You see it happen all the time, some idiot being carried off in a stretcher at one of the big dance parties from a G overdose. You look at them and perhaps think how stupid they were to take too much, and how that could never happen to you because you are always careful. You don’t drink alcohol, you measure it out carefully, and you could not possibly be one of those wretched souls being carried off on a stretcher to St Vincent’s.

I had been taking G for about a year before Harbour Party. I was the definitive G Nazi. I set my phone to ring every two hours and carefully measured my 2ml of G into my drink. I timed my friend’s dosages and I wouldn’t let anyone who had drunk in the previous 24 hours come near it. I thought I was pretty much invincible actually.

At Harbour Party I was in fine form, and had been sticking to my usual G ritual for about four hours, bouncing around and having loads of fun.

Unfortunately, when it came time to take my next dose of G, I was momentarily distracted during the measuring process and ended up taking more than I had planned. I didn’t even stop to think I may have messed up the dosage; I didn’t even notice I had stuffed up. I was trashed.

About 10 minutes later I simply dropped like a stone. In the middle of the dancefloor I went completely unconscious, started having convulsions and had to be carried off by three of my friends. From my memory I was dancing around having fun, and then was suddenly 50 metres away, propped up against a wall surrounded by a sea of panicked faces. I had absolutely no recollection of how I got there. One minute I was on the dancefloor, the next I was 50 metres away. It was the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me. In the 20 seconds it took me to realise what had happened, I appeared to have got my legs back and my friends thought I was actually okay. I was mortified and kept apologising to everyone for what I thought to be purely disgusting behaviour. On the way to get a drink from the bar with a friend my knees gave way again. He asked me worriedly if I had done that on purpose, and that is the last thing I remember.

I was later informed that I had collapsed again and could not be revived. No amount of shouting, shaking or cold water poured over my head could rouse me. I had also stopped breathing. I ended up being carried through the entire party and up the stairs to the medical tent on a stretcher. Pretty much everyone at the party saw it. Add to this the fact that I lost control of my bladder during the trip and you can begin to image the sheer horrendousness of the situation.

I came to at 5am the following morning in St Vincent’s hospital. I had a tube down my throat, wires and sensors stuck across my chest, drips and needles running from both arms and was catheterised. I was naked, completely alone, and had no awareness of how I got there or what had happened. There is nothing in the world as terrifying as waking up in an intensive care ward with no idea how you came to be there. The shame was unbearable and I just burst into tears.

Today, as I’m writing this I can look down and still see the bruising from the various injections they gave me to keep me alive. In the hospital I had stopped breathing completely for about 30 minutes, and if it wasn’t for my friends and the good people at St Vincent’s, I would be dead, pure and simple.

I hope that those of you reading this will learn from my mistake rather than have to go through this yourself. I was careful, I was not drinking or doing K and I followed all the rules to take it safely, yet I still almost died. The bottom line is that there is simply no safe way to do G. It isn’t a matter of if you will end up as I did; it’s a matter of when. So please, just don’t risk it. Believe me when I tell you it’s simply not worth it.

Fact & fiction on G by Paul Dillon

Some of the precautions regarding GHB usage are no more than folklore. Paul Dillon debunks a few of the myths.

GHB has now been on the scene in a major way for almost five years and has caused us to look at drugs and how we deal with them in a very different way. For years health professionals have developed messages which assist in reducing the risk when using a range of drugs. However, G has set new challenges as there just don’t seem to be any effective messages for the drug.

On Sunday night as I walking away from yet another ambulance I turned to a friend who had just seen one of their party ferried away after collapsing and commented that maybe now that would show them that there were no rules, that an overdose could happen to anyone who uses G. His instant rebuff was that the young man had been on his own and taken too much -“ he had broken a rule. The excuses go on and people continue to refuse to accept that GHB, like all other drugs, can have unexpected effects upon those who use them and that an overdose can happen to even those who are extremely careful.

It would appear that GHB is not going to go away -“ the drug is cheaper than ever before and seems widely available. In 2004 we have seen a huge rise in the number of overdoses being admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital. This has put a great strain on a group of dedicated professionals who have always been extremely supportive of our community. There was a time when they saw the same people over and over again -“ this appears to be changing as the drug becomes more popular with an ever-increasing variety of people, and they are seeing new faces all the time.

