Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and its precursor's gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4 butanediol (1,4 BD) is a colourless and odourless drug often sold under or referred to by street names; candy, G, fantasy, liquid (E, G, X,), G-riffic, goop, and Vita-G, among others. GHB is a central nervous system depressant renowned for its agonistic mood, heightened sexuality and libido enhancing, effects, all key factors that have led the drug to become synonymous with sexualised drug use practices, referred to as ‘chemsex’ or ‘party and play’ and the various environments and cultures that exhibit its use, such as raves, festivals, nightclubs, and sexualised adult-themed parties.
The literature surrounding GHB use has mostly been of a quantitative nature, largely focused on its recreational usage and the risk of death and overdose from polydrug toxicity from co-administration with other depressants such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, often carrying tones of alarmism. Freestone et al. provide a different narrative, offering a unique qualitative insight into to the nature surrounding sexualised drug use among LGBTQI+ populations and its relativity to other illicit drug use within these populations.
Freestone et al findings centralised the voices and experiences of GHB users among gender-diverse populations, documenting firsthand accounts of the human pursuit of pleasure and sexual gratification through GHB use, and analysing the factors behind why GHB is seen as being more desirable than other substances within various chemsex circles.
One of the key themes emerging from the article was the vulnerability of overdose, particularly to newer, less experienced users. Amongst the research participants, a unanimous understanding of the importance of practising harm reduction strategies to control overdose risk was variably understood. Sadly, despite the general demonstration of a sound knowledge of overdose prevention, most participants recounted a personal experience of overdose.
With this in mind, the role of peer networks and their importance in bolstering the safety of drug use through peer education and harm reduction principles was listed as being vital in the response to the overdose epidemic impacting Australia’s shores and diverse populations.
AIVL praises Freestone et al. for the ingenuity of their research that has shed light upon some of the lesser understood scenes associated with recreational drug use, and the role of harm reduction, peer networks and ever apparent need for education around overdose and BBV/STI risks surrounding chemsex.
Article by Freestone et al. can be found at: Controlling for pleasure and risk: The experiences of sexuality and gender diverse people who use GHB
AIVL is the national organisation representing people who use/have used illicit drugs and is the peak body for the state and territory peer-based drug user organisations.
Jake Docker, CEO, AIVL – email email@example.com