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GHB Demonization Proceeds in States
A Call to Action : Stop Criminalization of GHB Now!

By Ward Dean, M.D.
Posted 4/1/97
[Erowid Note : GHB was placed in Schedule I in March, 2000.]

Gamma hydroxy butyric acid (GHB) is a substance that was quietly sold in health food stores during the late 1980s. GHB is a naturally-occurring substance that is present in small amounts in every cell in the body, and is both a precursor and metabolite of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma amino butyric acid). Because of

  1. its prior sales in health food stores,
  2. its role as a natural substance and metabolite of an amino acid, and
  3. the fact that a New Drug Application (NDA) has never been issued by the FDA

GHB falls within the definition of a food supplement, as determined by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSH&EA) of 1994.

Some of the documented effects of GHB include anxiety and depression relief, a feeling of euphoria, stimulation of growth hormone release, aphrodisiac activity in some people, induction of deep and restful sleep, normalization of abnormal ECGs, reduction blood cholesterol, and others others. GHB Is One of the Safest Substances Known Unlike sleep-inducing drugs, GHB is nonaddictive, non-habit-forming, has no toxic metabolites (in fact, it breaks down in the body into harmless, energy-producing Krebs cycle intermediates), and does not cause respiratory suppression (it protects the heart and brain from low blood levels of oxygen). GHB is so non-toxic that one person who "accidentally" took 15 tablespoons woke up 24 hours later, feeling sedated and had a headache but no other negative effects and recovered completely within hours.

With such a wide variety of beneficial effects and such a wide margin of safety, one would think that GHB would be touted as a wonder substance of the ages which many GHB-users of all ages believe it to be. However, GHB is not viewed in this light by some rogue elements of the FDA or DEA. Instead, factions within these agencies, as well as the gullible major media, have demonized GHB by falsely and maliciously:

  1. labeling it "the date-rape drug" (intentionally confusing GHB in the minds of the public with Rohypnol);
  2. nicknaming it "Grievous Bodily Harm";
  3. referring to it as an illegal "designer drug" with 100% abuse potential; and
  4. attributing a number of deaths to GHB use.

Not one of these claims is true!

I have extensively investigated the deaths alleged to have been caused by GHB and found that not a single one could be attributed to any toxic effect of GHB.

Illegal Prosecutions
A number of people (many of whom were honest, tax-paying owners of health food stores) have been prosecuted and even sent to prison for selling GHB! In a recent federal court case in Boston in where I testified as an expert witness for the defense on the clinical uses and safety of GHB, I was astonished to find that the FDA had never even followed their own formal procedure for determining that GHB was a dangerous drug. In addition, I learned that when a substance is thought by FDA bureaucrats to be hazardous to the public welfare, and they decide that there is little time to follow formal procedures, FDA agents are authorized to seize the substance immediately. However, instead of seizing GHB upon discovery of its being sold, the FDA in most cases chose to play "Junior G-Man." For example, the agency had their undercover agents repeatedly place large orders for GHB, until they amassed enough of the product to prosecute the business-owner for a felony with the guarantee of major prison time. At the same time, the agents allowed sales of this supposedly "dangerous substance" to continue to countless non-police customers. This is hardly a procedure that should be followed if GHB were truly the toxic substance the FDA and DEA would have us believe.

Another remedy available to the FDA, in lieu of the two above (formal procedure or seizure) would be to obtain an injunction against the seller, pending administrative resolution of the status of the substance. None of these three legal procedures were ever followed in any of the cases, however.

A New Strategy
Fortunately, the FDA's outlaw behavior has been exposed in court. As a result, many of the people who had been unjustly prosecuted and imprisoned are now having their convictions appealed and reversed. Judicial recognition of prosecutorial misconduct by U.S. attorneys and the deliberate withholding of exculpatory evidence by the government has completely undermined the FDA's anti-GHB courtroom strategy. Consequently, the agency has been forced to adopt a new strategy.

Using the same misinformation and disinformation about GHB they used to rationalize their arrest and imprisonment of innocent people, the FDA's new "end run" tactic is to promote legislation to criminalize GHB at the state level. Although this is constitutionally a more appropriate level to regulate something (assuming regulation is necessary), state legislatures, lacking any independent analyses of the merits of proposed legislation, frequently just rubber-stamp the illegal directives of federal regulatory agencies.

At the present time, the DEA/FDA is promoting bills to "schedule" GHB as a Class I Narcotic by state legislatures. A Class I narcotic is a substance that has been determined to have no medicinal value and a high potential for addiction and abuse. This would put GHB in the same class as heroin. Georgia and Rhode Island have already succeeded in criminalizing GHB in this way. In five states California, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, and Hawaii such bills are in various stages of enactment.

An Extremely Dangerous Precedent
Such criminalization of, what is essentially a food supplement, would be an extremely dangerous precedent. Without the DSH&EA, the FDA would probably not have allowed the sale of melatonin, DHEA, pregnenolone, and a number of other valuable substances. If the FDA succeeds in criminalizing GHB at the state level using false information they will be able to criminalize any food supplement despite federal law prohibiting such activity. Who knows what supplement will be next?

Call to Action
There is still time to stop these bills and revoke the bills that have already been passed. We urge you to contact your state (not U.S.) representative or Senator immediately, and (politely, but strongly) urge them to vote against any criminalization of GHB. If you don't know the name of your state legislators, call the Secretary of State or capitol switchboard in your state to find out your legislators' name and phone number (and in many cases, their FAX numbers and e-mail addresses as well). If you are in a state that has not yet been identified as having proposed GHB legislation, please check with your state legislators to determine if any anti-GHB bills are pending, and let us know if they are.