GHB history, GHB discovery, early GHB use till now.

History of GHB, Gamma OH use

Since about 1990, GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) has been abused in the
U.S. for its euphoric, sedative, and anabolic (body building) effects. It
is a central nervous system depressant that was widely available over-the-counter
in health food stores during the 1980s and until 1992. It was purchased
largely by body builders to aid in fat reduction and muscle building.

Formal History

Synthesis of the chemical GHB was first reported in 1874 by A. Saizew,[14] but the first major research into its use in humans was conducted in the early 1960s by Dr. Henri Laborit to use in studying the neurotransmitter GABA.[citation needed] It quickly found a wide range of uses due to its minimal side effects and short duration of action, the only difficulties being the narrow safe dosage range and the dangers presented by its combination with alcohol and other CNS depressants.

GHB was widely used in France, Italy and other European countries for several decades as a sleeping agent and an anaesthetic in childbirth, but problems with its abuse potential and development of newer drugs have led to a decrease in legitimate medical use of GHB in recent times. The only common medical applications for GHB now days are in the treatment of narcolepsy and more rarely alcoholism. Typically GHB has been synthesized from GBL (gamma-butyrolactone) by adding sodium hydroxide (lye) in ethanol or water. As of late, GBL has become controlled and more circuitous routes have to be taken such as those starting with THF (tetrahydrofuran).

GHB in popular culture

In the “Murder In A Flash” episode of CSI: Miami, one of the victims, an 18 year-old boy, is found to have died from GHB intoxication. GHB is also named as “the date-rape drug” by one of the investigators who also relates the information that males often take the drug to get high. In the matter of the GHB-related death, however, the victim had received the GHB without noticing it.

In the episode of Robot Chicken that featured Archie, when he walked onto a bus with his friends and after Betty says “Looks like Archie is going on his senior drug trip,” Reggie says “Geez Archie, you’re supposted to put the GHB in the girl’s drink, not have it yourself.” In the NCIS episode “Twisted Sister” GHB was used to drug Sarah McGee, Special Agent Timothy McGee’s sister, into thinking that she committed a murder as a cover up. A classmate, whom she despises, drugged her by adding it to her peanut butter.

In the pilot episode of Veronica Mars, Veronica tells us she was raped at a party when she was sixteen. At the end of episode 20, “M.A.D.”, of season 1, Veronica discovers that she had been given GHB at the party and investigates that night in the following episode, “A Trip to the Dentist”. This party is referenced throughout season one and is a major conflict for the character, which was revisited in the final episode of season 2 when she finally learned exactly who she was raped by that night.

Additionally, the current season 3 of Veronica Mars centers around the main character’s freshman year at Hearst College, where she investigates a string of GHB-related rapes on campus. An episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit involves a woman who is drugged with GHB by a vengeful colleague in hopes that the woman will be raped. In the Law and Order episode “Fools for Love” one of the victim’s deaths is attributed to choking on vomit from a GHB overdose administered by her rapist/killer.

The television series The West Wing featured GHB in a multi-episode story during the conclusion of season 4 and the beginning of season 5. The president’s daughter consumes GHB that has been slipped into an alcoholic beverage without her knowledge, and as she feels the effects of the drug, her boyfriend implies she has consumed ecstasy. Later, she is kidnapped from a nightclub bathroom while barely or not conscious, setting off a massive manhunt. The president is told later by an FBI agent that the drug is created by mixing degreasing solvent and drain cleaner, and he finishes the agent’s sentence by acknowledging he is aware the drug is known as a date-rape drug.

The French activist and psychoanalytic theorist F�lix Guattari used GHB recreationally in the early 1970s, see The Anti-Oedipus Papers (2006:308,326)

Near the end of the second season of the television series Everwood, leading character Amy Abbott is pressured into consuming a low dose of GHB dissolved in water with her then-boyfriend, allegedly-recovered addict Tommy Callahan. In a misguided effort to keep her from accidentally overdosing, he consumes most of the drugs before giving her the remainder, thus overdosing himself. Upon realizing he was unresponsive, Amy called her doctor father to come to his rescue, and while they succeeded in saving Tommy’s life, this encounter with the controlled substance ended their relationship.

In the movie Syriana, Arash refers to Tehran as the world capital of “liquid MDMA”. An episode of the fifth series of Spooks sees Ros use a refined form of the drug to incapacitate targets for intelligence gathering. In the third episode of the American version of “Queer as Folk”, the character Ted falls into a coma after being given a large dose of GHB by a date he brings home.

In the song “What’s Going On” by Zebrahead, found on their album Playmate of the Year (2000), GHB is referenced as a date rape drug: She takes another sip/ But has no clue of the spike from the G to the H to the B/ She wakes up in the morning/ bruised and raped in the street. GHB is referred to in the song Shores of California by The Dresden Dolls: And that is why the girl is called a tease / and that is why the guy is called a sleaze / and that’s why God made escort agencies / one life to live and mace and GHB.


  • 14. 1874 Saizew,A. JLACBF Justus Liebigs Ann. Chem. 171 274.