There seems to be some good news. There appears to be a growing move from a small group of more established users to no longer using at clubs and parties. The bad look of public overdoses and a greater awareness of the risks involved with the use of the drug has led them to using in a more controlled setting. Not that this solves all the problems -“ taking at home can even be more risky, particularly if there are not people present who are willing to stay sober and ensure that people are looked after. But really, you have to ask yourself, who wants that job or responsibility? Is it really fair to put people you care about in that situation?

There are so many myths that exist about G. Here are three of the most dangerous.

If you take crystal or a pill beforehand it will stop you overdosing.

This comes from the notion that GHB is a depressant and crystal and ecstasy are stimulants. The theory is that if you take enough of a stimulant it will reverse or at the very least reduce the depressant effects of GHB. Many people use the same model when they are drinking alcohol -“ have a line of speed beforehand and you won’t get so drunk, or at least you won’t exhibit the tell-tale signs.

The reality is that this is in fact a very dangerous practice and actually doesn’t reduce the risk of overdose. In fact it has caused many problems for medical staff as it disguises some of the symptoms of an overdose and impacts upon their response time. If you have taken too much G you will still overdose -“ no matter how much crystal you have smoked or how many pills you have taken. The stimulant in your system may keep you conscious longer or make you more alert for sections of time but your breathing and heart rate will still be affected and may put you in a life-threatening situation for a longer period of time.

Taking more drugs to reduce the risks of others is a dangerous practice and really can increase the chances of something going seriously wrong.

Taking a specific dose at certain times will stop you overdosing.

Some people insist there is a mathematical formula to reduce the risk of overdosing. A calculation of their body weight, time periods and appropriate dosing has been adopted by many G users. I know of one young man who even factors in body fat/lean muscle tissue ratio.

Let’s use another example. We have guidelines for the use of alcohol in our society. Alcohol is measured in standard drinks -“ the strength is printed on the label.

Even with those measures in place, with people following them strictly some people still find themselves having problems with alcohol. How many people do you know who followed the rules and still got busted for driving over the limit? There are some drugs that are riskier than others -“ just by their nature. GHB is one of them because more than the others it is very difficult to judge the dose and getting it wrong can be costly.

Drugs have different effects upon different people, and also different effects upon the same user at different times.

Falling to sleep on G is not a problem.

Let’s make this perfectly clear: you are not asleep, you are unconscious! If you are asleep, you are able to be woken up -“ someone shakes you and you come around. You may be groggy for a while but you are awake. An overdose means just that, an over-dose -“ that is, you have taken too great a dose. As a result you are unable to stay awake and lapse into unconsciousness. Unfortunately the overdose potential for G is very high -“ i.e. there is a very fine line between having a good time and finding yourself in hospital on life support. Many regard this as part of the drug experience and nothing to worry about. However, this is where things can go horribly wrong.

The response to GHB overdose is pretty well standard all over the world. If someone lapses into unconsciousness and cannot be woken up after taking the drug, venue owners and promoters usually call an ambulance and get the patron to a hospital as quickly as possible. Letting someone sleep it off is extremely dangerous -“ while they are unconscious, users can vomit and subsequently choke or simply stop breathing due to the depressant effect of the drug.

Do not wait to see if they are going to wake up. Most of the deaths that have occurred from G in Australia have been in the straight community where people do not call ambulances because they have not been educated as well as the gay community. Although we don’t like ambulances being called to our venues and parties, they are keeping people alive. Don’t hide people believing you are saving them from being thrown out of a venue or from the shame of a public overdose -“ you are saving their life!

At the moment the community is divided on the G issue. There are friendship groups who are split between those who use the drug and those who don’t. Some look down on those who use the drug and as a result people don’t share the fact that they are using, and unfortunately this can be when things go terribly wrong.

This weekend is our special time, a time when we come together to show the rest of society our pride in who we are. I hope we can pull together and come through this weekend without any major problems. Look after each other, don’t judge others by what they choose to do or not do, and stay safe.

To minimise the risk of GHB being used at Mardi Gras there will be a policy of no liquids or liquid containers being admitted into the party. We expect to be conducting random pat-downs looking for liquids and glass containers. Liquids found will be disposed of by security.

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