When police stopped John Stamos for swerving through Beverly Hills in his silver Mercedes, the most surprising part of the celebrity’s DUI arrest was that he was charged with driving under the influence of “date rape drug” GHB. The central nervous system depressant is best known as a substance slipped into drinks to aid sexual assault, yet Uncle Jesse was reportedly taking it on purpose to “lean out” body mass before shooting his new TV show.
Among celebrity circles and fitness-conscious professionals who post on anonymous online forums and whisper to trainers at Gold’s Gym, GHB—or gamma-hydroxybutyric acid—is making a comeback.
It’s a drug with a bizarre back story. Depending on whom you ask, it’s either the perfect party drug—or pure evil. The substance, which is produced naturally in small amounts by the body, was used in 1960 as an anesthetic. In the late 1980s, the drug became popular among gym-goers and club kids.
Fans claim that GHB—often sold as Easy Lay, G, Georgia Home Boy, Goop, Grievous Bodily Harm, Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid X, and Scoop—provides the euphoria of alcohol without the sloppy side effects like slurred speech or hangover. Bodybuilders say that it increases production of human growth hormone (HGH) and promotes sounder sleep.
When users overdose, however, GHB can cause a coma-like sleep—and mixing it with alcohol the increases the depressant effect, quickly leading to unconsciousness. This led to the substance being labeled, along with Rohypnol (“roofies”), as the drug of choice for sexual predators. In 2001 the government listed GHB alongside heroin and LSD as a Schedule I substance, and popularity declined.
I was first offered a (then-legal) nail polish-sized vial of “Liquid X” in the mid-90s, when I was 14 and dating a popular 17-year-old athlete who maintained a 4.0 average in spite of his heavy partying habits. When he told me that the drug “burns fat, won’t give you a hangover, makes you want to have sex, and can’t get you busted for booze,” I was in.
But as he pressed the bottle of clear liquid into my palm, my date, like the wise Mr. Wing in Gremlins, laid out the three GHB rules: Don’t take it with strangers, don’t take too much, and NEVER mix it with alcohol. For a few weeks, GHB was a wonder drug. I could party all night, was less inhibited about hooking up, and maintained straight A’s on four hours of sleep.
According the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) fact sheet, the average GHB dose is 1 to 5 grams and takes effect in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the dosage and purity of the drug. The DEA fact sheet also warns that GHB overdose can result in “seizures, slowed heart rate, greatly slowed breathing, lower body temperature, vomiting, nausea, coma, and death.”
But on the street, drug dealers don’t usually carry measuring spoons. So GHB doses are measured by the capful, at a cost of $5 to $30 each.