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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
March 13, 2000

Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB, liquid X, Goop, Georgia Home Boy)


In recent years the abuse of GHB has increased substantially. Since 1990, DEA has documented over 7,100 overdoses and law enforcement encounters* in 45 states with GHB. DEA has documented 65 GHB -related deaths. Poison Control Databases show that there were over 600 GHB cases in 1996 and over 900 cases in 1997. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) listed 20 emergency room episodes in 1992; since that time the number of episodes has steadily climbed: 1993 - 38; 1994 - 55; 1995 - 150; 1996 - 696; 1997 - 764; 1998 - 1343. Over 60% of the abusers were between the ages of 18 and 25 yrs. Of the 63 documented deaths attributed to GHB since 1995, 40% were between the ages of 15 and 24 yrs. and an additional 29% were between the ages of 25 and 29 yrs.

Licit Uses

Currently, there is no licit use for GHB. GHB is a CNS depressant that is not approved for medical use in the United States. GHB is abused to produce euphoric and hallucinogenic states, and for its alleged role as a growth hormone releasing agent to stimulate muscles. GHB can produce drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances, unconsciousness, seizures, severe respiratory depression and coma. Overdose usually requires emergency medical treatment, including intensive care for respiratory depression and coma. Originally marketed in health food stores, the FDA issued an advisory declaring GHB unsafe and illicit, except under FDA-approved physician-supervised protocols in 1990. In 1997, FDA reissued its warning on GHB as an unapproved and potentially dangerous, illegal drug in the United States.


The sodium salt of gamma-hydroxybutyrate is known as sodium oxybate and has a number of other chemical names. Gamma-butyrolactone (GBQ is an industrial solvent which can be purchased from chemical distributors and is used in the clandestine manufacture of GHB. GH13 is produced in clandestine laboratories using a relatively simple synthesis with readily available and inexpensive starting materials. Once manufactured, GHB is a clear liquid. Confiscated samples have been found in "spring water" bottles or disguised as mouth-wash.

Illicit Uses

GHB induces a sense of euphoria and intoxication. It is sometimes mixed with alcohol to intensify its effects resulting in respiratory depression and coma. The typical dose is one-five grams of powder (depending on the purity of the compound this can be one-two teaspoons mixed in a beverage). GHB has been sold already mixed in liquid and dispensed by the water-bottle cap to the user. The saturation and concentrations of these "home-brews" have varied so that the user is not usually aware of the actual dose they are drinking. The onset of effects occurs within 15-30 minutes, and lasts three-six hours.

User Population

GHB is popular with high school and college students. GHB is found at "rave" parties and upscale "smart-drink" nightclubs. Body-builders also abuse GHB for its purported anabolic effects. GHB has been used to assist in the commission of sexual assaults. DEA has documented 15 sexual assault cases involving 30 victims under the influence of GHB. Urinalyses were conducted on samples submitted from victims of alleged sexual assault; of the 711 drug-positive urines 48 tested positive for GHB.

Illicit Distribution

At bars or "rave" parties GHB is sold for $10 per capful or "swig". The most typical route of administration is oral consumption. Major source to the street is through clandestine synthesis. The product has been disguised by adding food coloring, flavorings, and/or storing it in unsuspecting bottles. The DEA has received reports that GBL, the solvent precursor for GHB, is being abused due to its rapid conversion to GHB soon after ingestion. GBL is more biologically available than GHB. In January 1999 the FDA issued a request for a voluntary recall of all GBL-containing products sold in health food stores and warned the public of its abuse potential and danger to the public health. 1,4-butanediol , a chemical related to both GHB and GBL has also been declared a Class I Health Hazard. In 1999 the FDA issued another warning on 1,4-butanediol, GHB, and GBL stating that these pose a significant health hazard. To date, FDA investigators have investigated 124 cases involving large scale inter-state manufacture and distribution of GHB. Law enforcement agencies have encountered GHB on 850 occasions, including 150 clandestine laboratories, and 500 seized and analyzed laboratory exhibits.

Control Status

The "Hillary Farias and Samantha Reed Date-Rape Prohibition Act of 1999" (Public Law 106-172) was signed on February 18, 2000. On that date, GBL became a List I chemical, subject to the criminal, civil and administrative sanctions of the Controlled Substances Act. On March 13, 2000, GHB was made a Schedule I controlled substance (65 FR 13235-13238). Therefore, effective on that date, GHB became subject to the regulatory controls and the criminal, civil and administrative sanctions of the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I controlled substance.

Comments and additional information are welcomed by the Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section, FAX 202-307-8570 or telephone 202-307-7183.

*(including federal, state and local cases of possession, trafficking, clandestine manufacturing, forensic analyses)

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