Date rape drugDoes this expression mean anything to you? It is the nickname chosen to designate GHB, this narcotic that has recently been in the news with the #Balancetonbar movement. It is this substance that would plunge rape victims into a state of unconsciousness. But ultimately, what is GHB? And is it really the “date rape drug” ?

Behind the letters G, H and B hides “Gamma-Hydroxy-Butyrate“. This is a substance initially used in the medical field, mainly as an anesthetic. But sometimes also as a sedative or as a treatment for sleep disorders.


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As explained by Matthieu Méan, 1st line coordinator at modus vivendi (an association aimed at reducing the risks of drug users), it is in fact “a central nervous system depressantIn other words, GHB slows down brain activity and relaxes its user.

BHB versus GBL

Note, however, that, according to Matthieu Méan, GHB is difficult to find on the black market. Consumers would therefore rather turn to GBL, the precursor of Gamma-Hydroxy-Butyrate, which the liver converts into GHB. Or that consumers transform beforehand using chemical operations.

Why turn to GBL? Because GHB is considered a narcotic, it is therefore prohibited. Conversely, GBL is a chemical product used as a solvent in industry. It is therefore easier to obtain it.

Personal consumption

Contrary to popular belief, GHB does not only have a disinhibiting reputation that pursues it. “At normal doses, GHB has a euphoric, disinhibiting and aphrodisiac effect similar to that of alcohol, hence its recreational consumption, especially in party environments as well as when practicing chemsex.“says Michael Hogge of theASBL Eurotox (the Socio-epidemiological Alcohol-Drugs Observatory in Wallonia and Brussels), in a note requested by the Walloon Minister of Health Christie Morreale, following a parliamentary question.


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Still according to the observatory, it would not be a drug widespread in Belgium. “According to the health survey conducted among young people (HBSC survey), GHB consumption is anecdotal among young people enrolled in upper secondary education (3rd year and above) in Wallonia, since less than 1% of students reported in have already used at least once in their life. The same goes for the student community.

As for drug users, the finding is similar. “LThe consumption of this product also remains uncommon among people accustomed to consuming illicit substances. In addition, it shows that its use is most often experimental or occasional“, specifies the note.




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© Eurotox – Dashboard of drug use and its socio-health consequences in Wallonia, available on the Eurotox website


“Date rape drug”?

Since testimonies of sexual assault in the years 80-90, the substance inherited this nickname of “date rape drug“. It is true thatAs an odorless, colorless and tasteless substance, Gamma-Hydroxy-Butyrate in liquid form slides easily into a victim’s glass.

But most importantly, combined with alcohol, this narcotic causes hypnotic action. “The combination of hypnotic-disinhibiting effects of this substance make it a potentially dangerous substance and explains this singular name of ‘date rape drug ‘, this substance is sometimes used to facilitate rape (or theft; we generally speak of chemical submission).

We’re almost more likely to kill than to achieve chemical submission

It is true, this phenomenon exists. But yet, as Matthieu Méan explains, it wouldn’t be so easy to drug someone with GHB.

Indeed, the dosages of this narcotic must be extremely precise, to the nearest milliliter. “It is very complicated to dose. And to drug someone without their knowledge, you are almost more likely to kill them than to achieve chemical submission.


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People who consume GHB do not mix it with alcohol. They are checking their dosage. And it is so that people can dose it well that we distribute pipettes, etc.

As explained by Antoine Boucher, communications manager at Infordrogue, “we are talking about date rape drugs, but it is a very marginal use of GHB. Drugs are consumed for oneself because one has a need.

Figures ?

The problem is that this unintentional consumption – unlike its intentional counterpart – is hardly documented. Indeed, “we all naturally have GHB in the body“, explains Matthieu Méan. Therefore, the deadlines are very short for exams.

If we do an emergency blood test, we will not find anything unless it is done within the hour.As for urine tests, they must be performed within 12 hours.




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© Getty Images


Alcohol, the first psychotropic drug used in cases of aggression

Somewhere, when you can’t find a trace, you assume it’s GHB“, regrets Catherine Van Huyck, Director of Modus Vivendi. Indeed, by repeating that GHB is the date rape drug, we end up forgetting that it is not alone.

Other substances can indeed be used for the purpose of chemical submission. The proven cases that arrive in the emergency room are more related to benzodiazepines. These are sleeping pills, therefore legal drugs, that can be found under prescription“, explains Matthieu Méan.


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In his note, Michael Hogge recalls that “by far the psychotropic drugs most often implicated in sexual assault are alcohol and tranquilizer / sedative drugs.

Being drunk is legal and socially accepted

Indeed, alcohol would even be the first psychotropic used in the event of aggression. “In terms of chemical submission, the easiest and most common is alcohol. It is a legal and heavily used drug. It’s much easier to just pay for drinks, add shots to several beers“, adds Matthieu Méan.”Being drunk is legal and socially accepted

GHB would therefore not be the only “date rape drug“It would be dangerous to think so. Sometimes we give a false sense of security by focusing everything on GHB, when there are a lot of different products that are used.“, concludes Catherine Van Huyck.

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