Govt agrees with experts - class B for Fantasy 3/3Tariana Turia Associate Minister of Health
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: FANTASY
What is Fantasy?
'Fantasy' is the common name for Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and
its related substances including:
- 1,4-butanediol (1,4-B)
- gamma-butyrolactone (GBL)
- gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
- sodium oxybate.
These substances have similar chemical structures and effects on humans.
Each of the GHB-related substances converts into GHB in the human body. GHB
also occurs naturally in the human body - primarily in the central nervous
system. However its exact function is not entirely clear.
It has also been used therapeutically in some European countries and the
United States for treatment of alcohol and opiate dependence. It is also an
GHB and its related substances are also being used as 'recreational drugs'
for their relaxant and euphoric effects. These substances are commonly used as
dance party drugs.
GHB and its related substances are most commonly available in a liquid form
and are taken orally. They are colourless, odourless liquids usually sold in
small bottles or sachets. It has also has been seen in powder and capsule form.
What are the effects of
'Fantasy' is a depressant drug, which depresses the central nervous
system. Small doses can have a relaxant effect, reduce social inhibitions, and
can produce short-term amnesia and hypotonia (diminished skeletal muscle tone).
Medium doses can produce drowsiness and sleep for some people.
Higher doses produce general anaesthesia, can also stop people breathing,
reduce cardiac output, and produce seizure-like activity, and coma.
This is a 'rule of thumb' guide only because the same dose can affect
different people in different ways - for example, a euphoric dose for one person
could sedate another person.
What are some of the key
In the last 2-3 years in New Zealand, there have been an increasing
number of people admitted to accident and emergency departments who have had
life threatening overdoses of Fantasy. One death has been attributed to the
drug. Particular risks for these substances include:
- The very fine line between the dose required to give the 'desired effect'
and that causing an overdose, which may result in coma, convulsions, vomiting,
blocked airways, the person stopping breathing, and death.
- The onset of the effects is delayed (around 10-20 minutes), which may cause
people to consume more of the drug, thinking the original dose was not enough.
This may lead to an overdose. Effects can last anywhere between 1-6 hours, or
more depending on the dosage.
- The unpredictability of the effects - especially when combined with other
substances like alcohol. Likewise, some GHB-related substances (such as GBL) may
be more potent than others.
- There have been reports of people becoming dependent on these substances if
they are taken at regular, high doses, over a long period of time.
- These substances have been implicated in drug-assisted sexual assaults
- Driving while intoxicated on GHB-related compounds carries personal and
public health risks (eg, drivers falling asleep at the wheel).
- The effects discussed above are largely short-term effects from one drug
taking session. There is little information on the long-term effects of these
substances when taken for many months or years.
How can the potential harm from dance
party drugs be minimised?
The Ministry of Health's Dance Party Guidelines pamphlet and
associated resource, has some good harm minimisation advice about dance party
drugs for those who choose to take them regardless of the law.
- Possessing or supplying drugs is against the law and may result in a fine or
- All drugs have the potential to cause harm. The safest option is not to take
- If you choose to use drugs, be prepared and be aware of the risks.
- Drugs can affect you differently depending on the drug's contents, your
mood, and the situation.
The Guidelines give important information about staying safe, being prepared,
and the risks of dance party drugs. The Guidelines are available on the National
Drug Policy Website (www.ndp.govt.nz/drugs/danceparties.html), the Ministry of
Health, or authorised providers in each District Health Board. .
How can the potential harm from Fantasy
- Because of the delayed effect and small difference between a dose that gives
the desired effect and a potentially fatal overdose, people choosing to take
these substances should only take a small amount and wait for it to take effect.
- Using the same drug again may affect you differently. It is often impossible
to know just what is in the drug you are taking. There is some evidence that GHB
and its related substances (eg, GBL) have different potencies and so there is a
risk of overdose.
- If a person is unconscious after taking these substances you should seek
medical help immediately. Do not leave the person alone. You should care for
them by safeguarding their airway, positioning them in the 'recovery position',
and administering 'mouth-to-mouth' breathing if the person has stopped
- People should never be left to 'sleep overdoses off'. Overdoses of these
drugs can result in people stopping breathing and dieing. Although some people
do recover spontaneously, you should call for immediate medical assistance if a
person is unconscious.
- People who have taken the drug should not engage in risk activities
requiring concentration and physical coordination such as driving a vehicle,
operating heavy machinery or engaging in water-related activities.
- People should not take these substances alone, or with strangers.
- People should not take drinks from strangers, or leave their glasses
unattended because someone might 'spike' their drink.
- Do not take other substances (eg, alcohol) at the same time as the effects
can be unpredictable. There is evidence that alcohol compounds the effects of
GHB as they are both depressants.
What does the proposed classification of
The Government has proposed to classify the 'Fantasy' substances as
Class B drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. This will mean it will be
illegal for people to possess, and supply such substances. Like other illegal
drugs criminal penalties are associated with offences involving these
substances. A comparison of the different Schedules penalties is shown in the
|Schedule One /Class A||Schedule Two /Class B||Schedule Three /Class C|
More specifically, it is proposed to classify these drugs in Part 1
of Class B (ie B1). Class B has three parts, B1, B2, and B3. When drugs are
classified as B1 as opposed to B2 or B3 police have wider enforcement powers
including the ability to search premises and people without a warrant if they
have reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed under the
Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. The same enforcement powers are applied to drugs
scheduled in A and C1.
More information about the different Schedules in the Misuse of Drugs Act can
be found on the National Drug Policy Website (www.ndp.govt.nz - look under the 'other drugs'
Why was Class B decided?
Controlled drugs are classified according to the risk of harm they
pose. Accordingly, drugs posing a:
- very high risk of harm should be scheduled as 'Class A' drugs
- high risk of harm should be scheduled as 'Class B' drugs
- moderate risk of harm should be scheduled as 'Class C' drugs.
The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs was set up this year to advise the
Minister of Health on the most appropriate classification for particular drugs.
The EACD, in its advice to the Minister, considered Fantasy under the following
- specific effects of the drug, including pharmacological, psychoactive and
- likelihood or evidence of abuse, including prevalence of the drug, seizure
trends, and potential appeal to vulnerable populations
- risk to public health
- therapeutic value of the drug
- potential for death upon use
- ability to create physical or psychological dependence
- international classification and experience of the drug in other
- other matters considered relevant by the Minister.
After thorough consideration of all the above information, the Committee
decided the most appropriate classification for Fantasy was B1. More
information, including the EACD's evidence-based report, composition and Terms
of Reference, is available on the National Drug Policy Website
The classification process from
Before any change to the law occurs a Parliamentary Select Committee
has to consider the proposed classification, before the issue is voted on by
Parliament. The Health Select Committee will consider the 'Fantasy'
classification in early 2002.
Where can I find more information?
The EACD's evidence-based report on 'Fantasy' is on the National
Drug Policy website www.ndp.govt.nz.
The Ministry of Health Dance party Guidelines and associated health resource
has health information about Dance parties and specific dance party drugs. The
Ministry is currently updating the Guidelines to include fantasy.
Waitemata Health has published a booklet Sorted, which provides information
and harm minimisation messages about party drugs (an online version is available
New Zealand Drug Foundation's website www.nzdf.org.nz
Australian Drug Information Network www.adin.com.au