A DRUG that melts plastic and has the nickname “coma in a bottle” has had a devastating impact on Melbourne’s party scene.
GBL is believed to be the cause of almost 40 overdoses in the city on the weekend, with people unknowingly taking the drug, which is a derivative of GHB.
People were being carried away on stretchers one after the other after consuming the potentially fatal substance.
Ambulance Victoria said the fact there were no deaths as a result of drugs at the Electric Parade music festival in Melbourne and the White Night event was “good luck rather than anything else”.
GBL is much the same as GHB and when taken, the body converts GBL into GHB, but it is often more toxic.
“It’s a drug that causes people to become unconscious, slows the heart rate and can cause seizures,” Ambulance Victoria state health commander Paul Holman said.
The Electric Parade festival was “awash with drugs” and there was a serious risk of death.
“It’s the highest number of overdoses we have seen at a music event for some time,” he said.
GHB and GBL are often taken by people who want to lose their inhibitions or experience a mild euphoric and relaxed feeling. It also helps you sleep and can be used as a supplement when body building.
According to the World Health Organisation, Gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL), is a solvent found in paint strippers, nail polish remover, stain removers and circuit board cleaners.
It’s known on the street as midnight blue, blue nitro and paint stripper and it’s most commonly taken orally in a liquid form.
The substance can also come in a powder and it is mostly dissolved in drinks.
GBL has similar effects to GHB but can cause psychosis, paranoia, hallucinations, loss of body control and irregular heart rhythms.
GBL can be easier to obtain than heroin and even easier to overdose on. GBL can be made with a number of legal chemicals that can be found in your garage.
It can be purchased online easily and is often marketed as a cleaning agent.
Forensic toxicologist at Safework Laboratories, Andrew Leibie, said he first saw the drug in the early 2000s but it was not common in Australia.
He said it was not a drug popular in rave and festival scenes and is more traditionally a date rape drug.
“It’s odourless, colourless and typically available as a liquid,” he told news.com.au.
“It has a strong amnesiac effect and causes disinhibition and makes you up for anything.
“It mixes very badly with alcohol, even if you just have one or two drinks.”
Mr Leibie said it was harder for police to detect GHB because they were mostly looking for methamphetamine or ecstasy and MDMA.
GHB is also known as “liquid fantasy” and was the drug that killed Dianne Brimble in 2002 while she was on a P&O cruise ship.
After an inquest into her death in 2010, it was determined she was unknowingly drugged.
Mr Leibie said it was very hard to manage the liquid doses of GHB and GBL and large doses could kill.
GHB and GBL only stay in your system for about two days and Mr Leibie said it would not be detected in a roadside drug test.
If drug testing was legalised in Australia, Mr Leibie said there’d even need to be very specialised equipment to detect it.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation spokeswoman Ilka Burnham-King said it was clear we were running out of ideas to reduce harm and drug overdoses.
“We can’t keep drugs out of a festival and our options are running out. We could ban festivals, but people are still going to take drugs so it just displaces the issue,” she said.
Ms Burnham-King believes Victoria should introduce drug testing to see if we can produce the same results here as overseas.
Drug testing has been in place in other countries for years, and has significantly decreased the number of overdoses and drug deaths.
“It’s not a radical idea, it’s been happening for years and years and not only does it save lives, but it gives data around the drugs people are taking and what’s emerging,” she said.
“If somebody tested drugs we would have seen in the system there was a dodgy batch of GHB and put out a warning.”
Ms Burnham-King said this was a nationwide problem and we needed to make a change before more people were killed by drugs.
“If you always do what you’ve always done then you always get what you’ve always got,” she said.
“What is it going to take until both sides of government realise they don’t have any other options available than trialling drug testing?
“It has proved to work overseas so let’s trial it here.”
Ms Burnham-King said Australia used to be progressive when it came to drug harm reduction.
“We introduced the needle exchange, but right now, we are seriously behind the times when it comes to drug policy.”
Ms Burnham-King said drug testing was controversial because some believed it would encourage people to take them.
“Australia doesn’t need any encouragement to take drugs. We are the number one ecstasy user in the world and in the top three for other drugs,” she said.
“We have an insatiable appetite and this war against drugs, expecting people not to take drugs hasn’t worked, so what do we do differently that minimises harm and prevents fatalities?”
A man rang 3AW on Monday morning and said he had some experience with GHB.
“On my first date ever with my current partner, we were out at a nightclub and she had her drink spiked with it,” he said.
“Within minutes she was limp, couldn’t stand up and really not in a good way. By time I got her in a cab and got her home her eyes started rolling into the back of her head and she was having small little fits.”
After he got his partner to the hospital, they were told she consumed GHB and as she mixed it with alcohol, it could have killed her.
She only had a drop of GHB, about a millilitre to a millilitre and a half.
Police have cast doubt over the future of the Electric Parade music festival where dozens of revellers were treated for the serious drug overdoses.
Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane says police will meet with organisers of the festival to discuss whether they should be allowed to host future events after a number of revellers were left in a critical condition on Saturday.
“(We will determine) whether they should be allowed access to another venue,” Mr Leane said.
Mr Leane says police will also be speaking with management at Sidney Myer Music Bowl, where the festival was held, and City of Melbourne over the event which clashed with the scheduling of the similarly “high risk” event, White Night.
Police Minister Lisa Neville said organisers needed to have good security and send out the right messages to concertgoers.
“Police will be working with the organisers of these events — we need to make sure that the organisers are also stepping up to ensure that we are reducing access and the availability of these drugs,” she told reporters on Monday.
Ms Neville ruled out pill testing at such events, saying testing would not change “the fact these drugs are bad for you and they are illegal in Victoria.”
Online Source: www.news.com.au