The GHB FAQ:
Yes, It's Illegal

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This is a bare-bones GHB FAQ, briefly explaining the nature of the drug and its associated health risks and legal risks. If you would like to learn more about GHB's chemistry and effects, please see my original GHB FAQ.

    0. Don't mix GHB with alcohol!
    1. What is GHB?
      1.1 Is GHB liquid ecstasy?
      1.2 Is GHB addictive?
      1.3 Is GHB deadly and unpredictable?
    2. Is GHB legal in the U.S.?
      2.1 What does this law mean?
        2.1.1 Isn't that technically only for distribution?
      2.2 How much do I need to have to trigger punishment?
        2.2.1 But isn't GHB an endogenous regulator of energy metabolism?
      2.3 What does Schedule I mean?
        2.3.1 How can that be?
      2.4 What about GBL?
        2.4.1 But is possession of GBL illegal?
      2.5 What about Renewtrient and other GHB substitutes?
      2.6 What else does the law say?
      2.7 Why all the focus on date rape?
        2.7.1 Who's Hillory Farias?
        2.7.2 Who's Samantha Reid?
      2.8 What about individual states?
      2.9 What about other countries?
    3. Will you sell me some GHB?
      3.1 Okay, then where can I get GHB?
      3.2 I don't care; I want some GHB!
      3.3 Not all of us live in the United States, you know.
        3.3.1 Oh, and don't you think people will use this link to break the law?
    4. I have some GHB. How should I use it?
      4.1 What is a safe dose?
      4.2 Is there anything I should avoid taking with GHB?
      4.3 Other safety tips?
    5. Why should I believe you?
    6. Where can I learn more?


0. The most important thing about GHB

I absolutely do not advocate the use of GHB. But I want those who choose to take it to be as safe as possible, so I'm putting this at the beginning:
Do not mix GHB with alcohol!
Doing so makes respiratory arrest and death a serious possibility. With GHB, even small amounts of alcohol can be very dangerous.

1. What is GHB?

Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (scoop, liquid X, GBH) is a sedative drug. It induces sleep, or in smaller quantities has effects similar to those of alcohol. However, it is reported to be less disorienting than alcohol, have fewer negative side effects than standard tranquilizers, and produces no hangover. For more information, see the general FAQ.
GHB is also reported to be useful in treating alcoholism and narcolepsy.

1.1 Is GHB liquid ecstasy?

Absolutely not. GHB is sometimes called "liquid ecstasy," but MDMA (X, E, ecstasy) is a completely different chemical. While both drugs may produce euphoria and enhanced sense of touch, MDMA is a stimulant related to amphetamine, while GHB is a depressant. Both are considered designer drugs, despite having decades-long histories of therapeutic and research use prior to gaining recreational popularity. Both are also considered "club drugs" by the government and the media, and do see a good deal of use in the dance scene. For more information on MDMA's effects, its appearance and use, and its potential dangers, see the excellent harm-reduction site Dancesafe.

1.2 Is GHB addictive?

It is almost impossible to establish an addiction to GHB. Unfortunately, this has in the past led some advocates to make exaggerated claims that GHB is "100% non-addictive" and "safer than water." It is now recognized that GHB addiction can develop. However, it requires near-constant use for several days, possibly up to two weeks. After addiction is established, ceasing use can bring about tremors, insomnia, nervousnes, and nausea. Fortunately, unlike other drugs, GHB addiction is not actually physically dangerous, and people who manage to weather the difficult withdrawal invariably recover safely.

1.3 Is GHB unpredictable and dangerous?

Here I have my greatest disagreement with most popular news sources. I have read through the medical research on GHB extensively, and I cannot believe that it is unpredictable and deadly, as they frequently say. GHB's long history of medical and research use can only suggest that the bad reactions seen in modern recreational users are the result of imprecise dosage or contaminated products. While it is important to avoid these hazards, I steadfastly deny the proposition that pure, measured quantities of GHB, used cautiously, pose any special danger.

