GBL (Gamma-butyrolactone) addiction

GBL is a powerful substance that is taken recreationally for the feelings of euphoria and relaxation it produces. However, GBL abuse can be very dangerous, often resulting in GBL addiction which can be extremely difficult to overcome. Infamous for its use as a date rape drug, GBL is easily attainable, making it hard for the UK government to control possession or supply. GBL addiction usually requires professional help to overcome, but it is possible to break the addiction with willpower and the right support.

GBL addiction drugs

What is GBL?

GBL, or gamma-butyrolactone, is a central nervous system depressant that is often abused for its euphoric effects, similar to cocaine and ketamine, making it an attractive party drug. It is a clear liquid with a slightly sweet or bitter taste that is often sold in small bottles and is sometimes known as “liquid G” or “liquid ecstasy.”

When GBL is consumed, it is metabolised into GHB inside the body, which is a powerful sedative that can cause blackouts and memory loss which is why both substances are sometimes used as date rape drugs by “spiking” somebody’s drink. In the UK, it is illegal to possess or supply GBL, knowing that it will be used for consumption with sentences of up to fourteen years in prison while administering it to someone without their knowledge or consent or to control them carries a prison sentence of up to ten years.

However, part of the issue with GBL abuse is that the substance is commonly present in numerous household and industrial products, making it difficult to ban the substance altogether. This also means that it can be easily sourced and is often not as expensive as other drugs, which enable recreational abuse and the criminal use of GBL as a date rape drug.

How does GBL addiction develop?

GBL addiction can develop quickly, particularly if the substance is being used recreationally, as the effects are short-lived and wear off within a couple of hours. This can lead to a person taking more GBL to maintain the desired effect, which can quickly spiral out of control, leading to a physical dependency.

Once dependent on GBL, you may experience GBL withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, tremors and insomnia when you try to stop taking it, which can be highly unpleasant. Unfortunately, these withdrawal symptoms often compel a person to keep taking GBL, even if they are aware of the risks.

Who is most at risk of GBL addiction?

Although anybody can develop a GBL addiction, certain groups of people are more at risk than others. This includes:

  • Young people who may be more likely to experiment with drugs or be influenced by their peers to try GBL
  • People with mental health problems who self-medicate with GBL to help with their symptoms People who have experienced trauma as GBL can help to numb the pain
  • People who struggle with social anxiety or other anxiety disorders who use GBL to help them relax in social situations
  • People who have easy access to GBL
  • People with a family history of addiction as there may be a genetic predisposition

What are the health dangers of GBL abuse and addiction?

There are several dangers associated with GBL abuse and addiction, both in the short and long term.

Short-term dangers:

  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Agitation and aggression
  •  Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Respiratory depression

GBL addiction man with insomnia

A potentially fatal overdose is a particular risk with GBL because the amounts required to produce the desired effect are so close to the amounts that can cause an overdose. Overdoses are often accidental as people are not always aware of how potent GBL is and may mistakenly believe that they can handle more than they actually can.


Long-term dangers:

  • Organ damage, particularly to the liver
  • Cognitive problems
  • Mood swings and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Psychosis

How can GBL abuse and addiction affect your life?

Like all forms of drug addiction, GBL addiction can have a number of negative effects on every area of your life. These include:

  • Your relationships: GBL addiction can lead to problems in your personal relationships as your GBL abuse takes up more and more space in your life. You may start to neglect your family and friends as you pursue your GBL addiction or lie to them about your use.
  • Your work or studies: GBL addiction can also affect your work or studies as the drug impairs your ability to think clearly and make good decisions. This can lead to problems at work or school and may even result in you losing your job or being expelled from your course.
  • Your finances: GBL addiction can also be very expensive as you will need to keep buying the drug to feed your habit. This can lead to financial problems, which may only add to the stress and anxiety you are already feeling.

No amount of GBL abuse is either safe or legal and if you are addicted to GBL, it is vital that you seek professional help as soon as possible. Here are some questions to ask yourself which may indicate you need GBL addiction treatment:

  • Do I feel like you need GBL to get through the day?
  • Do I take more GBL than I originally intended to?
  • Have I tried to quit or cut down on my GBL use but been unsuccessful due to GBL withdrawal symptoms?
  • Have I experienced memory blackouts or passed out from GBL abuse?
  • Do I continue abusing GBL even though I know it is causing problems in my life?
  • Have my loved ones voiced their concerns about my GBL abuse, or have I lied to them about it?


If you have answered yes to any of these questions, it is likely that you are suffering from GBL addiction and need treatment. The sooner you seek this treatment, the faster you can get started on your road to recovery and the less chance you will have of experiencing serious health consequences.

What does GBL addiction treatment involve?

GBL addiction can be a very powerful force which requires professional GBL addiction treatment. Treatment is made up of three main stages: detox, rehab and aftercare. Liberty House provides inpatient detox and rehab because we believe this gives you the best chance of recovery as you will be away from the temptations and triggers of your everyday life and will have 24/7 support from staff and other clients. Here is what to expect from the three stages:

GBL detox

The first stage of GBL addiction treatment is detoxification, during which your body will rid itself of the toxins associated with GBL abuse. This can be difficult, and you might encounter GBL withdrawal symptoms during this period. Therefore, it’s important to undergo detox under medical care for your safety. GBL withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

GBL addiction woman with anxiety

GBL withdrawal can be very severe and can last days or weeks, depending on the amount of GBL you have been taking and for how long. At Liberty House, you will receive a full medical assessment when you begin GBL detox so that our medical team can devise a GBL detox plan which is right for you. This may include the use of medication to ease your GBL withdrawal symptoms and help you through this difficult time.

GBL rehab

The second stage of treatment is GBL rehab, during which you will work with counsellors and therapists to identify the underlying causes of your GBL addiction so that you can develop coping mechanisms to deal with them. At Liberty House, all of our counsellors have been through recovery themselves, so they really understand what you are going through and can offer invaluable support and guidance.

Our GBL rehab programme comprises a range of evidence-based therapies, including:

GBL addiction art therapy

These holistic therapies will focus on every aspect of your recovery, helping you to develop the skills and knowledge you need to cope during difficult moments when GBL cravings or negative thoughts or feelings may arise.

Aftercare for GBL recovery

The third stage of GBL addiction treatment is aftercare, during which you will be supported as you transition back into everyday life. At Liberty House, aftercare comprises one year of weekly group therapy sessions, which will help you to stay on track with your recovery and get the support you need from other people who are on the same journey.

Frequently asked questions

How can I avoid GBL relapse?
There are a number of things you can do to avoid GBL relapse, including:

  • Attending regular aftercare therapy sessions
  • Participating in Liberty House’s Alumni Network activities
  • Avoiding GBL triggers and high-risk situations
  • Practising stress management and relaxation techniques
  • Making new friends who don’t use drugs or alcohol
  • Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle
Is GBL used medically?
No, GBL has no medical uses at all and should never be ingested for any reason. Any extent of GBL abuse carries the risk of overdose, accident or injury when under the influence, so it is important to get professional help if you are struggling with GBL abuse or addiction.
Is GBL the same as GHB?
No, GBL and GHB are two separate drugs. However, GBL is a prodrug for GHB, which means that it is converted into GHB by the body once it has been ingested. This means that the effects of taking GBL are essentially the same as taking GHB. One thing to be aware of with both drugs is that mixing them with alcohol or other substances can make them even more potent and greatly increase the already high risk of overdose.