The drug GHB will be reclassified as a class B drug, the Home Secretary has said.
Restrictions around GHB, short for gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, will be tightened revealed Priti Patel, by moving them from class C to class B.
It is hoped that the reclassification will better protect victims from their use by criminals.
The move follows recommendations by the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which previously found evidence of a “concerning increase” in the harm GHB causes.
The ACMD report released in November last year suggested that GHB and other related substances, known as GHBRS, should become a class B drug.
A review of controls on these drugs was commissioned by the Home Secretary in January 2020 amid growing concern over the criminal use of GHB and other similar substances.
What is GHB?
Known as liquid ecstasy the recreational club drug acts as a sedative, lowering inhibitions and giving users a sense of euphoria.
The drug is also used as a weapon by rapists as it makes users sleepy and can cause anterograde amnesia where a user is unable to create new memories.
After receiving a small dose of the drug a user may fall asleep for several hours.
The drug can also cause death. Between 2014 and 2018 there were 120 deaths in England and Wales involving the drug.
Reynhard Sinaga, the UK’s most prolific rapist, was jailed in January last year for drugging and raping more than 40 men, with his trials hearing that he laced his victims’ drinks with drugs such as GHB to render them unconscious.
What has Priti Patel said?
Ms Patel said: “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.”
The Home Office said it will also “bring forward legislation” around two substances that can be converted to GHB on ingestion: gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4-butanediol (1,4-BD).
The department said this will mean that “those wishing to possess them for legitimate industrial purposes will require a licence”.
Necessary legislation will be brought forward “when parliamentary time allows”, the Home Office added.
What is the difference between a class C and class B drug?
The maximum penalty a person can face for the possession of a class C drug is up to two years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
For possession of a class B drug, the maximum penalty an offender can receive is five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.