I slipped out of a stall in the dimly lit basement bathroom of a Brooklyn soul food restaurant, sliding a frosted glass dropper bottle and chubby three-milliliter pink syringe into my friend’s hand as she quickly replaced me. My mouth burned, a sore beginning to develop on the side of my tongue. I had just squirted a dose of “G”—likely a combination of GHB and its more potent precursor, GBL—into my mouth without the usual water or 7-Up chaser.
GHB and GBL are central nervous system depressants, like alcohol, and produce an alcohol-like intoxication. GHB is a chemical that occurs naturally in the human brain, while GBL is an industrial chemical that can be manually or metabolically converted into GHB. In the US, GHB tends to be more common, while GBL is bigger in Europe. G, as both chemicals are colloquially known, is usually dissolved in water, sold as a clear liquid and consumed orally.
I wasn’t able to sip it slowly like I usually do. Neither was my friend. That’s because we were at a popular New York City queer rave in mid-January called Unter, which has a harsh anti-G policy. A sign with a big slashed “GHB” was taped by the coat check, commanding partygoers to “KEEP GHB+GBL OUT!” and claiming that “GHB IS ACTIVELY HARMING THE GREATER DANCE MUSIC COMMUNITIES.”
Data on G-related harms among New Yorkers is scarce. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was not able to comment by the time of publication. But in London, fatal G overdoses and G-involved sexual assaults have been shown to be widespread. More than a quarter of mostly-British gay men reported that they knew someone who has died from a G overdose, and the same proportion said that they had been subjected to sexual assault while using G, found BuzzFeed News UK.