In the UK, illegal drugs are classified into either Class A, B or C under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Class A drugs (such as Cocaine, Heroin, LSD and Ecstasy) have the most serious punishments, and Class C have the least. GHB is currently classified as Class C, alongside Anabolic Steroids.
GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyrate) is an anaesthetic with primarily sedative properties. The drug is often associated with ‘Chemsex’, where it is used to facilitate sexual activity. It can illicit feelings of euphoria and increase sex drive but can also be fatal if the dose is even just a fraction too high. It is sold as a liquid in bottles which can vary in strength, making it easy to accidentally overdose, especially when taken alongside alcohol or other drugs. An overdose can cause convulsions, loss of consciousness, and can even cause the user to stop breathing. Another substance of concern is GBL; a chemical similar to GHB which converts to GHB very quickly after entering the body.
GHB is often referred to as a ‘date rape drug’ because of its prevalence in cases of sexual assault. GHB was used by the most prolific rapist in UK history, Reynhard Sinaga, who would lure victims back to his flat and then lace their drinks with the drug. It was also used by the deadliest serial killer of the last decade, Stephen Port, who would give his victims catastrophic overdoses.
Considering the risks associated with GHB, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) proposes that it should be reclassified to a Class B drug, which would place it in the same class as Speed and Cannabis.
The Office for National Statistics reported that between 2014 and 2018, there were 120 deaths involving GHB. However, because GHB is not part of routine toxicology tests after sudden deaths, it is likely that this number is actually much higher.
According to the ACMD report, evidence suggests a worrying increase in the health and social harms among users of GHB and related substances, with deaths involving GHB on the increase.
Calls for a change in the law came from the children of Eric Michels, who was killed by a dealer who gave him an overdose of GHB in attempt to steal from him. Whether the law will change is yet to be decided as the harms of the drug continue to be debated.