Urban myths and legends have been with us for some time and are likely to be with us well into the future. Urban myths are generally stories about weird and wonderful things purported to be absolutely true by the person telling the story. There are many that have existed over the years to do with drugs and some of these have to do with supposedly keeping safe.

The latest one to do the rounds is to do with overdosing on GHB and the surefire cure consisting of putting ice cubes up the unconscious person’s backside. In recent weeks I have heard people swear black and blue that this works and that they have seen many people recover as a result of this bizarre procedure.

To find out what the story is regarding this practice I contacted one of the world’s leading experts on GHB overdose -“ Dr David Caldicott from the Emergency Department of Royal Adelaide Hospital. As far as he was aware there are no obvious physiological benefits but there are a number of potential hazards.

GHB has a tendency to lower the blood pressure and pulse, and although one might think that the opposite would occur (i.e. blood pressure and pulse going up when having something cold inserted up your backside), putting things up the rectum of people who are not expecting the experience, or are unused to the sensation, can cause a vagal reaction. This is where the major nerve that slows the heart (the vagus nerve) is tricked into firing off without a good reason. By decreasing the amount of blood being pumped from the heart even more than the effect of GHB itself, one could do more harm than good by stopping blood flow to the brain. This could lead to seizures and even a stroke.

He also added that there is no evidence that GHB interferes with the temperature regulation mechanisms in the body the way MDMA does, so no G overdose needs cooling. Indeed, many overdoses that occur in the winter are hypothermic on arrival to hospital, so once again, there is the possibility that this practice could cause more harm than good.

Finally, feeding things up an unconscious person’s rectum can often result in anal trauma and even rectal incontinence because they are in no position to complain about the pain. So Dr Caldicott’s other concern is that, rather than feeling gratitude, the recipient of the popsicle enema would be more likely to sue for sexual assault than buy the misguided first-aider a drink.

The first time I heard the story about the person brought out of a G overdose in this manner I was quite surprised by the inventiveness of whoever thought of the idea. It has now gone beyond a joke. An overdose in a club is embarrassing enough for the person involved -“ the sight of the incapacitated person with their pants around their ankles having people inserting ice cubes is beyond humiliating and potentially dangerous. Some of the people doing this should know better and should not pretend to be trained medical professionals.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug, and no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?

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