or is 1-4 being phased out and G is back on the scene?
 

Psychadelic_Paisly

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thinking the same thing.....how similar are the two chemical's, both organically & the effects they cause?

Would an uneducated user be able to tell the difference after a couple of goes??
 

BigTrancer

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^ Please search on this, there's lots of comparisons of 1,4B and GHB on the forums.

BigTrancer :)
 

Cowboy Mac

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Originally posted by Psychadelic_Paisly
thinking the same thing.....how similar are the two chemical's, both organically & the effects they cause?
Are you fishing for a phase_dancer reply? ;)

Would an uneducated user be able to tell the difference after a couple of goes??

GHB and 1,4b are a world apart in my opinion. 1,4b is a dirty gutter drug compared to GHB, but with the ease of obtaining 1,4b i don't think many get the chance to have real GHB. When you consider than 1,4b didn't really exist four years ago because GHB was legal, it is a shame that people have had opt for more dangerous analogues. It is a problem that isn't going to be solved easily, and is safer when used in correct dosages. If there were GHB pills available like there used to be with known doses in each pill there would be hardly any overdoses compared to what people put through themselves now.
 

syntech

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i think theyre referring to 1,4B in the article, cos they mention the "bitter taste"

and from my knowledge, actual GHB is incredibly hard to get hold of.

it'd be nice if the media could work out the difference. it would save a whole lot of hassle and a WHOLE lot of misinformation
 

dfi

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Overdoses and caused (a majority of the time) by people being uneducated or to gung-ho we need to get more people out at raves etc spreading info about G... out of all the G od's i have seen only one has been accidental (unknown strength).... if you treat it with the respect it deserves it will be quite safe....
i have used ALOT of g in my time but have only OD'd once when i didn't realise the strenght and had my normal sized charge, spread the information you know about this chem where you can and you may just save someonesz life.....

i plan on printing up a small flyer with info from erowid, BL etc for NYE about G and leaving it at the door of a particular NYE event because i dont want to see any more OD's when im out for a good time....
well thats my rant...
DfI;)
 

syntech

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^^
thats a good idea.
ppl dont realise the risk, and think that if u just have a little bit too much, u can ride it out, like with pills say. they dont see that u HAVE to play by the rules with the stuff
 

twominds

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Cowboy Mac said:
GHB and 1,4b are a world apart in my opinion. 1,4b is a dirty gutter drug compared to GHB, but with the ease of obtaining 1,4b i don't think many get the chance to have real GHB. When you consider than 1,4b didn't really exist four years ago because GHB was legal, it is a shame that people have had opt for more dangerous analogues. It is a problem that isn't going to be solved easily, and is safer when used in correct dosages. If there were GHB pills available like there used to be with known doses in each pill there would be hardly any overdoses compared to what people put through themselves now. [/B]
I agree 100%.
 

Cowboy Mac

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GHB is non toxic. 1,4b is not.

Originally posted by surrealthoughts
i am of the opinion *clean* 1,4b is equally as healthy as GHB.
as i have mentioned in this thread.

Short answer your wrong. Regardless of the chemical purity of 1,4b - 96%, 99%, 100%, they are different chemicals. GHB is metabolised into carbon dioxide and water, which is completely non toxic. It's not the impurities which account for the total toxicity, its the actual chemical, and when compared to GHB which is as non-toxic as water, it's quite alarming.

source: erowid

GHB induces "remarkable hypotonia" (muscle relaxation) [Vickers, 1969]. It is now gaining popularity in France and Italy as an aid to childbirth. GHB causes "spectacular action on the dilation of the cervix," decreased anxiety, greater intensity and frequency of uterine contractions, increased sensitivity to oxytocic drugs (used to induce contractions), preservation of reflexes, a lack of respiratory depression in the fetus, and protection against fetal cardiac anoxia (especially in cases where the umbilical cord wraps around the fetus' neck) [Vickers, 1969; Laborit, 1964]. GHB is completely metabolized into carbon dioxide and water, leaving absolutely no residue of toxic metabolites [Vickers, 1969; Laborit, 1972]. Metabolism is so efficient that GHB can no longer be detected in urine four to five hours after it is taken by injection [Laborit, 1964]. GHB activates a metabolic process known as the "pentose pathway" which plays an important role in the synthesis of protein within the body [Laborit, 1972]. It also causes a "protein sparing" effect [Laborit, 1964] which reduces the rate at which the body breaks down its own proteins. These properties, along with GHB's effect on growth hormone, underlie its common use as an aid to muscle-building and fat loss.