2. Is GHB legal in the United States?

GHB is absolutely illegal in the United States. In February 2000, president Clinton signed HR 2130 into law. Also known as the"Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Drug Prohibition Act of 2000," this law designates GHB as a schedule I controlled substance.

2.1 What does this law mean?

Possession of GHB is a crime which can be punished by up to 20 years in prison on the first offense. It is a federal felony, meaning the offender is likely to serve most of hir sentence, and upon release will lose a variety of rights such as voting and gun ownership.

2.1.1 Isn't that technically only for distribution?

The controlled substances act sets the above penalty for people who "manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance." Since the standard method of getting GHB is to mix gamma-butyrolactone with sodium hydroxide, your goose is already cooked under the first clause. But more generally, the concept of "intent" covers a huge amount of legal ground. If you have more than a few doses, federal prosecutors can easily make a case that you intended to sell the drug.
Simple possession is also a felony, punishable by up to 1 year in jail or a $1000 fine.

1.2 How much do I need to have to trigger punishment?

There is no minimum quantity.

2.2.1 But isn't GHB an endogenous regulator of energy metabolism?

Yep. Your brain is now illegal. The law does not distinguish between the micrograms present in all mammalian tissue and the grams needed to produce a drug response.

2.3 What does Schedule I mean?

Drugs listed on schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act must have no accepted medical use in the U.S., high potential for abuse, and be unsafe even when used under a physician's care. Drugs currently on schedule I include LSD, marijuana (though not pure THC), and heroin. Schedule I drugs may not be sold, prescribed, or possessed, except under strictly regulated circumstances for research purposes.

2.3.1 How can that be?

You're probably thinking of the promising studies of GHB as a treatment for narcolepsy. HR 2130 contains a provision treating GHB as a schedule III drug (substantially less dangerous) when used in FDA-approved trials. For more information, see the Orphan Medical press release.

2.4 What about GBL?

Gamma-butyrolactone, or GBL, is a chemical that is used in the production of GHB. It can also be taken orally to produce many of the same effects. Currently it is a "list I" watched chemical, meaning that anyone who produces or distributes it must submit records of all transactions to the federal government.

2.4.1 But is possession of GBL illegal?

GBL is not illegal per se, but the law makes it trivial for the DEA to investigate anyone who's ever ordered GBL and determine if they might now possess GHB. Even if they don't, owning GBL can easily be construed as intent to produce GHB, a crime fully as serious as possession. Unless you have a longstanding electronics manufacturing or pool cleaning business, ordering GBL may be just as dangerous as ordering GHB.

2.5 What about Renewtrient and other GHB substitutes?

These products are typically highly diluted GBL. I am uncertain as to whether retailers are required to report purchasers to the government. Since it would be much more difficult to use this form of GBL in synthesis, possession is less likely to be equated with intent to produce. However, possession can still lead to punishment if the owner is judged to have obtained it for the purpose of committing sexual assault.

2.6 What else does the law say?

In addition to placing GHB on schedule I and making GBL a watched checmial, the law establishes funding for date rape prevention and education programs, requires the department of Health and Human Services to prepare an annual report on drug-assisted date rape, and requires the DEA to establish a special unit for policing GHB, flunitrazepam (Rohypnol™), ketamine, and other drugs associated with date rape.

2.7 Why all the focus on date rape?

GHB is widely believed to be used primarily for drugging women for purposes of sexual assault.

2.7.1 Who's Hillory Farias?

Hillory Farias died in 1996 due to a congenital heart defect. For a brief time, she was believed to have been drugged with GHB, and some of her family became part of the anti-GHB crusade. For more information on the case, please see the complete FAQ entry.

