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What is GBL Drug? Uses, Side Effects, & Dangers

How Does it Work ? What is GBL Drug Used For? GBL Drug Overdose. GBL Side Effects. GBL Interactions. GBL Drug Addiction. GBL Drug Overdose. GBL Drug Addiction Treatment

What is GBL Drug?

Gamma butyrolactone (GBL) is a chemical. People use it as medicine. Be careful not to confuse GBL with gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) or butanediol [1]. Drugs GBL and GHB are two closely related drugs. Both drugs are often used recreationally in club settings to achieve a euphoric, disinhibiting effect and by bodybuilders to promote growth hormone production.

GBL is a liquid compound that serves as an intermediate when making pyrrolidones, industrial chemicals that are in wide use. Drugs GBL is sometimes taken as a recreational drug being metabolized in the body producing an active substance called “Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate”, or GHB, a compound listed in the Schedule I controlled substance – the drug category that has a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological and physical dependence[2].

GBL is two to three times as potent as GHB, and its effects are felt faster. This makes it a far greater risk for overdose than GHB, but both drugs can have serious downsides from overconsumption, up to and including coma and death. The drug was linked to almost 40 overdoses at a single music event in Melbourne, Australia, in 2017.

What is GBL Drug
When someone overdoses on GBL, often onlookers mistakenly believe the person is sleeping while the person is actually asphyxiating.
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How Does it Work?

Drugs GBL itself is pharmacologically inactive, but it is converted in the body by lactonases to GHB, the active agent. Because it is more lipophilic than GHB, GBL is absorbed more rapidly after oral administration and has a faster onset of action than GHB. Apart from that, the actions of the two drugs are identical. One ml high-purity GBL is about equivalent to 2.5 g GHB. GHB occurs naturally in the central nervous system (CNS) and is presumed to be a neurotransmitter [3].

There are GHB receptors in the CNS, but GHB also acts as an agonist at the gamma-aminobutyric acid B (GABAB) receptor. At low doses it has a euphoric effect, promoting confidence and reducing inhibition. Higher doses produce sleep. Even at low doses, most users will also experience somnolence and confusion, and as the dose-response curve is steep many regular users have experienced toxicity, with symptoms including nystagmus, aggression, urinary incontinence, and nausea.

Dependent users may experience a severe withdrawal reaction when the drug is stopped. The elimination half-life of GHB is about 20 minutes, and GHB intoxication has the unusual property that people can progress from deep coma to wakefulness over about 30 minutes. While a small proportion of GBL drug overdose cases require ventilation in the intensive care unit (ICU), the great majority present in a coma, and after a few hours waken rapidly and are discharged. Dependent patients who present with an overdose may transition rapidly from intoxication to withdrawal.

What is GBL Drug
Since no amount of GBL has been deemed safe, it is easy for users to experience GHB drug overdose by accident.

What is GBL Drug Used For?

Gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL) is an industrial chemical and is available for legitimate use in industry. However, if someone supplies or possesses them knowing or believing that they will be swallowed and ingested, they are committing an offense. GBL is typically marketed for sale as a cleaning solvent or polish. GBL is a clear liquid with a chemical smell and bitter taste. GBL is usually swallowed in its liquid form, often mixed with water or a soft drink. 

Never mix GBL and alcohol as these 2 substances interact and can lead to death.  Less often it is snorted or inhaled. Less often it is snorted or inhaled. Injecting drugs GBL is dangerous. GBL abuse became popular among teens and young adults at dance clubs and “raves” in the 1990s, and gained notoriety as a date rape drug. GBL is used as a club or rave drug. It still has a reputation with younger people as being an alternative to ecstasy

GBL Drug Dosage

GBL has the molecular formula C4H6O2 and a molecular weight of 86.09 g/mol. It is a colorless, oily liquid with a bitter taste. Drugs GBL is mainly self-ingested, with an average recreational oral dose of 1 mL. GBL has a faster onset of effects and longer duration compared to GHB. GBL is abused as a substitute for GHB due to its intoxicating effects. GBL/GHB is abused by teens and young adults as an alcohol substitute, at all-night parties and “raves,” and for enhanced sexual experiences.

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GBL Side Effects

When GBL is mixed with alcohol, users may experience intensive breathing difficulties. This may result in coma and death. The serious side effects of GBL include the inability to control the bowels, vomiting, mental changes, agitation, sedation, memory loss, serious breathing and heart problems, seizures, fainting, coma, kidney failure, and death. The effects can be made worse by alcohol or narcotics such as heroin, morphine, and others. After long-term use, abruptly stopping use of this substance may lead to withdrawal symptoms, including tremors, insomnia, and anxiety.

GBL Drug Long Term Effects

GBL is a very dangerous drug that is highly addictive and can cause GBL drug overdose, as the difference between a GBL drug overdose and a recreational dose is really small. GBL is also used as a ‘date rape’ drug and people can become physically dependent on the drug and need a medically assisted detox to safely stop using. Long-term effects of this drug include:

  • Respiratory (breathing problems)
  • Liver problems
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma leading to death
  • Memory loss

GBL Interactions 

GBL is known to dissolve most types of plastic over time. For this reason, it is recommended to only transport and store the drug using a glass container, standard gelatin capsules (not vegetarian), or high-density polyethylene plastic (also known as #2 recyclable plastic). For this reason, it is recommended to only transport and store the drug using a glass container, standard gelatin capsules (not vegetarian), or high-density polyethylene plastic (also known as #2 recyclable plastic).

