GHB will be upgraded from a class C to a class B drug after a spate of “truly sickening crimes”, the Home Office has said.
Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, commonly known as GHB, is prescribed as a medication to treat narcolepsy, but is increasingly being used recreationally and as a “date rape drug”.
The substance, which is addictive, can induce feelings of euphoria and decreased anxiety and is often used as chemsex drug, but can also cause unconsciousness, slowed breathing and heart rate, coma and death.
After a series of violent crimes in which the perpetrator used GHB, the Home Office has announced that it will move GHB from class C, which includes anabolic steroids and diazepam, to class B, alongside cannabis and ketamine.
The maximum penalty for possession of a class C drug is up to two years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. This increases to up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both for class B substances.
The Home Office is acting on a report released last year by the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which recommended GHB be reclassified.
Home secretary Priti Patel said in a statement: “GHB and related substances have been used to commit some truly sickening crimes including murder, sexual assault and robbery.
“I will do everything in my power to protect people from harm, which is why I am tightening restrictions around these dangerous substances.
“These changes will make the drugs harder to access and introduce tougher penalties for possession.”
UK criminals who have used GHB on their victims in recent years include Grindr serial killer Stephen Port and Reynhard Sinaga, dubbed Britain’s most prolific rapist.
Sinaga was convicted of 159 sex offences against 48 men in Manchester, and many of his victims woke up without any memory of their sexual assault, leading a judge to conjecture that he had drugged them with GHB.
Port used dating apps to meet up with gay men, before drugging them with GHB and disguising their deaths as overdoses.