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At least 15 chemsex drug overdoses in Irish hospitals as over 100 seek detox treatment

Over 100 people have attended hospital for GHB detoxification programmes.

Image: Shutterstock/dwphotos

THE HSE HAS confirmed that 15 people have been discharged from Irish hospitals after overdosing on chemsex drug gamma-hydroxybutyrate, more commonly known as G. 

Latest hospital in-patient enquiry figures (HIPE) showed that 15 people have overdosed on the drug in the last two years but medics believe that number to be much higher.

HIPE figures include day patients and in-patients. They do not collect emergency department or outpatient figures. The vast majority of overdoses, according to doctors, are dealt with in emergency departments. 

Clubbing scene

According to the HSE, there has been an interest in these drugs because of their association with the issue of ‘chemsex’ within the MSM (men who have sex with men) population but some anecdotal information suggests that this may have spread to the broader clubbing scene.

The numbers presenting to hospital are difficult to gauge as routine drug testing does not pick up this substance and it has to be specifically requested.

The HSE’s addiction services plan on engaging with emergency departments next year to raise awareness of this issue and have done a number of training sessions with addiction and sexual health services already.

Detoxification

Since 2014, there have been 103 GHB detoxification referrals in Ireland. 

HSE figures show there were six admissions to St Michael’s Ward in Beaumont Hospital – a detoxification unit. Another 16 were admitted under the care of the medical team, and completed in National Drug Treatment Centre. There were 80 outpatient detoxification episodes with continued support, counselling, and aftercare.

It’s difficult to quantify how many people have died or been hospitalised as a result of this in Ireland because G usually only shows up in a person’s system for 12 hours and many toxicology tests don’t screen specifically for the drug.

GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) or GBL (gamma butyrolactone), both often shortened to G or Gina, are drugs used socially and for the purposes of chemsex – a type of drug use which has seen its popularity surge in recent months.

A number of people have also been using solvents in a bid to mimic the drug’s use – resulting in a number of hospitalisations, according to medical studies.

The recreational drug became popular around 2016 but demand for it has rocketed since the concept of chemsex became more mainstream.

The drug is sometimes referred to as liquid ecstasy due to its effects, but has a completely different chemical structure.

Chemsex is the use of drugs such as G, crystal methamphetamine, ketamine and mephedrone to enhance sexual activity.

Gardaí, especially in drugs units, have noticed an increase in the number of people using the drug in Dublin city centre in recent months.

Early indications have found that users are sourcing the drugs online – on gay dating app Grindr, online advertising sites and through other dating websites. 

With reporting by Órla Ryan

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