The effect of GBL in combination with other drugs, including over-the-counter (OTC) or prescribed medication, is unpredictable. Here are some of the known interactions between GBL and other drugs including prescription medications:

GBL + Alcohol or Benzodiazepines 

GBL and Alcohol or Benzodiazepines greatly increase the chance of GBL drug overdose. Alcohol can cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Taking GBL along with alcohol might greatly increase sleepiness and drowsiness caused by alcohol. Taking GBL along with alcohol can lead to serious side effects. Do not take GBL if you have been drinking.

GBL + Amphetamines or Ecstasy

The combination of GBL and amphetamines place enormous strain on the body and increases the risk of seizure. Using GBL to help with the comedown of stimulants may lead to a cycle of dependence on both drugs. Amphetamines are drugs that can speed up your nervous system. GBL is changed in the body to GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate). GHB can slow down your nervous system. Taking GBL along with amphetamines can lead to serious side effects.

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GBL + Haloperidol (Haldol) GBL

These two substances can affect the brain. Haloperidol can also affect the brain. Taking haloperidol along with GBL might cause serious side effects. However, healthcare providers may sometimes use haloperidol to treat certain side effects or symptoms of withdrawal from GBL.

What is GBL Drug
A GBL drug overdose is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical attention.

GBL + Medications for Mental Conditions

Medications used to prevent seizures affect chemicals in the brain. GBL is changed in the body to one of these brain chemicals called GABA. Taking GBL along with medications used to prevent seizures might decrease the effects of these medications and increase the risk of seizures. Some medications used to prevent seizures include phenobarbital, primidone (Mysoline), valproic acid (Depakene), gabapentin (Neurontin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), phenytoin (Dilantin), and others.

GBL + Medications for Pain (Narcotic Drugs) 

Some medications for pain can cause sleepiness and drowsiness. GBL might also cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Taking GBL along with some medications for pain might cause severe side effects. Do not take GBL if you are taking medications for pain. Some medications for pain include meperidine (Demerol), hydrocodone, morphine, OxyContin, and many others.

GBL Drug Addiction

GBL currently represents a growing public health issue since the substance is relatively cheaper and easier to obtain than GHB. Studies on rodents have shown that GBL has low acute toxicity and only central nervous system depression has been highlighted. GBL abuse potential broadly mimics that of GHB, taking into account that it exerts its effects only after conversion into GHB. GBL can be addictive, especially if the drug is used regularly for a period of weeks or months.

Even a couple of weeks of daily use can lead to dependence. Everyday use can result in a heightened tolerance to, and dependence on, the drug. When dependence begins, it tends to result in strong cravings, depressed moods, insomnia, and anxiety unless the user takes a dose every few hours. If you have taken GBL for more than seven days in a row, Do not attempt to stop by yourself. 

It is crucial to remember that, once dependence on GBL is established, quitting “cold turkey” can lead to serious health risks and even death. Withdrawal should be a tapered process with medical supervision. Users are cautioned if they feel sweaty, shaky, or anxious when they stop using this substance. Other symptoms of withdrawal include confusion, insomnia, delirium, and hallucinations. The onset of withdrawal can begin 1-2 hours after the last dose and can progress rapidly. Withdrawal can last up to 12 days.

GBL Drug Overdose

According to the UK’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, accidental GBH and GBL drug overdose are far too easy: “An extra half-millilitre of GBL or half-gram of GHB on top of a moderate dose can make you fall into a deep sleep where you could potentially choke to death on your own vomit.” In one year, Sweden had the same number of fatal GBL drug overdoses from GHB as they did from heroin.

Because of its memory-inhibiting qualities, the danger of losing track of how much someone has taken (especially since it is often combined with alcohol) is much greater, leading to a more significant chance of accidental GBL drug overdose. One sip too many can often mean the difference between unconsciousness and euphoria. GBL can be easily synthesized into GHB simply by changing the pH level by adding an alkali such as sodium hydroxide. Recipes for this process are widely available on the Internet, and some sites will not only identify the materials needed but sell them, too.

However, converting GBL into GHB is redundant because the body will rapidly metabolize the GBL into GHB after ingestion. Once that happens, the risks and effects of GBL are identical to GHB. However, the onset of action of GBL is faster, the duration of action longer, its potency much greater, and, GBL may have a greater potential for misuse than GHB.

GBL Drug Addiction Treatment

Now we learned what is GBL drug, and how GBL drug is converted (metabolized) into GHB in the body. It is important to ask “How long does GHB stay in your system?” Since many individuals who experience symptoms of GHB overdose are abusing the drug or other substances, it is recommended that recovering users seek help at an addiction treatment program. A wide variety of options are available to help the person stop using drugs or alcohol and avoid serious side effects from substance abuse. Many GBL users respond well to residential rehab programs. 

If you are experiencing withdrawal GHB, it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When the symptoms have been evaluated by a mental health professional, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular type of treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes are effective for coping with functional. 

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Medically-Assisted Detox

Medical detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of GHB withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient drug treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of GHB withdrawals.


Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

If you or a loved one are struggling with long-term drug abuse and a co-occurring mental health condition such as depression, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. We Level Up can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.

What is GBL Drug
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[1] NCBI –
[2] DEA –
[3] NCBI –
[4] GHB Detox – We Level Up NJ