source: lycaeum

1,4-Butanediol Toxicity

Since GHB has become a scheduled drug and GBL a watched chemical, many people have turned to 1,4-butanediol as an alternative. The common assumption is that 1,4-butanediol is pharmacologically equivalent to GHB because it converts to GHB in the body. This is a dangerous and untrue assumption.

1,4-Butanediol is converted to GHB by the liver by the same enzymes which metabolize alcohol. The conversion is not instantaneous. When you drink 1,4-butanediol, it first goes through your digestive system unchanged, and is absorbed into the blood stream. It then circulates throughout your system, until it reaches your liver. In the liver, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase first converts 1,4-butanediol into the intermediate aldehyde gamma-hydroxybutyraldehyde. This aldehyde then circulates around the body until another liver enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase, oxidizes it into GHB. The process of conversion from 1,4-butanediol to GHB is not instantaneous, as is evidenced by the much longer lasting effects of 1,4-butanediol compared to GHB. People who have lower levels of the enzymes involved (such as Native Americans) will take even longer to convert the chemical. If alcohol is in the system at the same time as 1,4-butanediol, the enzymes will work on the alcohol first, leaving the 1,4-butanediol circulating in the system even longer (see "1,4-Butanediol and ethanol compete for degradation in rat brain and liver in vitro" by F. Poldrugo and O. C. Snead).

It is foolish to assume that 1,4-butanediol has no effects of its own on the body. One paper by F. Poldrugo and O. C. Snead ("1,4 Butanediol, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid and ethanol: relationships and interactions.") describes a study which shows that 1,4-butanediol has a depressant effect similar to alcohol's which is completely independant of its conversion to GHB. It also should be kept in mind that 1,4-butanediol is chemically very similar to the highly toxic ethylene glycol and propylene glycol - both of which are better known as anti-freeze.

There have been few studies on the safety of 1,4-butanediol. The one which is most often cited to show that it is safe is "TOX-54: NTP Summary Report on the Metabolism, Disposition and Toxicity of 1,4-Butanediol" produced by the US National Toxicology Program. It needs to be stressed that this study was done to determine the risks of exposure to it as an industrial chemical - factory workers spilling it on themselves, for example. It in no way was intended to study the safety of deliberately drinking it on a regular basis as a recreational drug. Various animal experiments have also been done to evaluate its safety as an industrial chemical, or as a trace preservative in things such as cosmetics. There have never been any studies done on long term use of the chemical as a drug, and the risks of such use are completely unknown. While GHB has been used by humans for decades, and has been studied as a drug, it is only in the past 3 or 4 years that 1,4-butanediol has been used by people as a drug.

That being said, there is a huge and growing body of anecdotal evidence that 1,4-butanediol is quite toxic when used long term in recreational doses, and that it has a very different pharmacological profile from GHB. I myself experimented with 1,4-butanediol for several months, and experienced some very frightening results. I originally wrote about my experiences with 1,4-butanediol in a post to the Lycaeum in October, 1999. Since that time, I have seen dozens of reports on the Internet and have heard stories from personal friends who have experienced similar strange reactions to this chemical. I present now a slightly edited version of my report on my experiences with 1,4-butanediol.

