Lifestyle

IS THE ‘DATE RAPE DRUG’ ILLEGAL IN THE UK?

Home secretary Priti Patel has issued an urgent review into stricter controls of ‘liquid ecstasy’

A man described as Britain’s most prolific rapist was jailed on Monday for a minimum of 30 years, for 159 offences against 48 men.

Reynhard Sinaga lured victims back to his flat, offering a place to stay, and is then thought to have laced alcoholic drinks with the drug, GHB, in order to incapacitate them. 

As a result of the central role the drug played in the trial, the home secretary, Priti Patel, has called for an urgent review into whether more stringent controls are needed for so-called ‘date rape’ drugs, like GHB.

Patel told the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs: “I’m deeply concerned by the use of illegal drugs like GHB to perpetrate these crimes”.

But what is GHB, and what impact would it have to legally reclassify it? 

GHB (meaning gammahydroxybutrate) is a psychoactive drug that can be used as a medical treatment for narcolepsy, and when first developed in the 1960s, was used as an anaesthetic. ✕

Today GHB, also known as ‘liquid ecstasy’, is used recreationally as a party drug, or during sex, particularly by gay men in the ‘chemsex scene’. Professor Adam Winstock, founder of the Global Drug Survey writes in a 2020 report: “It’s big on the chemsex scene in many cities.”

GHB should not be confused with GBL ​(gamma-butyrolactone), which is a separate, but nearly chemically-identical drug, sold legally as an industrial solvent, stain remover, rust remover, and paint stripper. 

Together the drugs are known colloquially as “G”. 

What does GHB look like?

According to UK drug advisory service, Frank, GHB is normally sold as a colourless and odourless liquid, which has almost no smell and a soapy or salty taste. 

GHB can be consumed orally, using a pipette or syringe to add a small, measured, amount (between 0.5ml and 1.5ml) of the clear liquid to a soft drink. 

Injecting GHB is rare, and snorting is only possible with GHB powder, which again is much more uncommon than consuming via a drink. 

What effect does GHB have and is it dangerous?

GHB produces similar effects to alcohol, according to Frank. This includes feelings of euphoria, drowsiness, intense relaxedness and feeling turned on. 

Similarly to ecstasy, it can also reduce inhibitions leading people to have more intense sexual experiences.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 27 deaths, involving GHB, in England and Wales, in 2018 alone. 

Is GHB illegal? 

GHB has been classified as a Class C drug since 2003 under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). This means it is against the law to possess it or sell it for human ingestion. 

Drugwise, formerly Drugscope, a group which promotes evidence-based information on drugs and alcohol, says that penalties for possession of GHB can be up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine. 

Being charged with supplying GHB can hold a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. 

If you are found guilty of supply or production of a Class A drug then the sentence can be as long as life in prison.

IS THE ‘DATE RAPE DRUG’ ILLEGAL IN THE UK?
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