January 3rd, 2024
GBL is a chemical compound in various household items, ranging from cleaning agents to nail polish removers. Despite its widespread presence in everyday products, many people are unaware of GBL’s potential for misuse and addiction. GBL, when ingested, is converted into GHB in the body, a substance known for its sedative and euphoric effects and, sadly, also for its use in so-called “date rape” sexual assaults. It is important to understand that GBL addiction can develop quickly and can lead to severe physical and psychological consequences and potentially even death.
What is GBL?
GBL is a chemical solvent that can be used as a highly effective cleaning agent, paint stripper and in the production of polyurethane. Because of these qualities, GBL is a commonly used chemical in a number of industrial and household products.
Beyond its industrial uses, however, GBL has also gained notoriety for its abuse potential, especially within the club and party scenes. In the body, GBL is rapidly converted into GHB, which induces a range of effects from relaxation and euphoria to sedation. However, GBL can cause loss of motor skills, consciousness and the onset of amnesia which is why it is sometimes used for date rapes and other chemical-related crimes.
While both GBL and GHB are Class B substances in the UK, GBL is legal in industrial products and so widely used that it is difficult to control or regulate. This makes GBL easily available for both recreational use and for “spiking” people’s drinks for nefarious reasons.
GBL is known for its rapid onset of effects, typically within 15-20 minutes of ingestion.
Street names for GBL include ‘Liquid Ecstasy,’ ‘Blue Nitro,’ and ‘Firewater.’
Possession, distribution and production of GBL are all punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
GBL is often used as an alternative to GHB due to its similar effects and easier availability.
What is GBL addiction?
GBL addiction is when you feel a compulsive urge to use GBL despite negative impacts on health, relationships and social obligations. The GBL addiction cycle typically begins with recreational use, but it can also come as the result of being spiked or using GBL for self-medication.
If you begin to take GBL regularly, you will find that your body develops tolerance, requiring increasingly larger doses to achieve the same effects. This leads to physical dependence, where your body relies on the presence of GBL to function normally.
Once you are dependent, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop, such as insomnia, tremors, anxiety and hallucinations.
How do I know if I’m addicted to GBL?
Identifying GBL addiction can be challenging, both in yourself and in a friend or family member. If you suspect you or someone you know might be struggling, here are some common GBL addiction symptoms to look out for:
Using GBL more frequently or in larger amounts than intended
Attempting to cut down or stop using GBL without success
Spending a lot of time and energy acquiring, using or recovering from GBL
Experiencing strong GBL cravings or withdrawal symptoms
GBL use interfering with responsibilities at work, school or home
Engaging in risky behaviours, like driving, while under the influence of GBL
Continuing to use GBL despite knowing it’s causing these problems in your life
If you notice any of these GBP addiction symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it may be time to consider treatment for drug addiction.
What can lead to GBL addiction?
Several factors can increase the risk of developing an addiction to GBL. These include but are not limited to:
- Peer influence and social circles: Being in social groups or environments where GBL use is common can significantly increase the likelihood of trying and regularly using the drug.
- Mental health conditions: People battling mental health issues may use GBL as a form of self-medication to alleviate symptoms, inadvertently leading to GBL addiction. Unfortunately, while GBL may temporarily provide relief, addiction will most likely exacerbate the symptoms, creating a vicious cycle.
- Stressful life events: People undergoing high levels of stress or traumatic events may turn to GBL for its calming effects, potentially starting a cycle of abuse and addiction.
- Curiosity and risk-taking behaviour: A natural inclination towards experimentation and risk-taking can lead individuals to try GBL, particularly among younger populations seeking new experiences.
- History of substance abuse: A personal or familial history of drug or alcohol abuse can predispose individuals to GBL addiction, as patterns of substance misuse are often learned or genetically influenced.
What are the effects of GBL addiction and abuse?
