When it enters the body, gamma-butyrolactone acid (GBL), a ship paint solvent is converted into GHB, i.e. liquid ecstasy SUR
First chemsex death on the Costa del Sol: the 32-year-old took a cocktail of eight drugs

First chemsex death on the Costa del Sol: the 32-year-old took a cocktail of eight drugs

Experts warn of the risks associated with the consumption of narcotic substances to fuel sex sessions that can last for days

Juan Cano


Sunday, 24 March 2024, 21:44


It goes by the name of GBL. The acronym probably doesn't mean anything to you if you don't run a boat maintenance shop or participate in sex marathons with synthetic drugs to keep you going. Now you may be wondering: what does one have to do with the other?

GBL is gamma-butyrolactone, a paint solvent used on boats. When it enters the body, GBL is converted into GHB, that is, liquid ecstasy. And it is one of the trendy ingredients used in chemsex - the name given to extraordinarily long sex orgies that can last for days, aided by a cocktail of narcotic substances.

Health authorities have been warning for years about the risks involved, due to the number of participants the and lack of inhibitions, increasing danger of spreading sexually transmitted infections. And also death. In Spain, the National Institute of Toxicology has detailed several cases. One of them occurred in Marbella.

Marbella death

Forensic scientist at the Institute of Legal Medicine (IML) in Malaga Sebastián Díaz is also a lecturer in Pharmacology of Drugs of Abuse at the University of Malaga (UMA) and a specialist in new psychoactive substances. "In 2015 I was observing an increase in drug use among the detainees we treated at the IML, when I came across an article on the use of narcotics in sex," Díaz explained on Thursday, 21 March, at the opening of a conference on chemsex hosted by the Faculty of Medicine at the UMA. It was then that he began to research the phenomenon, which at that time was still in its infancy, and to publish his findings in a blog.

In his presentation, he discussed the only confirmed clinical case in the province of Malaga, a 32-year-old man who travelled from the UK to spend a weekend holed up in a villa in Marbella having sex using all kinds of drugs. Apparently, the group of four people had met through a mobile application and got together in a two-storey villa in the town. At one point, the man announced to the rest that he was going downstairs to lie down on the sofa to rest. After a while, when they went to check on him, they found him dead.

The deceased's party companions told the police that they had consumed alcohol, GHB and cocaine. This was true, but it was not the whole truth. This is a common denominator that leads, according to experts, to under-diagnosis of the havoc that chemsex can wreak. In medicine there is a saying that you can't find what you don't look for. In the Marbella case, forensic experts observed a hypertrophy of the heart and acute oedema of the lung, which indicated that there might be something else going on.

Eight drugs

The investigation was prolonged because the case required complementary studies at the Institute of Toxicology which confirmed the findings of the autopsy. The man tested positive for up to eight different narcotic substances. He had taken MDA, MDMA, amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine, GHB, sildenafil, and diazepam.

The man had also consumed a lot of alcohol. But it was the liquid ecstasy that killed him. The level of GHB in his blood was 427 milligrammes, "which was three times the level considered fatal", Sebastián Díaz said during the conference, which was also attended by Juan Jesús Ruiz, the director of the Provincial Centre for Drug Addiction (CPD); psychologist Juan F. Cabrera from the NGO Apoyo Positivo (Positive Support); and Dr Cristina Gómez, who is a specialist in infectious diseases at the Hospital Clínico, a unit to which another of the participants, Dr Jesús Santos, also belongs.

The IML forensic examiner detailed the different synthetic drugs used in chemsex, such as methamphetamines and synthetic cathinones, which are stimulants, and GBL or GHB, which are depressants (hence the effect is multiplied if mixed with alcohol). But above all, he warned that the cocktail can be lethal. Although it is used as a substitute for liquid ecstasy, "the side effects of GBL - the solvent for boat paint - are much greater and the symptoms disappear after 14 days," the doctor said. He also warned of the appearance of psychotic outbreaks: he recently reviewed the case of a man who had tried to cut his partner's throat .

What is chemsex

Chemsex is a term that comes from the fusion of the words chems (a reference to drugs) and sex. The Spanish ministry of health defines it on its website as follows: "It is a particular type of sexualised substance use, linked to gay sex culture. It is particularly characterised by drug use for sexual purposes, resulting in long sex sessions, which can last for hours or even several days."

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