Alright, let’s talk about GHB: A user’s guide. 

When it kicks in, it feels like meeting an old friend for the first time. – Daniel, 34

Few drugs are as misunderstood and stigmatized as GHB (except for acid, the king of misconceptions). GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), also known as simply G, is a central nervous system depressant that comes in liquid form, drank in doses of around 2 or 3 mL. It makes you feel relaxed, warm, sometimes tingly. It’s popular at raves and parties, mixes delightfully with psychedelics and is a pretty well-known sex enhancer.

It’s also a problematic drug in the Toronto party scene right now. Ask any paramedic what causes the most issues (aside from the obvious, alcohol) and they’ll unequivocally say G. I know this because I did ask a bunch of them for my research—initially assuming, based on the media hysteria around it, that they would say MDMA. Nope: it’s G. Event organizers hate it because although deaths are extremely rare, it does usually cause the most visible, paramedic-and-police-attracting problems when someone overdoses and passes out. The reputation it has for being dangerous, while frequently exaggerated, is not totally unfounded—it’s a tricky substance to dose and is especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol, a combo of factors that make it a ticking time bomb for careless, drunk bros. Last year, some of Toronto’s best and most caring party organizers were forced to temporarily shut down a beloved and usually very responsibly-attended ongoing event series as they reckoned with the legal and logistical fallout of a near-fatal overdose. I was there when it happened. It wasn’t pretty.

It’s also well known (especially among people who don’t use party drugs) as a date rape drug. While this is true, it’s not the reason that most GHB is bought, sold and consumed. (It’s also important to remember that the number one date rape drug is alcohol. And it’s even more important to remember that drugs don’t cause sexual assaults, people [and rape culture] do. And unlike guns, drugs aren’t specifically designed to hurt people.)

So yes, absolutely, GHB has partially earned its reputation as a troublemaker. However, G has some significant positives—if it didn’t, no one would use it and it wouldn’t be such a big damn problematic deal in the first place. So, look, it’s time to stop talking about drugs as if they’re just sinister little omens of risk and danger. Information on them is so bogged down in prejudice and “Danger! Risk! Doooooom!”-style rhetoric that it’s pretty much useless for actual users. Recreational drugs are fun—that is the definition of ‘recreation’—and people enjoy them because they bring a lot of benefits to their lives and are mostly harmless when used correctly. There. I said it. Apologies for all the broken monocles that popped off in shock.

This really shouldn’t be so controversial. If you want drug users to listen to you in the first place, you’ve gotta acknowledge their actual experiences. Which is, drugs are fucking fun. Literally anyone who uses them could tell you that (including alcohol users if they would admit that they’re using a drug) but we all act like acknowledging it would mean that everyone would immediately quit their jobs and get high all day.

Anyways, back to G. So, as far as we know, when used properly, GHB is actually one of the least harmful drugs. In fact, it appears to be downright benign. I haven’t been able to find any sources indicating long-term negative side effects, and believe me, the anti-drug warriors would be throwing stacks of photocopied negative articles from the rooftops if they existed. G is also, as far as we know, much less likely to be adulterated with other substances than powder or pill drugs are. Which in the age of fentanyl, is a pretty significant plus.

People use G because it feels like a mild combination of alcohol, MDMA and weed. Importantly, the biggest upside users cite is that unlike with many party drugs (looking at you, alcohol and MDMA), there’s no hangover of any kind to worry about with GHB. They take it, they dance a bunch, they get some sloppy make outs in, they go home, and they get up the next morning feeling fine. For those responsible users, what’s not to love?

Quotes from GHB users online:

“It mimics the effects of being buzzed on alcohol but you also have a nice euphoric push and everything feels nice so it’s a nice social drug at low doses.”

“GHB is amazing. Effects are similar to alcohol, but with more euphoria, less stupor, no nausea, no hangover. It makes you hungry and horny though. Completely replaced alcohol for me.”

“The buzz – very very horny, very euphoric – I would have extremely intense washes of intense body euphoria. When mixed with a stimulant the euphoria is incredibly intense.”

“GHB is the most wonderful drug I’ve ever done. When people asked me what it was like, I would always tell them ‘it makes you feel like the most popular kid in high school.'”

So G is basically a miracle drug for those who’ve figured out how to use it properly and no more than once or twice a week. But: “when used properly” is the tricky part. That’s where everything can fall apart, and is the reason G is the bane of every festival medic’s existence.

