GHB, the club and party drug, is to be reclassified to increase the penalties to up to five years in jail for possession after Government advisers uncovered a “concerning increase” in the harm it causes.
The date rape drug, used by serial killer Steve Port to subdue and murder his victims, has been increasingly linked to crimes, violence and mental ill health, according to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
The ACMD has now recommended it should be upgraded from a class C to a class B drug, which increases the penalties for possession from two to five years in jail. Those caught supplying it can be sentenced to up to 14 years in jail.
It puts the drug alongside cannabis, spice and speed, and the advisers urged the Government, in a letter published on Friday, to take action to disrupt its widespread sale on the internet as a club and party drug.
The recreational club drug, known as liquid ecstasy and typically bought from street dealers or the internet, acts as a sedative, lowering inhibitions and giving users a sense of euphoria, but it can also make them feel sleepy and put them at risk of overdose and death.
What is GHB?
Short for gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, its current class C status puts it alongside anabolic steroids and some tranquilisers.
Since the ACMD’s last report on the substances in 2003, the advisers said there had been "evidence of a concerning increase in the health and social harms among those who use these drugs.
They added: "The number of deaths where GHBRS were implicated has also increased since the last report, although these numbers remain low."
As well as those who knowingly take the drugs, there is "also evidence of harms caused by being unknowingly drugged with these substances".
"It is currently unclear how commonly this occurs, however there is evidence of serious cases, including robbery, drug facilitated sexual assault and murder," the report adds.
Reynhard Sinaga – the UK’s most prolific rapist – was jailed earlier this year for drugging and raping more than 40 men, with his trials hearing that he laced his victims’ drinks with drugs like GBH to render them unconscious.
Serial killer Stephen Port was jailed for life in 2016 for murdering four young men with GHB. Stefano Brizzi, who was gay and had a meth addiction, was sentenced in 2017 for the murder and partial cannibalisation of police officer Gordon Semple — before killing himself.
And Gerald Matovu, Stephen Port’s dealer, was imprisoned in 2019 along with his lover accomplice Brandon Dunbar for a string of thefts and a murder in which GHB/GBL was used as the weapon.
As a result of the findings, the ACMD has called for routine GHB testing in unexplained sudden deaths.
It also wants to see drug and sexual health services record usage of the drugs and the Crime Survey for England and Wales collect and publish similar information.