GBL Addiction

Few substances have garnered as much notoriety as Gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL). Often in the spotlight due to its misuse as a date rape drug, GBL is a potentially devastating substance for anyone who takes it, knowingly or otherwise. One critical yet often overlooked danger is the risk of developing a drug addiction to GBL. While less frequently discussed than other substances, GBL addiction can lead to severe physical and psychological harm, with the journey to addiction often starting subtly but quickly spiralling out of control.

What is GBL?

Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) is a chemical often used in industrial cleaners and paint strippers. While this industrial use dates back to the 19th century, people discovered that when ingested, GBL turns into gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) in the body. GHB is a drug that can produce a powerful euphoric and sedative effect, making you feel relaxed and euphoric.

However, it is these effects that have also made GBL a notorious date rape drug. GBL is an oily, slightly sweet-tasting liquid that can be easily slipped into drinks with detection. The drug can then incapacitate someone quickly, making them vulnerable to assault. Effects of GBL can include drowsiness, confusion, memory loss and loss of muscle control, rendering a person unable to resist or even comprehend or remember what is happening to them.

What is GBL addiction?

GBL addiction develops through repeated use and the changes it causes in your brain and body. When you start using GBL, you may enjoy the feelings of relaxation and euphoria it brings but as you become tolerant to it, you will need more of it to get high. This can lead to a dangerous cycle of increasing use and a developing physical dependence.

As you use GBL more frequently, your brain can start to rely on it to feel good or even normal. This can make it incredibly difficult to stop using GBL, even if you want to. You will find yourself thinking about GBL all the time, planning your day around using it and feeling anxious and irritable when you can’t get it.

The physical side of GBL addiction can be particularly harsh. Your body can become so used to the presence of GBL that it reacts strongly when you try to stop. GBL addiction withdrawal can cause enormous distress with symptoms like tremors, sweating, anxiety and even seizures, making it very challenging to quit without professional help.

GBL abuse addiction in the UK

In the UK, GBL abuse and addiction are growing concerns, though it often flies under the radar compared to other substances. GBL is classified as a Class B drug, which means it’s illegal to supply or possess it with intent to misuse. Despite this classification, GBL is still relatively easy to obtain because it is present in many industrial and household products. So, some people use it as an alternative to the more strictly regulated GHB.

The exact number of people struggling with GBL addiction in the UK is hard to determine due to the substance’s discreet nature and its presence in everyday items. However, the UK government has reported that recreational doses of GBL are available for as little as 8p, showing just how cheap and available the drug is in Britain.

Am I addicted to GBL?

Identifying GBL addiction symptoms early is crucial for getting the right help and support. However, this isn’t always easy, as the symptoms can vary and may be mistaken for other issues.

Here are some common GBL addiction symptoms specific to look out for:

  • Feeling an uncontrollable urge to use GBL often despite knowing the risks
  • Needing to use larger amounts of GBL to achieve the same effects as before
  • Experiencing GBL addiction withdrawal symptoms like tremors, sweating, anxiety and nausea when not using GBL
  • Ignoring your work, school or family obligations because of your GBL use
  • Suffering from frequent headaches, dizziness and other health problems
  • Noticing increased anxiety, depression or mood swings associated with GBL use
  • Hiding GBL use from friends and family or becoming defensive when questioned about it
  • Trying to stop using GBL multiple times but being unable to do so

Typical causes of GBL addiction

Understanding the causes of GBL addiction can help you recognise why it happens and how to address it effectively. These causes can be personal, social or related to GBL itself:

Mental health issues
People struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions might use GBL as a way to cope with their symptoms. However, The temporary relief GBL provides can quickly lead to repeated use and, eventually, addiction.
Genetic predisposition
Some people may be more prone to addiction due to their genetic makeup, making them more likely to develop a dependence on substances like GBL.
Peer pressure
GBL is commonly used in nightclubs and parties, and mixing in these social circles can normalise substance use and significantly impact your choices.
Stress and trauma
High levels of stress or traumatic experiences can drive people to use GBL as a means of escape or self-medication, which can lead to addiction as they begin to rely on it for relief.
GBL is found in many household products, making it relatively easy to obtain. This accessibility can lead to experimentation and misuse, especially among people looking for a readily available high.
What is the difference between GBL and GHB?
GBL (Gamma-Butyrolactone) and GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate) are closely related chemicals but are not the same. GBL is a precursor to GHB, so when you take GBL, your body turns it into GHB. While GHB is tightly controlled because of its misuse potential, GBL is often easier to get since it is found in many industrial and household products. Both can be dangerous and addictive, but GBL’s accessibility makes it particularly risky.

The dangers of GBL addiction

GBL addiction can seriously impact your health and every other part of your life and well-being. Knowing these risks can help you understand why getting help is so important:

  • Breathing problems: In higher doses, GBL can slow down your breathing, which can be dangerous and can even lead to respiratory depression. This is the leading factor in GBL overdose, particularly in people who mix it with alcohol, opioids or other drugs.
  • Organ damage: Using GBL for a long time can seriously harm your liver and kidneys and lead to chronic illnesses.
  • Brain damage: Long-term use can change how your brain works, affecting your memory and ability to think clearly and triggering and worsening mental health conditions.
  • Seizures: Chronic GBL use can lead to seizures, especially when you try to stop using it.
  • Depression :After the initial high, you might feel very down and depressed, and in the worst cases, this can lead to self-harming or suicide.
  • Anxiety and paranoia: GBL can make you feel extremely anxious and paranoid, which can isolate you from people who could potentially help you.
  • Drowsiness and loss of coordination: GBL can make you extremely sleepy and clumsy, making everyday tasks like driving potentially dangerous to yourself and others.

Available treatment for GBL addiction

There is professional GBL addiction treatment available to anyone who needs it across the United Kingdom. Effective treatment requires a combination of drug detox, rehab therapy and relapse prevention strategies. Detox helps manage GBL addiction withdrawal symptoms safely, drug rehab provides therapy and support to untangle the web of addiction causes, and relapse prevention teaches you skills to stay clean in the long term without falling back into old habits.

How to get help for GBL addiction

If you are struggling with GBL addiction, we can help you get the treatment you need. We have strong links to rehab centres nationwide that can provide you with proven and effective support. Contact us today, and we will help you assess your options and prepare you for self-referral. You don’t have to suffer from GBL addiction alone – contact us today and start your journey to freedom.

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What products is GBL found in?
GBL is found in a variety of industrial and household products. It is commonly used in paint strippers, nail polish removers, superglue solvents and industrial cleaners. Because of its widespread use in these products, GBL is often easy to obtain, which can make it particularly risky for misuse and addiction.

(Click here to see works cited)

  • Corkery, John M. “GBL & 1,4-BD: Assessment of Risk to the Individual and Communities in the UK.” GOV.UK, Accessed 18 May 2024.
  • FRANK. “GHB | Effects of GHB.” FRANK, Accessed 18 May 2024.
  • UK Addiction Treatment Centres. “GBL addiction | GBL abuse signs and symptoms | UKAT.” UK Addiction Treatment Centres, 3 January 2024, Accessed 18 May 2024.
  • Brunt, Tibor M et al. “GHB, GBL and 1,4-BD addiction.” Current pharmaceutical design vol. 20,25 (2014): 4076-85. doi:10.2174/13816128113199990624