It’s hard to believe that only five years ago GHB was one of the biggest problems we had on the gay and lesbian party scene. The number of overdoses was skyrocketing and the community was well and truly split between those people who used the drug and those who did not. Many who had not used G cursed those that did, saying they were ruining the clubbing scene and bringing unwanted attention from both law enforcement and the media. Many people kept their use quiet and sometimes that got them into trouble -“ their friends were unaware they used the drug and when they went down they had no idea what had actually happened.
The situation has changed dramatically. Overdoses are down (they still happen, but nowhere near as frequently) and use appears to be rising, with many of the people who were very vocal in their criticism of the drug now using it regularly. So what has happened? Were the warnings we put out about this drug incorrect? Are you able to use this drug safely? Is it possible to have rules to keep you from dropping?
The simple answer is no. The warnings we gave were not wrong and no, there are no rules to stop you from dropping. However, people who respect this drug and are aware of the risks are able to minimise the risk of things going wrong.
My biggest concern remains about response to overdose. If you look at the rates of overdoses reported by accident and emergency departments, they have dropped dramatically. However, anecdotally we know that people continue to lapse into unconsciousness every weekend as a result of G. Most people who do overdose are not looked after well and there is the real risk of things going wrong. Fortunately, for most people they do come around and are no worse for wear -“ but this does not always happen.
No-one, not even the most seasoned of G users, should be fooled into thinking GHB is simply a bit of fun and that the warnings about the drug don’t apply to them because they know what they are doing. Things do go wrong even if you are extremely careful.
To look at G a little more closely and to talk about ways of reducing harm, ACON is hosting a community forum on Thursday 28 July between 7pm and 9pm at Manacle. We will be looking at some of the new trends in G use, both here and overseas, what it is that people are really taking, and ask the question, where does G fit into the Sydney party scene? If you believe you have something to contribute or you just want to come along and listen to what others have to say, you can register to attend by calling ACON on 9206 2052.