GBL: Usage trends

Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 3:42 pm

According to NIDA, young people are freely experimenting with GBL despite the grave legal and health consequences, and GBL abuse has increased substantially in recent years. GBL and related drugs are popular on the club scene, especially with the college crowd, as an alternative to drinking alcohol, because they are relatively inexpensive compared with other drugs and because they have no calories.
Scope and severity
Since 1990, the DEA has documented more than 15,600 overdoses and law enforcement encounters related to GHB, as well as 72 deaths. As of 2000, the FDA has investigated 124 cases involving large-scale interstate manufacture and distribution of GHB. Law enforcement agencies have investigated 850 incidents involving GHB, including 150 home laboratories and 500 seized and analyzed drug supplies. As of December 1999, the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations had recorded 116 arrests, 55 convictions, and 38 indictments related to GBL.
The DEA has documented at least 15 sexual assault cases involving 30 victims under the influence of GHB. In a study of urine samples from victims of alleged sexual assault, 711 urine samples were positive for drugs, including 48 that tested positive for GHB. In response to a 1999 Glamour magazine survey, 19% of female college students questioned said they knew someone who was the victim of date-rape related to GHB.
More than half of GHB-related emergency room visits are for unexpected reaction and overdose following recreational use. The U.S. government’s Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reported an alarming rise in GHB-related emergency room visits, from 20 in 1992, 55 in 1994, 764 in 1997, 2,973 in 1999, to 4,969 in 2000.
However, this is probably a gross underestimate of the actual scope of the problem. Laboratories often fail to detect or identify GHB because it leaves the body in about 12 hours, and many doctors who are unfamiliar with this relatively new drug of abuse fail to recognize the signs and symptoms of GBL-related poisoning. A Los Angeles Police Department agent cited his personal knowledge of more than 200 deaths, 300 addicts, hundreds of rape victims, and thousands of overdoses, all related to GHB and related products.
In 1999, GHB accounted for 32 percent of calls to Boston poison centers involving illegal drugs. In Chicago and San Francisco, GHB use is lower than that of the club drug MDMA (ecstasy), but GHB accounts for a disproportionately large share of club drug overdoses.
From October 1998 through January 1999, poison control centers identified 34 emergency room visits in New Mexico and Texas following the use of products containing GBL, including Firewater, Blue Nitro Vitality, RenewTrient, Revivarant, and Revivarant-G. Symptoms requiring urgent care included cardiac arrest, respiratory depression, coma or decreased level of consciousness, dangerously slow or rapid heart rhythm, fainting, seizures, confusion, combative behavior, memory loss, anxiety and nervousness, nausea and vomiting, tremors and twitching, and inappropriately elevated mood. In 13 patients, symptoms were severe enough to warrant hospitalization.
From January 1999 to August 2000, the FDA received 48 reports of acute BD intoxication, including loss of consciousness, dangerously low respiratory rates, vomiting, and slowed heartbeat. In a series of nine toxic reactions to BD reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in early 2001, the effects of BD were similar to those of GBL and GHB, and included addiction, withdrawal, and death.
Age, ethnic, and gender trends
GHB and related products are popular with high school and college students. More than 60% of GHB abusers are between the ages of 18 and 25 years. Of the 72 individuals known to have died from GHB since 1995, 40% were between the ages of 15 and 24 years, and 27% were between the ages of 25 and 29 years. According to DAWN statistics, 60% of GHB-related emergency room visits are in patients age 25 and under.
In a 2001 study of 295 gay and bisexual men, 29% reported using GBL or GHB during their most recent circuit party weekend.

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