In the end, we can go back and forth forever about whether it’s good or bad, safe or dangerous, but the reality is that enough people have decided that they like it that they’re going to keep doing it and it’s going to keep being a thing at parties. And so, below, compiled from my ethnographic research on harm reduction in the rave scene (interviews with users, participant-observation at events, scouring peer-reviewed articles and other sources, generally being a huge nerd, etc), here’s some tips for how to party more safely with G. A good “spirit guide” (see here, page 100) will ask you questions about all of the factors below so they know how much to dose you. If you’re dosing yourself and you’re not willing to follow these guidelines, just don’t use it. Put the vial down. In fact, maybe think about not using any drugs if you feel you’re not up to the task of being careful about how you use them. Drugs are fun, but they are not toys. You can get badly hurt if you’re careless.

NOTE: These instructions will seem pretty cavalier to some, but they reflect the principles of harm reduction, which means I know I can say things like “don’t mix with alcohol, period” all day long but that’s not going to help people who are gonna do it anyway, so I might as well be straight about how to minimize risk while doing it.

GHB User Guide:

1) DON’T MIX WITH ALCOHOL. Seriously. Like a single beer at most, but even then, you really shouldn’t mess around with alcohol + G together unless you know your tolerance extremely well. Be very careful. If you’ve already had a couple drinks, leave at least an hour or two before dosing with G. If you’ve already had several drinks, just stay on that train and wait to play with G another night. (Remember, you shouldn’t even really need to drink at all if you’re gonna do G—it does everything alcohol does, minus the hangover. Except, fair warning, it doesn’t taste delicious. It tastes like salty shit. And yeah I know beer is amazing, but so is not passing out and going to the hospital.)

2) Don’t mix with ketamine either, or opiates, or any CNS depressant, unless you want to risk blacking out and unceremoniously barfing all over yourself and your friends, who may not be smart enough to put you in the recovery position so you don’t aspirate on your own vomit.

3) Start low til you know your dose. Everyone’s threshold is different, and an effective dose for each person is different. Because it’s liquid (and unregulated—thanks, prohibition), you also don’t know how strong it is until you get familiar with a batch. Around 1.5-2 mL is an average starting dose to feel effects, somewhere between 2 and 4 mL is the sweet spot for most people. Body size matters for dosing G; some bigger/taller people with naturally higher tolerances have to take up to 5 mL for a good high. For others, 4 mL is enough to make them puke. A too-high dose has the universal effect of making you pass out into an unrouseable sleep for a few hours, which will scare the shit out of your friends. But since different batches vary, it’s impossible to say ahead of time exactly how much is a proper dose from a new batch. Finding your dose requires patience and doing some of the same batch a few separate times in safe environments. Don’t go for broke on day one. Just as with any drug, you have to build a relationship with it and get to know how it interacts with your body.

4) Re-dosing is very tricky. Don’t re-dose before at least an hour has passed. Preferably 90 minutes or more, and closer to two hours your first few times. The less time has passed, the smaller your re-dose should be, and it should always be less than your initial dose. A good rule of thumb is to not re-dose while you still feel at all high, but even if you don’t, be careful as you don’t know how much is still active in your system. Knowing your own ideal re-dose timing is another highly individual thing that you have to figure out slowly and very carefully.

5) Be conscious of how much food is in your stomach. If you just ate a big meal, your threshold dose will be higher than if your stomach is totally empty. (This is different from most drugs, but similar to alcohol.) It’s a very good idea to have eaten at least some food before you do G.

6) Trust your friends who are resposible and knowledgeable, but beware anyone who’s dosing you for the first time without asking how much you’ve had to drink, or having a conversation about how much you want to be dosed. They are being fucking careless. Bad spirit guide! No! Put the G down, you have not earned the right to dose your friends!

7) Use pre-measured vials (most head shops sell these) or a liquid syringe (available at pharmacies) to dose. This way you get consistency and accuracy in your dosing.

8) Don’t use it every day. No negative long-term side effects from GHB use have been established, however, like almost any drug, GHB can be psychologically habit-forming if used too often, and (unlike many drugs) can cause physical addiction and withdrawals if used multiple times a day.


8) Call your congressman/member of parliament and yell at them to legalize and regulate recreational drugs so we can have actual adult conversations with each other about how to use them properly without wading through a swamp of propaganda, prejudice and unregulated substances.

