Enough date rape drug GHB to render more than 200 people unconscious can be bought online for just £70, a Mirror investigation found.
A loophole means that a legal cleaning product which is converted by the body into GHB when consumed can be bought online for less than 10p for a ‘normal’ dose.
It comes after the conviction of Britain’s worst ever rapist Reynhard Sinaga, who is believed to have attacked up to 195 victims after doping them with GHB.
But there are concerns that the widespread availability of the class C drug is spawning a generation of addicts, with some young people turning to it as a “healthier” alternative to alcohol.
A Mirror investigation found a string of websites across Europe selling huge quantities of the cleaning solvent GBL for around £70 a litre.
That’s less than 10p for a typical 1ml dose. It is legal in the UK unless it is intended for consumption.
One website offers 1000 ml of “pharma grade” industrial cleaner for less than £70. Another advertises “99.9% purity” and boasts: “All offered products are constantly in stock. 1 day delivery to Europe.”
It is believed the drug is bought in large quantities by dealers in the UK who then repackage it in smaller doses using refillable capsules, plastic heat-sealed straws or even the type of small fish-shaped soy sauce bottles used in sushi bars.
These are then distributed at pubs and clubs and through apps like the gay dating site Grindr, where users advertise “G 1ml” for as little as £1.
Users typically take just 1-2ml a time but the drug is so potent that just an extra 1ml can lead to loss of consciousness and even death.
As it is colourless, odourless and tasteless it has become one of the most-widely used “date rape” drugs.
It is particularly dangerous when combined with alcohol and, as many of Sanaga’s victims had been drinking before he targeted them, experts told the Mirror is was remarkable than none appear to have died.
Increasing numbers of addicts of drugs like GHB led to the creation of a Club Drug Clinic by the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.
Becky Harris, services manager at the Club Drug Clinic, said: “Predominantly our clients are people who have used GHB for ‘chemsex’, gay men who chose to use it in a sexual context.
“We do also have some heterosexual women who use it. People might start off using it recreationally but you can quickly become physically addicted. You can buy it very easily.
“It is very difficult and dangerous to dose. You can be completely out but you can come round very quickly. You can be in a hazy state or you can fatally overdose very easily too.
“It is particularly dangerous with alcohol as it works on the same system.
It is amazing that this man was able to administer doses to people who were already drunk and that they survived.”
Peter Sheath, Chemsex Mental Health Lead at Addaction Liverpool, said: “Typically people take the drug recreationally through mixing droplets of the liquid in a drink. People will often use a pipette to measure the dosage.
“The chances of overdose when taking GHB are extremely high as there is just a few millilitres difference between having a good time and ‘going under’.
“‘Going under’ describes the practice of losing consciousness, a common occurrence when taking GHB. This obviously leaves people vulnerable to exploitation.
“In extreme cases overdosing can lead to people entering a coma and can be fatal.
“There is a growing trend of young people using GHB as a club drug. They will often mix GHB in alcoholic or soft drinks to achieve a sense of relaxation and euphoria.”
GHB was made a Class C drug in 2003. GBL remains legal as a cleaning product but since 2009 it has been illegal in the UK to sell, supply, import, export, or produce GBL if “knowing or believing that it will be used for the purpose of human ingestion”.
GHB has been popular at gay sex parties for a number of years but drug experts are warning that increasingly it is being used as an alternative to alcohol by clubbers who may be unaware of the risks.
It is believed that thousands of Britons overdose on it every year but most go on to recover. One in four recreational users told one survey they had overdosed on the drug.
During the last ten years, there have been 265 deaths in England and Wales linked to GHB, according to the Office of National Statistics.
But the true figure may be higher as it is not routinely tested for after sudden deaths and can be difficult to detect.
Following the conviction of Sinaga this week for 159 sex offences, Home Secretary Priti Patel called for a review of controls for drugs like GHB.
Serial killer Stephen Port was given a life sentence in 2016 for poisoning four young men with lethal doses of the drug.