Bute is currently being passed off in nightclubs in Australia as Liquid Ecstasy, or Liquid Fantasy on the street. It is being distributed in clubs as a clear liquid in a little soya source inside tiny fish-shaped capsules for around $15.
At the time of writing, it is illegal to possess Bute for human consumption under state law in Australia, but legal to import it for industrial purposes under Commonwealth law. Frequently it is also now being commonly slipped into drinks as a date rape drug as it is tasteless and odourless. So it is reasonably undetectable and with added fruit juice, it is not detectable at all.
Bute is actually a solvent (1,4 Butanediol) also known as 1 in 4) commonly used in the car repair industry as a paint stripper and rust remover. It is also used in the manufacture of Lycra for garments, which is generally imported from China, and sometimes as a cleaning fluid. Similar to GBL (gamma-butyrolactone, also known as ‘coma in a bottle’), Bute was not designed or tested as any kind of drug.
When they are buying Bute in a nightclub most people believe they are actually buying GHB (γ-Hydroxybutyric acid, known as 4-hydroxybutanoic acid), which is Liquid Ecstasy. When someone takes Bute, it is converted in the liver to GHB, but it takes longer to kick in than GHB.
This is causing an epidemic of people overdosing because they think the effects of the ‘GHB’ have not kicked it, so they take additional doses. This results in loss of consciousness and the person being rushed to the emergency room in hospital. When taken with alcohol, Bute can depress the capacity of the heart and breathing.
Unlike the manufacture of some other drugs, Bute does not require any knowledge of chemistry, and dealers simply import it. There is no product control, so in reality it could be a completely unreliable supply. Those importing and selling Bute do not tell you that if you get the dose even slightly wrong, you can end up with the body going into spasms, possible liver pains, becoming unable to speak, unconsciousness, cardiac failure, or death.
Hundreds of deaths a year are being reported and since the Bute only stays in the blood system for 12 hours, it is impossible to monitor people who may have died of its effects after the 12 hours, with coroners recording open verdicts. The profits are huge and legitimate manufacturers are so far away that they simply do not care how the Bute is being used, because the illegal drug market is only a small fraction of their customer base.
In recent times, there have been many reports about bad batches of GHB on the street, when in reality, it is likely that in many cases clubgoers were actually being sold Bute (known in the UK as ‘coma in a bottle’) without their knowledge. Since 1,4 Butanediol is an industrial substance, it is unlikely to be banned any time soon.
You can become addicted to Bute, just the same as you can with other drugs. Even when many people find out Bute is not actually GHB, they do not care when they crave the highs that can be achieved. There is also the complication of the trauma and post-drug-induced psychosis that may be accruing from multiple doses. This can even happen in some people simply from a one-time use of Bute.
If you have problems with drugs or alcohol, it is important to get professional help as soon as possible.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, ND, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist. Counsellor, PACFA registered Mental Health Professional and Naturopath In Sydney. You can get help by booking an appointment with her at Australian Health & Education Centre.