Call for 'date rape' drug GHB to be reclassified

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David O'HalloranImage source, Donna O'Halloran
Image caption,
David O'Halloran was found dead with high levels of GHB in his system

A mother whose son was found dead with high levels of the drug GHB in his system is calling for the drug to be reclassified.

Donna O'Halloran's son David disappeared after a night out in Stirling city centre in January 2013.

The body of the 18-year-old mathematics student was found three months later in a wooded area above Bridge of Allan.

Toxicology tests showed he had high levels of GHB - a class C drug - in his system.

His mother, who believes his drink was spiked, wants the drug to be reclassified as a class A drug.

The authorities have been unable to establish whether his drink was spiked or he was taking the drug recreationally.

Image caption,
Donna O'Halloran told John Beattie she wanted to see GHB reclassified

While one use of GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) is as a popular party drug, it is also often referred to as a date rape drug.

The nature of the drug - it is a clear, odourless liquid - makes it very easy for recreational users to accidentally overdose.

This is because there's only a very small difference between causing the desired effects and having a severe overdose.

Ms O'Halloran, of Ardrossan, told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime with John Beattie programme, she wanted to see the drug reclassified.

"It's lethal. Why is it only a class C? Why isn't it a class A?" she said.

"It kills. It not only kills, but it destroys people's lives... It's a horrendous crime."

What is GHB?

Although it is sometimes referred to as a date rape drug, GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) is also used recreationally and consensually - often as a party drug or during chemsex, when drugs are used to enhance sex.

GHB is a separate but almost identical drug to GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), a substance sold legally as an industrial solvent but which becomes GHB once it enters the body.

Together the drugs are known as "G", and both come in the form of a clear, odourless, oily liquid that is diluted in soft drinks and swallowed.

If taken in the right dose for recreational use, it can give users a feeling of euphoria and can increase their sex drive. But increasing the dose by a fraction, even less than a millilitre, can be fatal.

Overdosing on G - which is particularly easy when it is mixed with alcohol or other drugs, and when the strength in bottles varies - can make people incoherent, suffer convulsions, lose consciousness and stop breathing altogether.

New statistics showing a rise in the number of cases where drugs (not specifically GHB) are administered for sexual purposes - i.e. as a date rape drug.

The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request to Police Scotland, show a rise in the number of crimes recorded in Scotland, from one in 2015 to 20 last year.

Although the numbers are small, experts in the field say this type of crime is "massively under reported".

Alex Feis-Bryce, the chief executive of Survivors UK, said it was not clear whether the rise in cases was due to rising numbers of sexual assaults or whether it was down to an increase in the proportion of offences being reported, adding: "The police data is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg."