CLUBS EMPLOY MEDICS TO FIGHT NEW DRUG CRAZE
An Industrial Solvent Known As GBL Is Taking Over From Now-Illegal
GHB, but the Risk of Overdose Is Enormous
A new drug craze sweeping Britain's nightclubs is proving so dangerous
that paramedics are being hired to staff recovery rooms at major venues.
The drug - known as GBL - is being blamed for an increase in the
numbers of clubbers collapsing into a comatose state on the dance
floor. The drug, more commonly used as a cleaning fluid or industrial
solvent to produce plastics and pesticides, is currently legal despite
calls to ban it. It is increasingly replacing the better-known GHB as
the drug of choice for clubbers - not least because GHB was made
illegal last year and given a class C drug rating, putting it on a par
with cannabis and amphetamines.
Like GHB, the drug brings on a state of euphoria. But it is now clear
it is easy to overdose on the drug.
One company, which provides paramedic backup to six leading clubs in
London, has told The Independent on Sunday the situation is now so
worrying it is investing in cardiac defibrillators, which stimulate
and monitor heart beats. Adam Cooper, who co-owns Knightlife Medical
Services, said nine clubbers collapsed in the six venues his company
attended last weekend. He said: "I have never sent anyone to hospital
who has taken ecstasy, cocaine or amphetamines. The only people I have
ever sent to hospital have been users of GHB and GBL or who mixed
alcohol with those drugs."
GBL is effectively a stronger, more concentrated version of the
body-building substance GHB, also known as Liquid X - a "date rape"
drug that was outlawed last year by the Home Office. Possession
carries a maximum sentence of two years, while possession of GBL is
"We keep the classification of all drugs under constant review. GBL is
very new and it is one of many we are looking at," a Home Office
The use of GBL is also causing concern in the gay community. The Gay
Times has warned of the dangers of GBL and is campaigning to keep it
and GHB out of clubs. According to the paper, one well-known gay event
called Trade was barred from its normal London venue, Turnmills,
earlier this year owing to the increasing incidence of GBL and GHB
abuse. "If you have two or three ambulances coming to your venue every
night you don't get your licence when it comes up for renewal," said
Liam O'Hare, a manager of a central Londo
n club, The End, and a
leading figure in the clubbing circuit's campaign to combat drugs.
"John" almost died after overdosing on GBL. He stopped breathing and
his heart rate slowed to 40 beats per minute after taking just one
millilitre too much.
John, aged 23, said: "I tried GBL two or three times, but the last
time I ended up in hospital. My breathing was slowing and my wife
called an ambulance. I was taken to hospital because my heart rate was
down to 40 beats per minute [about half the normal resting rate].
"I felt very rough the next day and haven't touched it since. The
overdose potential with GBL is monstrous. The dosage curve is
exceedingly steep. One millilitre is generally all you need, but
one-and-a-half millilitres or two and you pass out."
He bought the chemical - UKP50 for one litre - from a chemical supplier.
It's freely available and legal to do so.
"If it's used in a club it comes diluted in a bottle of water," he
said, "You shake it and drink it from a shot glass. It's cheap and
it's legal and the effects are like being drunk."
John turned to GBL after its derivative GHB was made illegal last
year. Friends told him GBL was a legal alternative.
He used to buy GHB in powder form from a chemist in South Africa over
the internet. He would dissolve it in water and take it at home to
help with his insomnia. He described the drug as a "relaxant" that
releases dopamine in the brain. Because it is also naturally produced
by the body it is very "gentle", he says, with no adverse
He said: "The effect of GHB is a bit like a cross between alcohol and
cannabis. It relaxes you and relieves stress.
"As it sedates you it is not an ideal club drug. Some people do it in
clubs though, because it's like a long, better drunkenness.
"I did enjoy it. There was no hangover. It dissolves in the body into
carbon dioxide and water, so it is not toxic.
"The difference between GBL and GHB is like the difference between
hooch and malt whisky. GBL is a lot rougher."
COMA IN A BOTTLE
GBL - gamma butyrolactone - is a colourless, odourless, virtually
tasteless liquid. Once ingested, it causes a euphoric, hallucinogenic
state as well as drowsiness. When mixed with alcohol or taken in too
large a dose its depressant effect is enhanced. This can lead to
respiratory problems, unconsciousness, even coma. GBL can become
addictive with sustained use. It has been singled out by the US
National Drug Intelligence Centre as a contributor to car accidents,
sexual assaults and deaths. GBL is available legally as an industrial
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