The consequences of GBL addiction and abuse are far-reaching, impacting not just your health but also your social and professional life:
Physical health issues
- Organ damage: Prolonged use of GBL can cause significant harm to vital organs. The liver, responsible for metabolising food and the kidneys, crucial in filtering waste, can both suffer damage, impairing their function.
- Neurological effects: GBL can lead to neurological issues, including seizures, particularly during withdrawal or overdose.
- Respiratory depression: One of the most acute dangers of GBL use is respiratory depression, where breathing becomes dangerously slow and shallow, potentially leading to respiratory failure and death in cases of overdose.
- Gastrointestinal problems: Chronic use may cause gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
- Hormonal imbalances: GBL can disrupt hormonal systems, leading to issues such as menstrual irregularities in women or decreased libido in men.
Mental health deterioration
- Exacerbation of existing conditions: Individuals with pre-existing mental health issues may find their conditions worsened by GBL abuse.
- Development of new disorders: Chronic GBL use can trigger new psychiatric conditions, including psychosis, severe anxiety and mood disorders.
- Emotional volatility: Users often experience heightened emotional instability, including sudden mood swings and increased irritability.
- Memory loss: GBL can impair short-term and long-term memory, affecting everyday functioning and leaving victims of spiking vulnerable.
- Concentration and focus: Prolonged abuse can lead to difficulties with concentration and focus, making it hard to perform tasks that require sustained mental effort.
- Impaired decision-making: Users may display poor judgement and decision-making skills, increasing the chances of engaging in risky behaviours or being manipulated.
Social and personal challenges
- Conflicts with loved ones: Relationships may suffer due to behavioural changes, social withdrawal and priorities shifting towards drug use.
- Occupational and academic setbacks: GBL addiction often leads to absenteeism, decreased productivity and motivation at work or school and failure in exams or job duties.
- Legal and financial problems: Possession and use of GBL can lead to legal consequences, including arrest and criminal charges.
- Financial strain: The cost of maintaining a GBL addiction can lead to financial problems and related crime.
How to spot and deal with GBL overdose
It is very easy to overdose on GBL because it has a very narrow therapeutic index. This means the difference between a recreational dose and an overdose is very small. Recognising and appropriately responding to a GBL overdose is crucial, as it can be a life-threatening situation.
Signs of GBL overdose:
Loss of consciousness or unresponsiveness
Severely slowed or irregular breathing
Confusion and disorientation
Abnormally slow or rapid heart rate
Bluish lips or fingertips
If you spot any of these signs, call emergency services immediately and explain your worries. Stay with the person until help arrives, monitoring their breathing and consciousness. If they have passed out, put them on their side to prevent them from choking.
How is GBL addiction treated?
At UKAT, treatment for GBL addiction typically involves a three-pronged approach:
Drug detox: This is when you stop taking GBL and allow your body to purge and heal. Medically supervised detox is essential for GBL as withdrawal can be extremely dangerous.
Drug rehab: Our inpatient GBL rehab programmes offer therapy, counselling and holistic treatment strategies to address the root causes of addiction and develop coping strategies.
Aftercare: Once rehab is complete, we offer ongoing support through weekly group therapy for a whole year, free of charge. This is crucial to prevent relapse and maintain long-term sobriety.
Break free from GBL addiction today
Overcoming GBL addiction is challenging but achievable with the right support and treatment. UKAT provides comprehensive care, offering a path to recovery and a chance for a healthier, substance-free life. If you or someone you know is struggling with GBL addiction, contact UKAT today and start the journey towards a brighter future.
Is GBL used medically?
GBL is not used medically as it is primarily an industrial chemical used in products like paint strippers and cleaning agents. However, GBL converts into GHB in the body, which does have limited medical uses, such as treating narcolepsy.
Are GBL and GHB the same?
GBL and GHB are related but distinct substances. GBL serves as a precursor to GHB, undergoing metabolism in the body. This relationship is comparable to the heroin
: morphine dynamic.