Party drug GHB linked to 20 deaths last year
October 21 2015 10:59 PM

A man walks his dog in the graveyard of St Margaret’s Church in Barking, east London, yesterday. A man charged with poisoning and murdering four young men whose bodies were dumped near a churchyard, was remanded in custody after appearing in court in London yesterday.

Guardian News and Media/London

Twenty people died from taking the psychoactive drug GHB in England and Wales last year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. The death toll equals the previous 2011 and 2008 peaks for fatalities involving the party drug.
Users of the Class C drug, known colloquially as G or Gina, have been warned by the HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, that “overdosing is easy to do and comes on with little warning. The list of party goers killed by G is growing”.
Stephen Port, 40, was this week accused of using GHB , or gammahydroxybutrate, to fatally poison four men he met on a gay social networking site. He has been charged with four counts of murder and poisoning.
The Home Office describes GHB as a naturally occurring substance found in the human central nervous system which is used as a sedative and anaesthetic. It is used as a treatment for narcolepsy and for conditions such as insomnia, clinical depression and alcoholism. The government’s advisory council on the misuse of drugs states: “Low doses are associated with euphoria, suggestibility, passivity and amnesia”.
Legal until 2003, it is a key part of the gay subculture in which men take drugs, including crystal methamphetamine and mephedrone, to reduce inhibitions.
But GHB can be fatal if party-goers get the dose wrong, experts have warned. Only tiny amounts of the clear salty liquid or powder are needed to get a user high. The effects are described as similar to alcohol.
On its public information website the Terrance Higgins Trust reports that “a dose of G can make you feel chilled out or mildly high. Too much G leaves you dizzy, drowsy or vomiting - which could cause death from choking if G has knocked you out. The worst case scenarios with G are seizures, coma and death.”
It has a reputation as a date rape drug. A total of 159 deaths have been related to GHB since 1999, most of which came since 2008. It is particularly dangerous when taken with alcohol.
The drug often contains industrial solvent and paint stripper-type chemicals. Doses are delivered with a pipette and take around 30 minutes to reach peak effect. The difference between a high and an overdose can sometimes be as little as a millilitre, according to drug advisers. The government warns that “harmful effects include coma, low heart rate and hypothermia”.
Release, the drugs charity, stressed that GHB is a depressant, even though it can induce euphoria.
“A small dose will accentuate the user’s mood, making a happy user feel relaxed and uninhibited and making a depressed user feel more down,” says the charity’s website. “With larger doses there is a risk of unpleasant side effects such as feeling and being sick, suffering from numb muscles and disorientation.”

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