Drug Intelligence Brief
An Overview of Club Drugs
(U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Intelligence Division, February 2000)
"Club Drugs" is a general term for a number of illicit drugs, primarily synthetic, that are most commonlyencountered at nightclubs and "raves." The drugs include MDMA, Ketamine, GHB, GBL, Rohypnol, LSD,PCP, methamphetamine, and, to a lesser extent, cocaine and psilocybin mushrooms. The drugs havegained popularity primarily due to the false perception that they are not as harmful, nor as addictive, asmainstream drugs such as heroin.
One of the dangers associated with this emerging drug market is that drug quality may vary significantly, and substitute drugs often are sold when suppliers are unable to provide the drug currently in demand. This has been a significant problem with Rohypnol, because the illicit supply has been limited and any number of "look-alike" pharmaceutical products could be sold in its place. Since club drug users usually do not have a steady distribution network to depend upon, they unwittingly risk taking dangerous combinations of drugs. Not only can this lead to a greater risk of drug overdose, the lack of knowledge regarding what drug was ingested can complicate the task of emergency response personnel.
GBL (Gamma Butyrolactone)
GBL is a chemical used in many industrial cleaners, and is the precursor chemical for the manufacture of GHB. Several Internet businesses offer kits that contain GBL and the proper amount of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, along with litmus paper and directions for the manufacture of GHB. The process is quite simple, and does not require complex laboratory equipment. The kits sell from $48 to $200. As with GHB, GBL can be added to water and is nearly undetectable. In addition to its industrial applications, GBL has been marketed as a health supplement. The products that contained GBL, such as Longevity, Revivarant, G.H. Revitalizer, Gamma G, Blue Nitro, Insom-X, Remforce, Firewater, and Invigorate, have been removed from the market. However, many of the products were reintroducedunder new names, utilizing 1,4 butanediol (BD) as a replacement for GBL. BD is synthesizedby the body to produce GHB. GBL also is synthesized by the body to produce GHB. As a consequence, some partygoers drink small quantities of GBL straight. This often causes a severe physical reaction, usually through the violent regurgitation of the fluid. These chemicals increase the effects of alcohol, and can cause respiratory distress, seizures, coma, and death. GBL became a List I chemical on February 18, 2000. BD is not scheduled under Federal guidelines. Blue Nitro and Renewtrient, liquid and pill form, have been removed from the market.
Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) FACT SHEET
Countering the Spread of Synthetic Drugs
The term "Synthetic," as used in the National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS) Annual Report and its classified annex, refers to drugs whose origins are not primarily organic, but rather are produced via chemical synthesis. For clarification, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana are in the organic category, while LSD, MDMA, and methamphetamine are synthetics. This report deals primarily with amphetamine-type stimulants often termed "designer drugs" or "club drugs " and drugs such as oxycodone or benzodiazepine, which are produced commercially by drug manufacturers for valid medical purposes, and are diverted from legal channels or produced illegally in clandestine laboratories for illicit markets worldwide. Regardless of source, commercial or clandestine, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) are emerging as a class of drugs that are widely abused in the United States and pose a serious threat to our youth.
Some of the most prevalent synthetic drugs of abuse are:
Gamma Butyrolactone (GBL). Often found in industrial cleaners, GBL is the precursor chemical for the manufacture of GHB. In addition, it has been marketed as a nutritional supplement in health food stores and over the Internet in both powder and capsule form. GBL is synthesized by the body to produce GHB. Ingestion of GBL often causes a severe physical reaction, usually through the violent regurgitation of the fluid. These chemicals increase the effects of alcohol, and can cause respiratory distress, seizures, coma, and death.
Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB)
In the United States, GHB is produced in clandestine laboratories with no guarantee of quality or purity, making its effects less predictable and more difficult to diagnose. GHB can be manufactured with inexpensive ingredients and using recipes on the Internet. Gamma butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4-butanediol are analogs of GHB that can be substituted for it. Once ingested, these analogs convert to GHB and produce identical effects. GBL, an industrial solvent, is used as an immediate precursor in the clandestine production of GHB. The FDA has issued warnings for both GBL and 1,4-butanediol, stating that the drugs have a potential for abuse and are a public health danger.
On February 18, 2000, the Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Prevention Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-72) became law. It made GBL a List I chemical subject to the criminal, civil, and administrative sanctions of the Federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970. As a result of the law, GHB became a Schedule I Controlled Substance. A Schedule I drug has a high potential for abuse, is not currently accepted for medical use in treatment in the United States, and lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
Food and Drug Administration
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Public Health Service 5600 Fishers Lane Rockville, MD 20857
FDA WARNS ABOUT PRODUCTS CONTAINING GAMMA BUTYROLACTONE OR GBL AND ASKS COMPANIES TO ISSUE A RECALL
The Food and Drug Administration is alerting consumers not to purchase or consume products, some of which are labeled as dietary supplements, that contain gamma butyrolactone (abbreviated as GBL). FDA has also asked the companies that manufacture these products to voluntarily recall them. The agency has received reports of serious health problems -- some that are potentially life-threatening -- associated with the use of these products. Although labeled as dietary supplements, these products are illegally marketed unapproved new drugs. Products containing GBL are marketed under various brand names including Renewtrient, Revivarant or Revivarant G, Blue Nitro or Blue Nitro Vitality, GH Revitalizer, Gamma G, and Remforce. They are promoted with claims to build muscles, improve physical performance, enhance sex, reduce stress and induce sleep.GBL is also known by the chemical names 2(3H)-furanone dihydro; butyrolactone; gamma-butyrolactone; 4-butyrolactone; dihydro-2(3H)-furanone; 4-butanolide; 2(3H)-furanone, dihydro; tetrahydro-2-furanone; and butyrolactone gamma.GBL related products have been associated with reports of at least 55 adverse health effects, including one death. In 19 of those cases, the consumers became unconscious or comatose and several required intubation for assisted breathing. Other reported effects included seizures, vomiting, slow breathing, and slow heart rate. There are reports of at least 5 children under 18 years of age who have been injured or who have suffered these kinds of effects.When taken orally, GBL is converted in the body to gamma hydroxybutyrate or GHB. GHB is a very potent unapproved drug. It is currently being investigated under the supervision of doctors for the treatment of narcolepsy. Because of its serious side effects, GHB should not be taken unless in the context of these FDA approved investigations. FDA and the Justice Department have ongoing criminal enforcement actions against GHB. GBL should not be taken.Products containing GBL are sold in liquid and powder form. They are sold via the Internet, in some health food stores, and in some gymnasiums and fitness centers.Consumers are advised to dispose of any products of this type in their possession. If they have experienced adverse health problems from use of these products, they should promptly contact a physician. FDA requests consumers and physicians to report adverse events to FDA's MEDWATCH 1-800-332-1088.The Trimfast Group, Inc. has agreed to recall the product Revivarant, 32 ounces of liquid in a plastic bottle, and Revivarant G, 200 grams of powder in a pill bottle. Other companies manufacturing products containing GBL are being asked by the FDA to voluntarily recall them.FDA is considering all potential regulatory actions at its disposal if products containing GBL are not recalled. The agency will act expeditiously to protect the public health.