GHB, GBL, and not dying

GHB and GBL are depressants that, at the right doses, cause euphoria, increase your libido, and lower your inhibitions. They’re usually found as a clear liquid with a bitter aftertaste, but have also been found as a white powder or a bright blue liquid.

What’s the difference between GHB and GBL?

GBL is a prodrug of GHB, meaning that your body will turn GBL into GHB. There’s only a couple of differences between GBL and GHB, but they’re super important.

GBL is far more potent than GHB

A standard dose of GHB in liquid form is 1.5 – 2ml, or 1.5 – 2g of solid. A standard dose of GBL is between 0.9ml and 1.5ml in liquid form, or 0.9-1.5g in solid form. A high dose of GBL is >3g, and a high dose of GHB is >4g. GBL feels far more potent though, so you need far less of it to feel the effect.

Doses above 2ml of liquid or 2g of solid GBL can result in heavy sleep, where people can choke on their own vomit and die if they’re not placed in the recovery position. Doses above 10g of solid or 10ml of liquid GHB have been associated with death.

If you don’t know the exact concentration of your GHB or GBL, you don’t really know what your dose is. ALWAYS presume it’s stronger than you think.

GBL comes on faster than GHB and doesn’t last as long

GBL has an onset time of between 5 minutes and half an hour, and lasts for about 1-2 hours. GHB has an onset time of 10 minutes and half an hour, and lasts for about 1.5-2.5 hours. Both have an after-effect period of between 2 and 4 hours.

Be precise with your G and you’ll be all g

Fuck around and find out, by all means. But if you fuck around with GBL and GHB then you might find out what it’s like to die.
There’s half a ml or half a gram’s difference between a good time and passing out in your own vomit or having a helicopter ride that you won’t remember while some poor bastard tries to keep you alive.

Use proper measuring devices

Use a 0.5 or 1ml syringe or a clean set of scales to measure your dose. GHB and GBL tend to erode plastic in liquid form, so make sure the syringe you use is new as the numbers on the side of the barrel will get worn away over time.
If you don’t have either of these, you can use kitchen measuring spoons. ¼ of a teaspoon is approximately 1.25ml/1.25g, so you’ll want to start with about half of that.

Shake the bottle

GHB and GBL are heavier than the liquid they’re in, and will settle to the bottom of the bottle. This makes measuring doses unreliable as the liquid at the bottom will be stronger than at the top. Shaking the bottle will distribute the GHB or GBL more evenly throughout the liquid and make dosing more accurate.

Reduce subsequent doses

GHB and GBL have a cumulative effect so if you’re having more than one dose over the course of an evening, reduce the dose each time.

Storage

GHB and GBL dissolve plastic and rubber so keep any leftover liquid in a glass container. Also label the container and dye the liquid with food colouring so it doesn’t get mistaken for water and drunk accidentally.

G and GCs

Having a ‘sober driver’ is a good idea when you’re taking GHB or GBL. GHB and GBL are disinhibitors that amp your libido up. It’s also super easy to misjudge a dose, take too much, and black out. Your sober driver can remind you to use condoms and lube if things go well, or remind others that passed out people can’t give consent if things go badly.

Dangerous interactions

In general, GHB and GBL do not combine well with any other substances. We’ve listed some known interactions below, but this list is by no means exhaustive.

Depressants

It’s generally a risky idea to combine drugs with prescription medication. GHB and GBL are a particularly bad combination with benzos, barbituates, gabapentinoids, thienodiazepines, and opioids like codeine or tramadol.

Don’t combine one downer with another – this suppresses your breathing and in some cases you can just stop breathing completely. Funnily enough, if you don’t breathe, you die. (I know, we too were shocked at this revelation)

The combination of alcohol with GHB/GBL is particularly risky and can result in death, but it’s also recommended to avoid the following:

  • Ketamine
  • DXM
  • PCP
  • MXE
  • Nitrous
  • Alcohol. Yes, we know we’ve mentioned it twice, but it’s enough of a high risk to warrant a double mention. The likelihood of you dying if you mix GBL or GHB and alcohol is particularly high, and we’d much prefer it if you didn’t.

