On the weekend, 25 people were reportedly transported to Melbourne hospitals after overdosing on a relatively unknown illicit drug – synthentic GHB – at Electric Parade Music Festival in the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
This is a piece Mamamia ran some nine days earlier, reporting gamma hydroxybutyrate is the new ‘in vogue’ drug on the Australian party scene.
While drugs are always ‘on trend’ in the party scene, it’s the presence of different kinds of drugs that changes over time.
In the last few years, MDMA caps slowly gave way to powdered ketamine, which in turn has moved aside for GHB – a potent liquid known more casually as ‘G’, ‘liquid ecstasy’ or ‘juice’.
I know this, of course, because something rather strange happens when you enter your early 20s – you realise party drugs are everywhere.
While my late teens were a murky haze of vodka, my twenties have been a crystal clear insight into the world of illicit substances. What I once considered nuanced, covert body language now rings as deafening alarm bells. The people hanging around the music festival toilets for half an hour aren’t ‘waiting for mates’, silly – they’re dealing ‘pingers’ for $40 a pop.
Sometimes the security guards are selling, too.
Another thing I’ve learnt is that, if anything foreshadows the future drug scene, it’s the “controversial” Rainbow Serpent Music Festival, which was “dripping” with the colourless liquid two weeks ago.
Held in Lexton, Victoria, every January, ‘Rainbow’ attracts 10,000 of the country’s most experienced partygoers. This year, 22-year-old Jacob Langford tragically died at the open trance event after he ingested a liquid substance sold as leather cleaner – a cheaper alternative to GHB.
I reached out to a raver who attended the festival to find out more about the drug, and why it’s becoming so popular.
Mel*, also 22, says she's now getting into GHB because it's "cheap" and leaves her "full of energy" so she can "dance for hours". She takes 'G' orally - carefully measuring out millilitre by millilitre so she doesn't "blow out", something that's incredibly common.
"There's a very fine line between getting it right and doing too much," she tells me. "If you overdo it, you start getting dizzy and can vomit."
Many GHB users, Mel says, "go out to blow out" - meaning they push themselves to dizzying levels of nausea, only to bring themselves back with "a bump of cocaine".
"It's also very important you know who you buy it off, because it's not as common as other drugs," she says.
While Mel is attracted to the idea of spending $30 for a full night worth of drugs, she does realise there's a significant risk that comes with her new habit.
GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a depressant, and slows down the messages travelling between the brain and body so drastically it's earned itself the nickname GBH, for 'grievous bodily harm'.
According to the Australian Alcohol and Drug Foundation, the chance of overdosing on GHB - which has been popular on the gay club scene since the '90s - is far higher than other party drugs, because "the difference between the amount needed to get high and the amount that causes an overdose can be hard to judge."
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Even more troubling, consuming GHB with alcohol "greatly increases" the risk of overdose further.
And if you topple over the precarious tightwalk between fun and fatal? Extreme panic attacks, muscle cramps, hallucinations, bladder and bowel incontinence, respiratory depressions, and blackouts will likely result.
Once someone has passed out on the drug, it's believed the most common form of death is via aspiration of gastric contents - in simpler terms, choking on one's own vomit.
Mel says she is concerned about the side effects, and worries about pubic perception of the drug.
"I did get really concerned one time," she said. "I got sold a different version and it took longer to kick in, so I took more than usual, and when it finally did kick in I got really sick.
"Now I am a lot more careful. I know my limits, and no matter what, I stick to the clock. No matter what, even if I can't feel anything.
"Because it's still got a grotty reputation, I've only told three of my friends I do it."
For more information about GHB, head to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website here.
If you or a loved one is in need of support, Mamamia urges you to contact ReachOut here.