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You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC issues ‘Schoolies’ alert: beware of dangerous club drug GHB/fantasy — 15.09.2011
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC issues ‘Schoolies’ alert: beware of dangerous club drug GHB/fantasy — 15.09.2011
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC issues ‘Schoolies’ alert: beware of dangerous club drug GHB/fantasy — 15.09.2011

CMC issues ‘Schoolies’ alert: beware of dangerous club drug GHB/fantasy — 15.09.2011

Recent peaks in the illicit market of dangerous ‘club’ drug, GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), have prompted the Crime and Misconduct Commission to raise a cautionary flag ahead of Schoolies Week (19–26 November).

CMC Director, Intelligence, Chris Keen today issued the warning, alerting parents and students to the fact that just a two-milligram overdose of this ‘niche’ party drug can kill.

His warning follows a CMC investigation that last year disrupted the activities of an organised crime network operating throughout Brisbane’s southern areas and extending to the Gold Coast.

The group was detected supplying methamphetamine (speed or ice) and GHB to criminal associates and juveniles, with the intention that these juveniles would sell the drugs during end-of-year ‘Schoolies’ celebrations on the Gold Coast. Four people have been charged with 49 drug and property-related offences.

‘Our Strategic Intelligence Unit has been monitoring trends in relation to GHB for approximately 10 years and we’ve seen it evolve from a substance used experimentally to a popular party drug within particular social sets,’ Mr Keen said of the drug also known by its street names ‘fantasy’, ‘G’ and ‘fanta’.

‘We believe it’s readily available in south-east Queensland and while all indications suggest its use is low among the general population, our message to parents and young people is simple: taking GHB is like playing Russian Roulette.’

He said the margin for error between a so-called ‘safe’ dose and a potentially fatal overdose literally came down to a few drops: the difference between a three or five-milligram dosage.

Of note, he said the risk of overdose increased when GHB was mixed with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol — a particular concern given GHB’s ‘party drug’ status and prevalence in entertainment districts of Fortitude Valley, Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.

‘Without testing, it would be difficult to know whether a GHB dealer has incorrectly mixed doses, which intelligence tells us are being sold on the club and party scene in water bottles, glass perfume vials and, most recently, fish-shaped soy sauce containers,’ Mr Keen said.

‘GHB is also a relatively cheap drug, which can be attractive on the illicit market, but with such a miniscule margin of error between a “high” and ending up in hospital or worse, dead, we hope people will think twice and realise it’s just not worth the risk.’

Mr Keen said that once ingested, GHB, also a naturally occurring fatty acid in the human body, is quickly metabolised and impossible to trace in a person’s system after a period of 12 hours, also raising concern about its possible use in drink spiking.

GHB is listed as a dangerous drug, with supply, production and possession offences punishable by imprisonment up to 20 years under Queensland’s Drugs Misuse Act 1986. Its precursors, including GBL (gamma-butyrolactone) and 1,4-B (1,4-butanediol), are ‘controlled substances’ which can be sourced as legitimate commercial products, primarily for use as industrial cleaning agents.

As a result, Mr Keen said law enforcement agencies faced a number of challenges in tracking the illicit market of GHB, obtained via both illegal importation and the stealing or diversion of legitimately imported products.

‘Current intelligence indicates that criminal groups involved in GHB production and supply appear to vary from established organised crime groups, such as outlaw motorcycle gangs, to more opportunistic syndicates and individuals with little knowledge of the importation and production process,’ he said.

‘We’re not seeing sophisticated clandestine laboratories involved in the production of GHB so much as people being found in possession of substantial quantities of its precursor, GBL, and accompanying chemicals required to convert it into GHB… a process that requires no “cooking”.

‘Intelligence also indicates that it’s not uncommon for dealers to simply sell the precursors without attempting to change them into GHB, in turn causing problems with dose strength and potential for users to overdose.’

A recent example of a large quantity of precursor GBL surfacing on the illicit market occurred during Operation Warrior, the largest organised crime investigation in the CMC’s history.

The investigation, which closed in May 2010, linked a syndicate of family members in south-east Queensland to drug distribution networks in Melbourne, Sydney and North Queensland.

Twenty-five litres of GBL (capable of making up to 60 litres of GHB) was seized in the haul of drugs, also including cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), cannabis and steroids, to the street value of $5 million.

Full details about the work of the CMC’s Crime area — including support provided by the Strategic Intelligence Unit, which monitors organised crime markets and groups in Queensland and identifies trends and issues which may influence the nature of criminality in the region — feature in the CMC’s Annual Report 2010-11, due to be released this month.

In the past financial year, the CMC undertook 28 tactical operations across all areas of major crime, resulting in 38 arrests and 330 charges. Over the same period, drugs were seized to an estimated street value of $1.6 million.

For more information about Queensland’s illicit drug markets, read the Strategic Intelligence Unit’s report, Illicit drug markets in Queensland, published last year.

For more information on staying safe during Schoolies, visit www.schoolies.qld.gov.au — and remember  — Be Safe and Watch you Mates!

Last updated: 06 December 2011

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