Stimulants

Stimulants that have harmful reactions with GHB and GBL are

  • Cocaine
  • MDMA
  • Amphetamines

These will increase your breathing rate, which will make it hard to feel the effects of the GBL or GHB. This might make you want to take a larger dose.
With cocaine and amphetamines, the stimulant will wear off first, leaving a dangerous level of GHB or GBL in your system, which can cause respiratory arrest. If you keep bumping with cocaine you can wind up with a toxic amount of it in your system when the GHB or GBL wears off first.

With MDMA the GBL or GHB can overwhelm the effects of the MDMA on the comedown, causing breathing difficulties.

What to watch out for

As mentioned previously, GHB and GBL can make you pass out very quickly very easily. Other things to keep an eye out for are:

  • Clumsiness/loss of motor control
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Slow heart rate
  • Diarrhea and/or difficulty with urinating

COVID-19 is still a thing

Aotearoa is in the incredibly lucky place of actually having a festival season. Thanks to us being a team of 5 million and flattening the curve, we can actually go and have fun this summer.

COVID’s still ruining the days of folks all over the world. England’s going into a third lockdown with no festivals since March last year, the US reported 567,195 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 just before Christmas, and most of Australia’s still at Level 3.

While we have a licence to frolic, the risk from COVID-19 is still real and we still run the risk of having another outbreak. It’s still a good idea to keep doing the things that got us to Level 1 so we can keep frolicking.

Hand sanitizer is your friend

You can’t wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds each time at a festival. Sorry Aunty Jacinda and Dr. Bloomfield.

Anyone who’s used a public bathroom knows it’s a gamble as to whether the soap dispenser has been filled recently. If you’re at a bush doof or self-reliance event, there’ll only be portaloos and what you can carry into the space with you.

Image, Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs
It puts the hand sanitiser on its skin or else it gets the COVID again

Those travel-sized bottles of hand sanitiser are deep fried gold at festivals. They fit in your pocket and will last ages. They’re not as good as washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water, but they’ll reduce the risk of COVID-19. They will also reduce the chances of you catching things like e. coli and salmonella and stomach bugs like norovirus, coz no-one wants to spend their festival with vomiting and diarrhea.

The thing to keep in mind with this stuff is that it’ll dry your hands out if you use it often enough. This is bad because it creates little breaks in the skin where microbes can get into your bloodstream. It’s a good idea to use some hand lotion once a day to keep this from happening.

Sharing your snorting utensil is not caring

Basically you’re putting someone else’s viral droplets up your nose. That’s how you get COVID.

Besides being kinda gross (nobody likes a snotty straw), the membranes on the inside of the nostril are very thin. They absorb things very easily, and are super easy to break. If the person you’re sharing a straw, spoon, or key with is sick, whatever virus they have will be transferred directly to an easy entry point to your body.

Also, if you’re going to snort, try and avoid using a rolled up bank note. Money is a perfect disease vector because it passes through so many people’s hands. Illnesses like the common cold, influenza, salmonella, e coli and staph can all be caught from bank notes along with COVID.

If you can, use a paper straw that you can cut into pieces. That way everyone has their own utensil and you don’t get someone else’s potentially plague-ridden snot.

Cuddle puddle with your bubble

Social distancing at festivals is super hard. Dance floors are generally packed, there’s lines for everything, and the chill spaces are also full of humans. If you add something that makes you hypersocial like MDMA, the idea of social distancing kinda goes out the window as you turn into a cuddly starry-eyed pool of goo who is best friends with the whole world.

Bloody COVID ruins everything though. Cuddle puddles are great places for viruses to travel between people quickly. Have your friends as your festival bubble, and keep your snugs for them and them alone. It reduces the risk of you contracting COVID and passing it on to your friends.

