More and more criminals are using GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyrate) to spike unsuspecting people's drinks in order to take advantage of them. In most cases, ingesting GHB via drink spiking leads to sexual assault. In this guide we have outlined how long GHB lasts, what you can do to prevent drink spiking, and what you should do in the event of taking GHB without consent.

How long does GHB last?

The immediate effects of GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyrate) are often felt within 10 minutes of ingestion and will typically last between six and eight hours, occasionally up to 12 hours. 

In mild doses, the effects of GHB can be euphoric and often increase sociability, in high doses it can lead to a lack of coordination, unconsciousness, and short term memory loss. 

The severe side effects of high doses of the drug are what make it a popular drug for those that target people with drink spiking.

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How long can GHB show up in your system?

GHB is processed by the body rapidly making it difficult to detect in standard drug tests. As someone who has been spiked by GHB will often be physically and cognitively impaired for many hours, getting a test to detect the substance in time can be difficult. 

The detection window for GHB is as follows:

Test type Detection period
Urine up to 12 hours
up to eight hours
Saliva up to six hours
Hair up to one month

Urine, blood, and saliva testing are more frequently used forms of drug tests as they are cheap, offer accurate results, and are easy to use. However, they often fail to pick up GHB outside of a short window. Hair testing can detect GHB for up to a month, making it a more concrete form of drug test for those who believe they have been the victim of a GHB related sexual assault.

Read here to find out more about how long substances stay in your system.

What is GHB drink spiking?

Drink spiking is the common term used to describe when someone has had a substance, usually alcohol or drugs (such as GHB or Rohypnol), added to their drink. The desired effect of drink spiking is often to impair the target so they may be taken advantage of. 

However, some offenders spike drinks simply for their own amusement. When GHB is used in drink spiking cases, the perpetrator will often be using the drug to aid in sexual or violent assault.

Why would someone spike my drink with GHB?

There are many reasons a criminal may want to spike someone's drink with GHB in order to take advantage of them. Spiking a person’s drink with GHB, no matter what the reason, is a crime and can result in a prison sentence even if no further crime is committed. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Violent assault

  • Theft

  • Amusement

  • Rape or sexual assault

Sexual assault and rape are the most common crime committed when GHB drink spiking is involved. The exact figure of rapes involving GHB is unclear as many victims don’t remember the exact details of what has happened to them and the substance becomes untraceable in the system quickly.

What does GHB feel like? Symptoms of GHB spiking

The effects GHB will have on a person's body will differ between individuals and there are some criteria that can change the reactions between different people. Things that can influence a person's reaction to GHB include:

  • The amount of GHB used

  • How much alcohol the person has consumed prior

  • If and what other drugs have been consumed

  • Body mass and height

  • Age

  • Gender

While the effects of GHB may vary depending on the above criteria, there are common side effects that may indicate if a drink has been spiked with GHB. 

Common side effects of GHB spiking include:

  • Sweating

  • Dehydration

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Hallucinations

  • Headaches

  • Exhaustion

  • Memory loss

  • Confusion

  • Impaired motor control

How can I tell if I’ve been spiked?

Some symptoms of GHB spiking may at first feel like the side effects of excessive drinking, which can make it hard to tell if you have been spiked if you’ve drunk a lot of alcohol. 

In addition, GHB has no smell, taste, or color which makes it almost impossible to identify if it has been added to your drink. 

If you start to feel disorientated or faint, seek help immediately, preferably from a close friend.

Rohypnol is also commonly used in date rape attacks. Read here to learn more about being roofied and how to stay safe.

How can I help prevent my drink from being spiked?

It is a sad truth that criminals who target people with GHB can be operating anywhere and you may not be able to spot someone who is out to spike your drink. Even though you may not be able to spot someone who is spiking drinks, there are a few things you can do to ensure yours and others' drinks are protected. 

Protecting your drink from spiking:[1]

  • Don’t leave your drink unattended and keep an eye on friends' drinks

  • Keep your drink in your hand whenever possible

  • Drink from a bottle rather than a glass if possible and keep your thumb over the top

  • Be careful when accepting drinks from strangers

  • Watch your drink being made if ordering a cocktail or drink that requires preparation

  • Do not share drinks with others or drink leftover drinks

  • let someone know where you are if going out with a stranger (such as on a date)

Some pubs and clubs provide testing kits to see if your drink has been spiked as well as devices such as bottle covers that can reduce the risk of spiking.

What should I do if I think my drink has been spiked?

  • If you feel like your drink may have been spiked then it is important to get somewhere safe as soon as possible. Only seek help from people you trust and not someone you just met.
  • If you are with friends, let them know that you may have been spiked and ask them to help you get home

  • If you begin to feel faint, sick or are unable to stay awake then you may need to seek help from the emergency services or a medical professional

  • Do NOT seek help from strangers. If you are alone then ask for help from emergency services or speak to the bar staff.

  • Try not to be alone or go somewhere with someone you don’t know. If waiting for emergency services then try to do so in a public area and do not go anywhere secluded. 

  • Spiking is illegal and should be reported to the authorities. Even if you manage to get somewhere safe and recover without further crimes being committed against you, a police report should be filed and any relevant drug testing to identify GHB in your system should be taken.

Helping someone who has been spiked

If you are with a friend who you suspect has been spiked then it is important to stay with them and make sure they are safe. Here are some steps to take to ensure they are safe and looked after:

  • If in a bar or club, notify the staff, management, or security.

  • Stay with them at all times and keep talking to them.

  • Try to keep them awake and call emergency services if their condition worsens.

  • Don’t let them go home on their own or with a stranger.

  • Don’t let them drink any alcohol.

  • If the emergency services are required, then speak to the attending paramedic and let them know what you know they have consumed as accurately as you can.

If you see someone you don’t know but suspect may have been spiked then notify security or a member of the bar staff. If you are worried for their safety or feel they are being coerced or manipulated against their will then notify authorities or interject if safe to do so.