1,4-Butanediol (BDO) does metabolize into GHB, but the two do NOT have the same effects. BDO is a much "dirtier" high - alot of alcohol-like dizzyness, a tendency to nausea in higher doses, etc. I used BDO daily for close to a year, and eventually began to notice some long term effects which scared the piss out of me and ended up with me taking my 20 liter drum of BDO and dumping it down my bathtub drain. I am convinced that BDO has its own effects before it metabolizes into GHB, and I am convinced that it does not all metabolize... at least not immediately. I back this up by pointing out how much longer the BDO high lasts compared to GHB. The two drugs feel VERY different to me, and if I were given one or the other in a blind test I could easily distinguish the rather toxic feeling BDO effects from the clean euphoric feeling of GHB. Nausea, vomiting, spinning-room syndrome, etc are all very common with BDO... but pretty rare with GHB except in serious overdoses.

After using it for several months, I began to notice some of the following. Many other BDO users Ive spoken with noticed the same or similar effects, in some cases more severe even. In most cases, these side effects did not develop until after BDO had been used near daily for several months. In some cases, people experienced these effects after only a few weeks of occasional use. Other people report using it for many months without any unusual side effects.

First, there were some skin problems... red, puffy, often itchy skin, sometimes rashlike, most common on my face - this would happen alot. It seemed especially common when waking up in the morning after doing BDO the night before. Sometimes this red puffiness would not be limited to just my skin, but would appear on my eyes as well - often accompanied by jaundice. Oily secretions from the skin, as well as outbreaks of acne, were also common.

Another common effect would be cloudy urine - which is a sign of kidney distress, among other things. Again this would most often happen the morning after using BDO but would happen at random other times as well, fairly commonly.

I experienced stomach pains after use, as have several friends. After seeing how strong of a solvent BDO is (I spilled some down the bottle and it did a pretty good job destroying the label), I can only imagine what this stuff must do to your stomach lining.

Another unusual effect I observed was a sort of coldness in my fingertips, combined with a tendency to clench my fingers, as if I had arthritis.

More disturbing was the constant feeling of fatigue and general malaise that developed towards the end of my BDO use. I felt tired all the time, and didn't feel particularly healthy. This would vary in intensity, sometimes giving me nasty headaches, but the feelings of unhealthiness were near constant.

However the most disturbing effects, the ones which made me decide to throw out almost 20 liters of the poison, were the cardiovascular effects. I began to experience strange chest pains, erratic blood pressure (usually on the high side, leading to headaches like I mentioned), weird heartbeats... frankly it scared the fuck out of me when these effects began to develop. I was running average resting blood pressures between 150/85 and 160/95, and I was only 26 years old at the time. I know of several people who sought medical attention for cardiovascular problems which they believe were caused by using BDO.

At first as these symptoms began to develop, I wondered if they were due to the BDO or if they were weird side effects from quitting smoking a few months prior. Experimentally, I decided to switch to GHB. The red puffy skin effects vanished overnight, and within days the cloudy urine and cardiovascular symptoms all began disappearing, and my blood pressure began dropping back to my normal 125/75. Within 2 or 3 weeks, the unhealthy poisoned feeling lifted.

Another difference is tolerance... GHB produces very little tolerance. BDO, on the other hand, produces a very noticable and strong tolerance. This is probably because it is an alcohol which must be metabolized by the liver into GHB. That means you end up with enzyme induction, and therefore tolerance develops. Although GHB itself can be physically addictive and can produce strong withdrawal symptoms, reports of physical addiction seem much more common with BDO, and the withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe.

One other thing to add... I noticed this a few times on BDO but it has never happened on GHB. Sometimes, with high doses, I would be laying there falling asleep or even totally asleep, and all the sudden feel as if I'd stopped breathing, and would suddenly wake up in a panic state and take a bigloud breath, sort of like the way you breathe in after having been underwater holding your breath for a while. Kinda scary... I've heard a few people mention this happening to them with BDO too. After all, BDO is an alcohol with its own depressant effects that have nothing to do with it converting to GHB (there are studies backing this up on MedLine). GHB may not dangerously depress breathing with normal use, but BDO may have that potential. And besides... we all know how mixing depressants is dangerous. BDO is one that comes mixed - its an alcohol that metabolizes into GHB. In other words, BDO is something like taking your GHB in a shot of vodka.
 