We’re not completely COVID-free yet

Our COVID-19 curve might be flat, but it’s not over. Our last community-spread case was back in November, but new cases are still being reported at the border. We still need to be careful and we still need to take care of each other. We’re still a team of 5 million, after all.

Eat, hydrate, rest, rave, repeat

You’re on holiday, so time has ceased to have any kind of meaning. You eat if you’re hungry. Sleep is for the weak! You even have ice cream for breakfast and spend all day every day in your togs because, in summer, clothes are for suckers!

Except if you keep going like that you’re going to burn out after a week because you feel super gross and miss out on all the fun. We’ve got some pointers on how you can look after yourself so you can last the entire season.

Mind your meatsuit

Your body needs the same kind of maintenance that you give it when you’re not on holiday, and it’s easy to get distracted and forget that.

Check your drugs

With the amount of eutylone that’s flying around this summer it’s a 50/50 chance of you getting something shit instead of getting real MDMA. The amount of hospitalisations that we’ve had so far shows that this isn’t something you want to play Russian roulette with.

Food

Believe it or not, food can actually be a difficult thing to keep track of. If you’ve been getting intoxicated, or if you’re somewhere that’s super hot, you can quickly lose your appetite. Eating full-sized meals under these circumstances will make you feel a bit yuck, so you won’t want to do it.

Skipping food will make you feel tired, grumpy, and make you very easy to upset. The hanger will be real. You may also feel dizzy and have a headache.

Nibbling on fruit, muesli bars, jerky, or salads throughout the day is a good way to get nutrients into your system without overloading your belly and making you feel off.

You may be way too high to eat. Plan for this, make sure your body is ready for a session and plan for a gentle recovery too.

Waiting until dusk or until it gets dark before having dinner is also a good idea. When the heat of the day has gone it’s easier to stomach food.

Hydration

Go get a drink of water. Yes now.

It’s summer, so it’s hot. You’ll sweat more. If you’re dancing, running about, or engaging in physical activity, you’ll be breathing heavily. This makes you lose moisture as well. It’s super easy to get dehydrated.

Not having enough fluids will give you a headache and make you super tired. People need to drink between 3 and 4 litres of water per day. Having a sipper bottle that you carry with you through the day is a good idea.

Hydration and MDMA

When you’re on MDMA there is a risk of hyponatremia — where you don’t pee enough for your body to get rid of all of the water that you’re drinking.

When you’re on MDMA your body temperature rises, you’re often dancing, and you’re often in a hot environment. You will most definitely feel thirsty and want to drink lots of water. However MDMA also restricts the hormone that tells your body it needs to pee, so you don’t. It’s important to keep an eye on how much water you’re drinking.

Your body can only really handle about 600ml of water per hour. Anything more than that in a situation where you can’t pee and the water will stay in your body. If the water can’t leave your body it dilutes the sodium in your blood and causes your cells to swell up. In extreme cases it can swell up your brain and kill you.

If you have been drinking a lot of water and suddenly feel confused, lose control of your body, or vomit unexpectedly, seek medical attention.

If you find you’re drinking too much water while on MDMA, hold an ice cube in your mouth. This will trick your body into thinking it’s being quenched while not running the risk of overloading your bladder. Ice blocks are also a great way to quench your MDMA-induced thirst because not only are they cold and wet, but they have all different kinds of flavours.

Rest

The festival environment can be pretty damn overwhelming, even if you’re a seasoned partygoer. Having a quiet space where you can chill out and decompress is very important. Lack of sleep will make you grumpy and give you a headache. It can lead to hallucinations if it goes on long enough, and not in a fun way.

If you’re finding that it’s too hot to get a full night’s sleep, see if you can find a shady place outdoors to have an afternoon nap in.

Temperature

Summer is one of those times where, when the sun’s out, it’s bloody hot. And when the sun goes away for the night, it gets bloody cold bloody quickly, depending on where you are.

