to be Banned as Date Rapes and
Supply and possession of GHB, used by rapists to
spike their victims' drinks, will bring up to five years in jail
Kamal Ahmed, political editor
Sunday June 29, 2003
The Observer (UK)
The date-rape drug GHB is to be made illegal after concern over the soaring
number of women attacked after the chemical was slipped into their drinks.
Possession of the drug, gamma hydroxybutyrate, without a medical prescription
will be punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years. Supplying the drug
will bring a maximum penalty of five years in jail.
The Home Office agreed to reclassify the drug to Class C status after evidence
that its use by men in rape attacks was increasing. The colorless, odorless
liquid is a powerful anesthetic which effectively 'knocks out' victims and
leaves them with no knowledge of what has happened. Because it is difficult to
detect in the blood, prosecutions are difficult.
Clubbers also use the drug, also known as 'liquid ecstasy', to create a 'high'.
In small quantities it acts as an anti-depressant but has been linked to a
number of deaths. Leading stars, including Nick Nolte, have admitted to taking
'It is a very dangerous drug,' said one Home Office official. 'It can be fatal
when mixed with alcohol and has been closely linked to two forms of misuse, both
by clubbers and in the area of drug-assisted rape. We consider it to be very
In a move that will be welcomed by both the police and drug charities, GHB will
be illegal from next month. Police will be expected to step up investigations
into a growing black market in the drug, which can be made in home-based labs
using solvents and caustic soda.
The Government will also announce that a number of anabolic steroids used by
body-builders and athletes will be banned. The four steroids in the androstene
family, which are already prohibited by the International Olympic Committee, are
used to build 'body bulk' and increase stamina.
Three other drugs used in hospitals will also be made illegal outside the
GHB, which is also known colloquially as GBH because of the damaging effect it
can have on the body
(Grievous Bodily Harm)
came to public attention in the Nineties, when it first entered the club scene.
A close relative, Rohypnol, which has also been connected to date rape, is
A 1999 survey by Mixmag , the music magazine, found that 3 per cent of clubbers
said they had tried GHB. That figure rose to 26 per cent in the 2000 survey.
Last year Davina McCall, the Big Brother presenter, led a campaign to dissuade
people from taking the drug, which is sold in clubs and sex shops for about £10
The first deaths from taking the drug were reported in the mid-Nineties, and
last year the Office of National Statistics said four deaths had been directly
linked to it. Earlier this year, the rising rock star Lee Pennington, drummer
with the band Squeezebox, died aged 21 after taking a mixture of ecstasy and GHB.
Clubbers traveling to
Ibiza were warned last year of dealers peddling GHB. Dr Francisco Mueles, head
of the casualty department at the Can Misses Hospital on the island, said it was
a 'new and dangerous holiday phenomenon'.
'It worries us a lot because we don't understand how the drug works, and much
less so when it is taken with other toxic substances like alcohol and cocaine,'
One of the most notorious cases of the use of the drug against women came in a
trial in America last year. The heir to the Max Factor fortune, Andrew Luster,
was sentenced to 120 years in prison after being found guilty of drugging and
raping three students under the influence of GHB.
Luster, who fled from America during the trial and was last week said to have
been discovered by a bounty-hunter in Mexico, videotaped himself having sex with
the three women. He was seen proclaiming: 'That's exactly what I like in my
room: a passed-out beautiful girl.'
In Britain there have been a number of high-profile cases involving the drug.
Earlier this year David Meachen of Camarthen in west Wales was sentenced to 10
years in prison after meeting a stranger in a bar and spiking her drink with GHB.
He then raped her.
Lea Shakespeare, a serial rapist, was given 10 life sentences after a series of
offences between 2000 and 2001 using the drug. Speaking after the trial of
Shakespeare, aged 30, at Lincoln Crown Court, Detective Superintendent Russell
Wate of Cambridgeshire Police demanded that the drug be made illegal.
In another case a 25-year-old woman said she had pulled out 18 of her own teeth
with pliers after hallucinating under the influence of the drug. Samantha Court,
from Bolton, was found by paramedics covered in blood with the extracted teeth
scattered around her. She said she was addicted to the drug.
Women who have suffered date rape have told of the trauma it creates. Janet
Noakes, interviewed by the London Evening Standard last year, said many women
never believe it will happen to them. 'It was an evil and diabolical thing for
him to have done,' she said after she was raped by a man she had met for a
drink. Her drink was spiked and she lost consciousness for a number of hours. It
was only on waking that she realized she had been attacked.
Last night the charity Drug Scope welcomed the Government's move but said the
Home Office should now consider reclassifying other drugs so that they better
reflected their danger.
'We would also now like the Government to review the advice that it has already
been given on the classification of ecstasy as less harmful than other Class A
drugs,' said Frank Warburton, the director of service development at the