The main thing to remember is that the strength of G’s effects vary widely from person to person (and even from night to night depending on how much food you have in your stomach). The line between “THIS FEELS AMAZING!” and puking and/or passing out is a pretty thin one with G. So unlike with some easier drugs like MDMA, there’s no idiotproof guide to getting a great, safe high from day one. Starting slow and getting to know GHB is essential to be able to sustainably have fun with it. You need to woo her. Be a gentle lover with GHB. Get to know her ins and outs, how she works with your body. Don’t just stumble in and nail her without thinking. No one will have a good time.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s really not hard at all once you practice being careful, and being careful quickly becomes second nature. (It may not be as fun and exciting to be so methodical about it, but if you’re getting off on the risk you have a whole other set of problems that a set of guidelines can’t fix.) If you do it right, you’ll end up with a drug that has mostly upsides and few downsides.

There! See? It’s not impossible. Now please share this with your friends so uninformed users stop G’ing out and ruining the rave scene for us. ❤

Disclaimer: With this and all of my posts, I’m not advocating for drug use any more than someone who tells teenagers to use condoms is advocating for them to have sex. I just don’t have my head stuck in the sand. I’m acknowledging a reality in order to keep people safe. -H

Follow me on Twitter (@hilaryagro) if you like snark and feminism, and/or hate drug prohibition, capitalism and the prison-industrial complex.

Extra reading: I kept this post as short as possible to encourage lazy readers like myself to actually read the whole thing, but there are some important points to add. Some have been helpfully suggested by knowledgeable users, feel free to leave a comment with anything you think is missing!

  • Note that this article is NOT about GBL – the dosing is different for GBL so make sure you know what you’re getting, and do additional research before you consume anything.
  • GHB is not actually measured in milliliters, it’s measured in grams. Talking about GHB doses in mL is ultimately meaningless without knowing the concentration of the solution. “If taking/purchasing GHB from someone, always inquire as to what the EXACT concentration of the solution is. If they do not know, do not ingest the substance without either using titration to determine the concentration or evaporating the solution back to powder, weighing and putting the known amount of GHB back into a solution with your choice of concentration.”
  • If you buy larger quantities to dose out, put blue food colouring in the bottle you keep your G in so that no one accidentally mistakes it for water or liquor.
  • Advice from a harm reduction expert I know: “If you’re going to mix with alcohol, it’s better to take the G first or sip it to titrate up on either drink.”
  • Stimulants/uppers can mask the symptoms of a G overdose, so you can go into an OD after the stimulant wears off. Be aware of this when mixing and don’t take more G to compensate for the upper.
  • Does my monocle joke make sense to people who don’t get the Simpsons reference? (EDIT: I have been given confirmation that it does. Excellent.)

6 thoughts on “Alright, let’s talk about GHB: A user’s guide. 

  1. Hey there,
    Thanks so much for writing this…. I’m currently living in Berlin, and having just finished my bachelors degree, have begun researching GHB – mostly because of the radid increase of use and unfortunately – -abuse.. I’m noticing with in my club scene lately.

    A few things I wanted to add : I think it’s really important that g users know that redosing hour after hour is really increasingly dangerous after 3 or so doses, and the dosage curve effect is different for every single person. This combined
    With the ataxia and seizures I’ve been witnessing lately after prolonged use ( over the course of a big night or two say, ) can be fatal, ( and also are horrific to watch develop ) it’s so so important to have good breaks in between.. make it a sometimes drug ! Not a every hour drug!

    The other mention is regarding your comment : “. I haven’t been able to find any sources indicating long-term negative side effects” .

    First off : many of my beautiful friends suffer paranoia, anxiety and hopelessness after a big G binge – just like any Monday /Tuesday – it might still suck and remember that it’s the drug , things will be better on Thursday !!!

    I’m gonna send you a few links to clinical studies that have started to say otherwise .R emember this is a drug that’s very new, it will take a few decades before proper data on long term use age is avaliable.
    We are getting the first wave of knowledge now… including just how intense the withdrawal syndrome can be, and also the long term effects if you use it weekly for a longtime . Just be careful not to push a drug as being a miracle – no strings attached , it’s effects on cognitive function and memory long term are starting to be recognised , amongst other things . Just like any rec drug ! Moderation 😉

    I’m also going to say one last thing – the fatalities mentioned via statistics is completely off – most doctors cannot verify if GHB was the cause of death because it’s not tested for in tox unless urine is taken ( rarely) . It’s metabolism means it’s often not noticeable – and after death your natural levels are elevated. A recent study showed a person died every 12 days on average from G in London alone – (
    we need to be aware that doctors don’t often know what they’re dealing with unless told or made aware .. and ….