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Dvah

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Excellent Cowboymac.
Anyone that has tried both GHB and 1,4 can only agree that the purity of 1,4 means little. In comparison to GHB, 1,4 literally feels like it is poisoning your body.
The difference is extremely noticeable.
I still find it highly amusing that body builders used to use GHB as part of their training, to promote muscle growth and fat metabolism.

:)
 

phase_dancer

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Well even if the scientific community is out on whether or not pure 1,4 Butanediol is any more toxic than GHB, reason says it likely is, simply as their are more metabolic processes involved. Many diols are toxic, although metabolism is often initially via oxidative routes used in alcohol metabolism.

Here are a couple of papers/ links on 1,4 toxicity, and an interesting discussion covering toxicity.

Adverse Events, Including Death, Associated with the Use of 1,4-Butanediol

SIDS Initial Assessment Report

"...1,4-Butanediol was studied for oral toxicity in rats..." \

Claims of 1,4 non-toxicity were often based upon this paper;

TOX-54

Here is an older paper on the developmental affects on mice from exposure to 1,4B

Developmental Toxicity of 1,4-Butanediol

A discussion

...Insight into Promusol
 

huxley

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Am I glad that I was first introduced to G by a great bunch of level-headed BL's when living in LA a few years ago - and not by the sort of crowd partying with it in clubs in sydney today!

Having consumed quite a lot over a 12 month period without any problems at all I think I can attribute it to:

a) always doing it in a 'home' environment with like-minded people - and if it was at a club then it would be a single dose *before* going in

b) understanding and respecting the drug - and always using a respected source with a known concentration

I'm sure the other BL g-whores know what I mean ;) It's not that hard to do it right - and even then the risks are high so why make it worse...

And I thought we put the blue dye in so people wouldn't acidentally think it was water...didn't know we were martketing gurus

hux.
 

Dvah

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Im the biggest G whore around!
Its my drug of choice, and it works so well in many other combinations.

Yes, I have made mistakes and misjudgements with it (never anything more than having a little sleep thankfully)
But, I learnt very quickly from these, and have now got my doses perfect and I can now fully enjoy my experiences with 1,4.
To many times I see ppl doing the same thing over and over again...they have to much 1,4, they pass out, they wake up, they have more 1,4.
It may take a little fine tuning, but I agree with you Huxley, it really isnt hard to get it right.
In my opinion, 1,4 is so much fun...but it demands respect.

:)
 

surrealthoughts

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yes nice links phase dancer i have read most of the them previously and as usual the evidence is inconclusive.

cowbow mac the quote from the lyceaum was from someone who purchased a industrial grade 44 gallon drum and drank it continously over many months. naturally i have many problems with such an 'experiment'.
the article also gives no reasons for toxicity other than a similar chemical structure to anti-freeze (which can have no bearing on toxicity.)

im quite aware ghb and 1,4b are different chemicals however as im sure your aware 1,4b breaks down in ghb...eventually.

"Well even if the scientific community is out on whether or not pure 1,4 Butanediol is any more toxic than GHB, reason says it likely is, simply as their are more metabolic processes involved. Many diols are toxic, although metabolism is often initially via oxidative routes used in alcohol metabolism."
fair enough, but not reason enough to declare my opinion to be simply wrong.
 

phase_dancer

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fair enough, but not reason enough to declare my opinion to be simply wrong.
Sorry if I sounded dismissive of your reasoning surrealthoughts, I didn't intend to be. I'm sure that industrial grade 1,4 would be substantially different and AR grade in terms of what it contains.

My reasoning lies simply with the range of enzymatic functions required to convert 1,4 to GHB. I'm not saying with any certainty that pure 1,4 is more dangerous than pure GHB, and it could even prove to be more protective, although I doubt it. Many published papers agree with your thoughts, although I'm yet to be totally convinced. I also agree it's somewhat unfair to compare 1,4B with ethylene glycol. Besides the extra 2 carbons in 1,4 Butanediol, ethylene glycol has it's 2 OH groups on adjacent carbons. The enzyme kinetics would therefore be expected to be very different for both compounds.
 
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