We wrote about how to avoid sunstroke and stay cool a couple of years back, but something else you should keep in the back of your mind is staying warm at night. Especially if it rains. People can still get hypothermia in summer, so having a warm, dry place to sleep is important.

At the risk of sounding like your nanna, make sure you’ve got a warm jersey and a raincoat that you can quickly throw on over your festival gear. Can’t have you catching your death!

Slip slop slap and wrap

The sun in Aotearoa New Zealand is ferocious. When summer’s at its peak our burn times can be as little as under ten minutes, and our UV index is considered ‘extreme’. We have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

Wearing sunblock, a t-shirt that covers your shoulders, sunglasses, and a hat while you’re out in the sun reduces your chance of skin cancer. If it’s really hot, staying in the shade between 10am and 5pm will also reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Love your mind

Festivals can be super confronting environments. There’s people and noise everywhere, your sleep cycle is interrupted, and you’re not at home in your familiar surroundings. While on one level this is all very exciting and fun, on another level it can be super stressful.

Take some time to check in with how you’re feeling. Are you overwhelmed with all of the people and the shiny things to see and do? Underwhelmed with the person in the tent next to yours with the shitty music that they won’t turn off? When was the last time you unwound? Taking stock of where your levels of whelm are at and keeping them in equilibrium as best you can is about the best thing you can do for yourself in life generally, as well as in festival season.

75% of people will refuse drugs if proved to be cathinones

75% of festival goers that brought their drugs to be checked by KnowYourStuffNZ have said that they will not take drugs they have bought if they turn out to be eutylone in place of MDMA.

KnowYourStuffNZ checked people’s drugs at festivals over New Years Eve. Data from these shows that 75% of people said they would not take their drugs when they found out they had eutylone instead of MDMA. 15% said they would maybe take it, and 10% said they would still take their substances despite finding out it was eutylone and not MDMA. In contrast, 90% of people that found they had MDMA said that they would take it.

This is a big change from previous years. Last year just over 50% of people said they would not take their drugs if they proved to be something other than what they were hoping for. This makes clear that people want to avoid eutylone if they have the information to help them make that decision.

Drug checking by KnowYourStuffNZ in the days leading up to New Years’ Eve showed that nearly 40% of “MDMA” was actually eutylone, an unpredictable and often unpleasant stimulant from the cathinone family.

As KnowYourStuffNZ couldn’t do drug checking at all the festivals over New Years’ Eve, they urged people to buy reagent tests from retailers and test their substances themselves. While not as thorough as spectrometer analysis, reagent tests can show when MDMA has been replaced by a cathinone.

The widespread availability of eutylone prompted a flood of messages to the group. Half were from people that had used a reagent test, found they had been sold cathinones instead of MDMA, and discarded their drugs as a result. The other half were from people that either hadn’t tested their drugs and they had turned out to be eutylone, or had tested them, found them to be eutylone, and taken them anyway. These messages described instances of vomiting foam, insomnia, and extreme anxiety.

“The messages we’ve received show how much worse it could have been,“ says KnowYourStuffNZ Managing Director Wendy Allison.
“Being able to get the message out early and fast meant that by New Years Eve, people knew about eutylone and were helping each other avoid it. While we weren’t able to have a physical presence at every event, the law change and the publicity around made it much easier to get the message out.”

Know Your Cathinones

We know that eutylone is being mis-sold as MDMA all over the country and ruining everyone’s summer this festival season. That’s not the only cathinone you need to watch out for though.

But wait, there’s more cathinones! And they’re pretty much all shit!

Aotearoa New Zealand has experienced at least 5 different types of cathinone in the last decade. Because they’re comparatively easy to make, every time we get a handle on one, another crops up to shit on everyone’s day.

Cathinones found in NZ have included:

  • Alpha PVP (flakka)
  • Eutylone
  • N-ethylpentylone
  • Mephedrone (4-MMC)
  • Pentylone
  • Methylone (M1 or bk-MDMA – despite the name, is *not* MDMA)

Why are cathinones so shit?

