GHB Abuse Trends and Use in Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault: Implications for Prevention

Laura Hensley

Once considered a drug used primarily at clubs and “raves,” GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) has become increasingly popular both on the campuses of American colleges and universities and in rural communities (Haworth, 1998). National media attention has focused upon GHB abuse in both adolescents and college students. For example, a 22-year-old fraternity member at a large university in the Midwest died in April 2000 from GHB and alcohol overdose (Young, 2000). In December 1999, three teenage men poured GHB into a young woman’s soft drink without her knowledge because they wanted to “liven up” the party that night. She fell into a coma and died the next day (Associated Press, 2000). According to estimates, there were 58 deaths and over 5,700 GHBrelated medical emergencies reported in the United States in recent years (Dyer, 2000).GHB is of particular concern to student affairs administrators and practitioners not only due its low cost, nonprofessional manufacturing techniques, and increasing use on campus, but also because of its ease of use in drugfacilitated sexual assaults (Dyer, 2000). Because student affairs professionals are called upon to formulate policies, provide outreach education, and make appropriate referrals regarding critical campus issues, they need to be informed of the various forms of GHB abuse. In this paper, the characteristics of GHB and the effects of both voluntary and involuntary abuse are described. Further, implications for prevention efforts related to involuntary GHB ingestion and GHB-facilitated rape are reviewed.

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