2.7.2 Who's Samantha Reid?

Samantha Reid is a teenager who died in 1999 after consuming a soft drink that had been adulterated with GHB. I have not found any details on her medical status or other drugs that may have shown up in tests, so I cannot say whether her death was due to mixing GHB with alcohol, to taking a huge quantity, equivalent to dozens of normal doses, or to some other cause. While her death is a severe indictment of the foul creatures who drug others without their consent, I cannot see it as an indictment of GHB itself. Thousands of administrations in controlled human studies have never borne out the dire warnings of uncontrollability and unpredictability that are published by GHB's detractors.
There is a theoretical possibility that GHB can be deadly in extremely large quantities, but so are Aspirin, Tylenol™, and even vitamin pills. Aside from pushing for anti-GHB laws, Samantha's family has campaigned to educate partygoers to take steps to ensure they aren't drugged. I've no quarrel with that. Watch your drink.

2.8 What about individual states?

Most U.S. states now have their own laws against GHB. Some regulate it like mildly-restricted pharmaceuticals such as methylphenidate (Ritalin™); others have penalties just as severe as the federal ones. Drug offenses in general are more likely to be prosecuted under state than federal law, but it could always go either way.

2.9 What about other countries?

Several other countries, including Australia, Canada, and Sweden, have their own laws against GHB. However, I am not familiar with their codes and cannot provide a comprehensive list of countries or punishments. You'll have to do your own research. I am sorry.

3. Will you sell me some GHB?

I have never been involved in the production or sale of any chemical. I do not own or sell GHB.

3.1 Okay, then where can I get GHB?

Please read section 1 above. Tracing mail is dead simple, and with the current hysteria you could easily be throwing away a decade or more of your life. I do not believe that GHB is inherently dangerous, but the government has certainly made it so. I strongly advise against attempting to obtain or produce GHB.

3.2 I don't care; I want some GHB!

Sigh. There are companies out there that sell chemicals which can be used to make GHB. I'm not going to tell you what they are. If you can't be bothered to do a little research, you're probably not competent to make such a risky decision.

3.3 Not all of us live in the United States, you know.

Once you've established that GHB is legal in your country, you can order it from any number of places. The best recommendation I can make is Biogenesis Labs. I'm not affiliated with them. I don't know them. What information I have is very old. You're much better off doing your own research.
But there's a decent chance that they're okay.

3.3.1 Oh, and don't you think people will use this link to break the law?

I don't have to. Biogenesis is forbidden by the South African government to ship to any U.S. address.

4. I have some GHB. How should I use it?

Please see the original FAQ.

4.1 What is a safe dose?

GHB in liquid form can have a wide variety of concentrations, so the standard unit of "capfuls" is entirely useless. The only way to be safe is to use a single batch of known concentration, start with a small dose, and work up slowly over several distinct occasions. For more information, see the original FAQ.

4.2 Is there anything I should avoid taking with GHB?

Don't drink alcohol!
GHB makes alcohol very dangerous. The majority of GHB deaths seem to have resulted from mixing the two drugs.
Valium™ (diazepam) and other benzodiazepenes, Benadryl™ (diphenhydramine) and other antihistamines, and any other drug that induces drowsiness may also interact strongly with GHB.

4.3 Other safety tips?

Don't take a high dose, or one from an unknown batch, alone.
Don't go out in public if there's any chance you're going to fall asleep or pass out. That means staying at home unless you're highly experienced and on what you know is a reasonable dose.
Keep any liquid GHB clearly labeled. There have been a number of cases of people taking GHB or other drugs because they looked like water or fruit juice.
Yes, giving someone else GHB without their consent and knowledge is evil. No, there's absolutely no excuse.

5. Why should I believe you?

Please look at my bibliography. I've reviewed over 150 scientific articles, and while I don't imagine that I know everything about GHB, the complete lack of deaths, overdoses, and negative reactions has to say something.
But no, I have no degree or personal experience with the research. I'm not a doctor or a counselor. Please don't take anything I have to say as medical advice.

6. Where can I learn more?

This is a brief document dealing with the real frequently asked questions about GHB. If you'd like to learn more, I invite you to read the complete FAQ, which goes into considerable detail and has extensive links to the bibliography, substantiating each of its claims with published research. It's a bit long-winded and sometimes out of date, so you may also wish to read the 1999 "crisis center" updates.

© 2000, Michael Cohn - enkidu@mail.utexas.edu