The rise of G – by David Stuart
Prevalence of drug use is around three times higher in the LGBT community than in society at large. This means certain drug trends affect our community more dramatically. Currently one of the preferred scene drugs is GHB/GBL (Gammahydroxybutyrate/Gammabutyrolactone), most often referred to as “G” or “Gina”.
Evidence suggests that GHB/GBL use is spreading beyond the gay community, with a number of ambulances having been called to straight nightclubs. It also appears to be commonly used by people working in the sex industry. The alarming levels of ignorance about the dangers of these drugs is leaving some people struggling to find care and manage their dependencies.
“G” is a liquid bought on-line that causes euphoria, disinhibition, and an alcohol-like sensual “high” when drunk in small measures, but without any hangover. It enhances dancing, increases confidence and is used to facilitate sex. It is also used in the wider community as a date-rape drug.
Unlike many of the other drugs that in recent years were called “legal highs”, “G” is dangerously addictive, and a physical dependence can quickly be formed, with users dosing every hour on average, just to avoid the very unpleasant and even dangerous withdrawals.
When taken occasionally as a prescribed sleep aid, GHB is a fairly mild, low toxicity chemical. Taken infrequently with carefully measured doses many people find GHB to be a pleasant alcohol replacement. Unfortunately because it’s often kept as a clear liquid and even in drinking-water bottles, accidental ingestions are somewhat common. Further, because it is difficult to know the concentration of the substance, accidental overdoses occur frequently.
Erowid, the comprehensive drug information website, strongly recommends that all liquid GHB be coloured with blue food colouring. This serves a dual purpose of reducing the chance that it will be mistaken for water and reduces the possibility that it can be added to a drink without someone’s knowledge.
Regular use of GHB or equivalents can cause marked physical addiction. With 4-6 uses per week (single dose per use) at ‘normal’ dosages, people report finding that they need to increase their dose somewhat to get the same level of intoxication and many also report that they often feel like they need a little GHB to feel normal.
With very heavy use (one or more doses per day), many people report very serious physical addiction. The cold turkey from stopping use results in anxiety, inability to sleep, feeling like the heart is arrhythmic (irregular), and often very unpleasant and potentially dangerous effects. Many heavy users report being able to taper off their use to zero by reducing their intake slowly over 2-3 weeks. Urgent medical interventions can be required to help an individual “detox” off the drug. Unlike heroin, users of GHB/GBL can die from these withdrawal symptoms.
Dependent users are not using the drug for fun in nightclubs any more, but simply because the body cannot function without regular doses. Yet despite these dangers, NHS drug services are often ill-equipped and ignorant of these dangers. If they are informed, they often do not have the funding or sufficient care pathways to treat people suffering from this addiction.
The Antidote service at London Friend is trying to promote awareness of GHB/GBL, as well as other drugs such as Crystal Methamphetamine which appear to be on the increase, by providing free training to NHS services and the health sector in general. Antidote is also able to provide referrals to appropriate and capable services that can help with GHB/GBL dependence.
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About the author: David Stuart is an experienced keyworker and and life coach who has worked extensively with the LGBT community. He specialises in recreational drug use, PIED's (performance and image enhancing drugs), sexual health, chaotic lifestyles and community engagement. He also works with London's street homeless crack and opiate users.
David is responsible for managing and developing London Friend’s education, training and outreach services, including the Antidote substance misuse service. David has been instrumental in promoting understanding and good practice in the field of LGBT substance use, and has developed unique interventions and new care pathways for the emerging trends of Methamphetamine and GHB/GBL use. He campaigns for equality and influences government policies on substance misuse and sexual health. He has worked with a wide client group that includes sex workers, street homeless and steroid/PIED users, but is most passionate about his LGBT client work.