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GHB: What You Need to Know About 'Liquid Ecstasy'

It seems like every time we go out, there's a new drug of choice. This time we look into GHB, it's effects and how to avoid potentially disastrous situations.

In true Egyptian fashion, after writing a couple of drug-awareness articles, my libertine educated westernised friends seem to have reverted back to their Middle Eastern, guarded-society roots by judging what should and shouldn't be in the media and on CairoScene. From fearing that their mothers would find out about their new past times, to the concern that their scoring spots will now have police check points (because obviously here at CS we're the police squad's favourite reference for upcoming war on drugs strategies), to the ever so random "oh, he just shouldn't have exposed this drug," like they're married to the chemical composition that makes up Ketamine. So when prompted to write another article, I was a little concerned; no one wants to get shunned at parties, when they're at their most vulnerable but given the fact that I don't write for my friends and that the circle of CS readers extend past that, here's another article shedding light on another one of Cairo's latest drug trends.

So what is GHB? Gamma hydroxybutyrate is often called "liquid ecstasy" because like ecstasy, it inspires a tendency to be touchy-feely and relaxed. However, its overall impact is more sedative than ecstasy, as GHB is a powerful relaxant and sleep-inducer, whereas ecstasy is an activity-inducing amphetamine. In fact, ecstasy is sometimes taken with GHB to counteract GHB's mellowing qualities. GHB and metabolites do occur in very small quantities naturally in the human body and some very limited use of the substance has been approved in the U.S. to treat narcolepsy, synthesised initially as an anesthetic. But this use quickly ended because of GHB's lack of analgesic properties and its tendency to cause seizure-like activity.

GHB is being used these days as an alternate way of getting high at parties and, horrifyingly, the odorless, colourless liquid makes it the drug of choice for sexual offenders. While spiking drinks may not be the reason your friends are getting their hands on theliquid, more than 69% of GHB users have reported loss of consciousness which makes for unaware and unwise decisions usually involving you waking up next to someone or being somewhere you don't know. The chemical composition of GHB is highly variable. It’s very easy to take too much GHB: the difference between the amount needed to get high and the amount that causes an overdose can be hard to judge, meaning there is no safe level of drug use. However, we're very aware that some readers will or have already taken GHB. So here are the facts.

This drug can take anything from 10 minutes to an hour to take effect, so wait until the first hit kicks in before taking any more. Its strength varies wildly, so always take a small amount first. The duration of GHB’s effects are usually felt for up to seven hours.

 Because of its disabling effects, you are exposed to the threat of sexual assault, so be very, very careful of who you're with; this is Egypt and the men are depraved - anyone who goes out knows that much. GHB has been around for a while and continues to come in waves when general interest and supply steers party goers in it's direction, because it's cheap.

Chances of overdose greatly increase when GHB is mixed with downers like alcohol or benzodiazepines. When mixed with uppers, GHB can cause serious physical strain and highly increases risk of seizures. While GHB is often referred to as liquid ecstasy it is completely different than the drug ecstasy; GHB is addictive. Here are some tips on how to make your GHB experience slightly safer.

1. No alcohol

Yes, I repeat myself: Alcohol and GHB potentate each other's effects, which makes the threat of respiratory arrest a deadly reality. Even small quantities can be hazardous. If I could impart one single piece of advice through this article, it would unquestionably be to leave this hell of a combination alone. Anything else that causes drowsiness or loss of physical control should also be avoided, as well as other downers.

2. Bring or tell a friend

Falling asleep in public in Egypt can be very, very risky. Telling a friend to keep an eye out or to help you before hand can minimise tons of unwanted interactions.

3. Know your dose

Normal to excessive doses can differ by very little, so wait a little while before taking more.

4. And we know you can't help it but don't be stupid

You should no more drive under GHB's influence than under significant quantities of alcohol. If you're dancing, stay hydrated and if it's trance you're dancing to then rest. Be aware that your judgment is somewhat clouded. The strange man asking you to follow him is probably not really going to show you his unicorn.

5. A good rule of thumb with GHB is to pour it into a styrofoam cup and wait and see, before ingesting an unknown liquid.


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