The presence of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB)
and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) in
alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages

Elliott S, Burgess V.
Regional Laboratory for Toxicology,
Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust,
City Hospital,
Dudley Road,
Birmingham B187QH, UK.
Forensic Sci Int. 2005 Jul 16;151(2-3):289-92.


Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and its precursor gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) are regularly implicated in instances of surreptitious drug administration, particularly in beverages (so-called "spiked drinks"). In order to assist in the interpretation of cases where analysis of the actual beverage is required, over 50 beverages purchased in the UK were analysed for the presence of GHB and GBL. It was found that naturally occurring GHB and GBL were detected in those beverages involving the fermentation of white and particularly red grapes. No GHB or GBL was detected in other drinks such as beer, juice, spirits or liqueurs. GHB/GBL was detected in red wine vermouth (8.2 mg/L), sherry (9.7 mg/L), port (GBL), red wine (4.1-21.4 mg/L) and white wine (<3-9.6 mg/L). The presence of GHB/GBL did not appear to be influenced by the alcohol content or the pH of the beverage. In addition, the concentration in wines did not appear to be related to the geographical origin of the grape type. This is believed to be the first published data concerning the endogenous presence of GHB and GBL in the beverages described.
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