Cathinones are often more potent, mg for mg, than MDMA. A standard dose of cathinone can be anywhere between 10mg and 60mg. A standard dose of MDMA is anywhere between 75mg and 125mg. A dangerous dose of cathinone is between >15mg (flakka) and >100mg (eutylone). A dangerous dose of MDMA is >175mg.

So let’s say that someone’s been sold some “MDMA” that’s actually eutylone. They have 100mg of their “MDMA”, which is actually 1.5 doses of eutylone. The euphoria wears off quickly and they think that their “MDMA” is really weak, so they have another 100mg. They’ve now had 200mg of eutylone, which is well more than a standard dose and is getting into seriously risky territory.

Symptoms for dangerous doses for cathinones include hallucinations, tingling extremities, seizures, psychosis, vomiting and diarrhea, insomnia, severe, prolonged anxiety including panic attacks, and in some cases, death.

Sometimes drug manufacturers will mask cathinones with a small amount of MDMA in order to throw off reagent tests. Those are the drug manufacturers that get people killed. This is why getting your gear checked with our FTIR spectrometer is so important. Using reagent testing alone can’t detect these mixes and will give the same result as MDMA. We can tell you which cathinone you’re dealing with, how dangerous it is, and how you can take care of yourself if you have some by accident.

NZ’s top 3 cathinones

This is a run-down of the things you will potentially run into this summer. Things all cathinone experiences have in common are:

  • Mild euphoria that doesn’t last very long
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Racing heart

Things extreme cathinone experiences have in common are:

  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Hospitalisations

People have also overdosed and died because of these substances.

Basically, almost nobody has a good time with cathinones, especially when they take them inadvertently, thinking they are MDMA. The only thing that really varies is how much it takes to hurt you if you don’t know you’ve taken it.

Eutylone

We started seeing eutylone in December 2018 and it’s been picking up since then. It’s been strongly prevalent this summer and a large number of people have had extremely negative experiences with it. Almost half of the samples that we’ve seen that are meant to be MDMA have been eutylone, or a eutylone/MDMA mix. People taking this have experienced insomnia, gastric distress, hallucinations, and severe anxiety.

It’s been found in pill, powder, and crystal form, so unfortunately there’s no way of telling whether what you have is eutylone just by looking.

N-ethylpentylone

Judged Summer’s Crap Drug of 2017, this cathinone has been linked to deaths overseas and hospitalisations here. We found this in powder, crystal, and pill form. The active dose of n-ethylpentylone is >35mg, so even half a standard dose of “MDMA” will be more than you bargained for. A normal MDMA sized dose is likely to be harmful and unpleasant. DO NOT MESS AROUND WITH THIS SHIT.

Mephedrone

This is another cathinone that’s been linked to deaths overseas and hospitalisations here. This is one of the older cathinones (2005-2010) that has reappeared in NZ. Mephedrone can feel similar to MDMA but has a very high redose compulsion so you risk taking far too much. It also has a dependency risk.

We started seeing this in pill form in 2019, and it’s popped up every now and again since. Dosing for mephedrone is similar to that for MDMA, which means anything over 175mg is getting pretty risky. Make sure you weigh your gear properly, and be aware that if you snort it you should halve your dose.

Cathinones sound like shit, how do I avoid them?

Come and see us in the KYSNZ tent, obvs. We’ll run your gear through the FTIR spec and tell you if you’ve got mdma in your mdma, and whether or not you’ve got anything else in your mdma.

If you can’t come and see us, you can try a reagent test from the Hemp store or Cosmic, but this will only tell you if you’ve got solid cathinone. It can’t see cathinones that are present if the manufacturer has added MDMA to your cathinones.

If you can’t test your substances we strongly advise you not to take them.

Honestly, we’d rather you had a quiet one on the couch rather than a horrible one in A&E.