    This means it is REALLY important to be safe, tell friends you trust you are using – don’t go dose on your own or in a wierd hidden place you might not be found if you collapse. In the last few months we are having people die every weekend here , multiple collapses and a really divided scene. Nobody is talking about it , nobody wants to get the stigma . Gotta change this attitude, and start having fun again!


    References to withdrawal syndrome and recent studies of long term effects :

    – there’s heaps of others but you can link to them from the references or look them up on Pubnet!


  2. Nice post. I wanted to add a few thoughts and experiences, both personal and observed.

    1. Redosing is tricky, as you said. There’s a chemical reason for it: G wears off at rate different than many other drugs. Think of it this way. You may take “one dose” and be at 100% of your safe/desired high, and everything’s great. After an hour it feels like it’s worn off, so you take another dose. But it hasn’t completely been processed; even though you think that first dose is gone, you really have about 20% left in your body but can’t feel it. So you take a second dose. You’re now at 120% of your high, which may be too much but may not. After an hour you think it’s worn off, but there’s still some left from the first dose (10%?), as well as a larger amount from the 2nd dose (20%?). Now you take another dose and maybe you get up to 130%… don’t be surprised if you “fall out.” Note that the numbers aren’t meant to be precise; they’re just stupid examples made up to illustrate the point. You can’t dose entirely based on how you feel; give it extra time.

    2. When you get a new batch, try it at a low dose. We’ve had a group where everyone had been fine for years, and then when we all pitched in to buy a new batch *everyone* started falling out. Too strong.

    3. A really common thing is to measure a dose in a “cap”… but there’s no standard for what that means, leading to obvious potential for miscalculation. I’ve asked people what they meant by “cap” and I’ve gotten responses ranging from the tiny cap on a vial to the cap on a 2-liter soda bottle! It’s much smarter to measure it out with whatever method works for you. Common ways are pre-filling vials, gel caps (I’m surprised they don’t dissolve!), balloons, or using a syringe (sans needle, of course!).

    4. There are two main types: GHB and GBL. One is salty. Ask what type you’re getting, and learn which one you prefer. You’ll often need to dose them at different levels.

    5. About half the people I’ve seen can mix G and K just fine and they love it. The other half can’t tolerate it and throw up immediately.

    6. Our primary rule has always been to never, never, never, never, never, never, never mix G with alcohol.

    7. Some people “chug” a dose and others put it in their drink (soda, Gatorade) for sipping. If you’re drinking someone else’s drink, be sure to ask if the drink is straight or not. Likewise, inform anyone who takes a drink from your drink. These extra sips throughout the night can throw off your calculations / expectations.

    8. If someone falls out, *make sure someone stays with them*! When should you call an ambulance? I don’t have a good guideline beyond making sure they keep breathing. If their CNS gets depressed enough they definitely can stop breathing. Try to figure out what other drugs they’ve taken as well.

    9. If someone has fallen out, try to keep them upright leaning against a wall. If they must lie down, then make sure to prop them up on their side with pillows or the “prone” position. This is super important because if they throw up, they can instinctively breathe the vomit back in. Gross, sure, but it will get into their lungs. Even if they recover from the G and try to cough it all out, some can remain, get infected, and lead to death after several unpleasant days.

    10. If medics come, be honest with them about what drugs the person has taken. (And maybe be a pal and go through their pockets to remove any evidence before they get taken in.) If the medics don’t have specific experience with G overdoses, be sure to tell them to check the person’s blood oxygenation level.

    I hope someone finds this useful.


    • Great additional info, thank you!

      By the way, I experienced a massive increase in traffic this week that seems to be coming from Facebook – do you know if this was posted in a particular group?


  3. I realy think in terms of harm reduction, that you’ve left out necessary information, and only focused the spotlight on the specific drug GHB and Not GBL since both are commonly referred to as G. For example I’m imagining someome who reads this article for the first time at the top and is told 2-3mL is the avg dose for G, and worse would also neglect to read further down. It can be very dangerouse to someone who wouldn’t know that there is a difference in drugs specifically between these two. So say they take to much in a first encounter at 3mL of G aka GBL considering the concentatation would be higher normally, and that G in GBL form has a different metabolic effect with how GBL turns into GHB in the body. So all for harm reduction, and just would hope that the first paragraph could at least hint at that distinction prior to what a dose quantity of G would be.


    • That’s a good point, no one in my community does GBL so I can’t speak to its dosing – I will add a clarification that this article is not about GBL and to make sure you know what you’re getting. Thanks for the input.


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