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Drugnet Europe News from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction — April–June 2007

Report: emerging use of GBL

Concerns are increasing in the EU about the use of chemicals employed in the manufacture of the recreational drug GHB. This is according to the EMCDDA’s new report GHB and its precursor GBL: an emerging trend case study, published on 17 March.

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid), often known as 'liquid ecstasy', surfaced on the recreational nightlife scene in parts of Europe in the 1990s, although its non-medical use began a decade earlier among body-builders consuming the drug for its hormone-growth effects. The EMCDDA and partners carried out a risk assessment of GHB in 2000, and the drug was placed under international control by the United Nations in March 2001.

According to the report: 'The new controls rapidly curtailed the previously open sale of GHB', but there are now concerns over the emergent use of its chemical precursor GBL (gamma-butyrolactone). GBL is easier to obtain and cheaper than many illicit drugs and is now being used and sold as a substitute for GHB. Unlike GHB, GBL and a second GHB precursor 1,4-BD (1,4-butanediol), are not controlled internationally.

Widely used in the chemical industry and commercially available, the two substances can be used to manufacture GHB with relative ease. But when ingested directly by the user, the precursors are also naturally converted in the body to GHB. There are already reports of direct consumption of GBL resulting in hospital emergency admissions, although to date there are no official reports relating to 1,4-BD.

See the news release on this page for more information.


Drugnet Europe is the EMCDDA's newsletter launched in September 1996. The newsletter provides regular and succint information on the Centre's projects and activities to a broad readership.

Page last updated: Wednesday, 30 April 2008