Doctors, Activists Battle Over GHB 

  Doctors, Activists Battle Over GHB 

Posted by FoM on April 16, 2000 at 16:05:37 PT
By Johnny Edwards, Staff Writer 
Source: Augusta Chronicle 

It's a simple carbohydrate molecule called gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB for short. It's found in plants and in body tissue, with the highest concentration in the mammalian brain.
But in other forms, the Drug Enforcement Administration says, it has factored into at least 65 deaths and more than 7,000 overdoses, hospitalizations and run-ins with the law since 1990.The media have labeled it a ``date rape drug,'' thrusting it into the national spotlight with the recent manslaughter convictions of three Michigan men in the death of 15-year-old Samantha Reid, who became violently ill and died a day after her Mountain Dew was spiked with the liquid drug.It goes by other names, according to anti-drug groups. Liquid X, Grievous Bodily Harm, Easy Lay, Georgia Home Boy, Soap, Cherry Meth, Nature's Quaalude and Zonked are just a few.Once sold quietly in health food stores as a dietary supplement, it is now considered a dangerous drug by the federal government, a Schedule I substance as illegal as heroin and crack cocaine. A law signed by President Clinton in February makes possessing, manufacturing or distributing GHB punishable by up to 20 years in prison.But although cracking down on the drug might be effective in weeding out junkies and prosecuting rapists, the government also might be punishing elderly, depressed, drug addicted and sleep-deprived patients who could benefit from the responsible, prescribed use of the sleep-inducing, salty-tasting GHB. Those insistent on taking the drug might be forced underground, creating a whole new class of criminals, GHB advocates say.``What they're really doing is denying the elderly a great dietary additive,'' said ``Larry,'' a 57-year-old high school math teacher who spoke on the condition his real name not be used. Larry said he began taking one of GHB's main ingredients, gamma-butyrolactone, or GBL, last year. With more restful sleep, he said, he feels like he's in his 30s again, both physically and mentally.He was unfazed to learn that drinking GBL also is illegal. It's the first time he's ever used an illegal drug, he said.There's another catch to GHB: As in all mammals, GHB is a naturally occurring chemical in the human body involved in the central nervous system. Traces also can can be found in beef, apples and other foods.Unlike some illicit drugs found in nature, such as marijuana and mushrooms, GHB is impossible to avoid.``They're going to make it illegal to have a Big Mac,'' said Pensacola, Fla., gerontologist Dr. Ward Dean, who wants to prescribe GHB to his patients to slow the effects of aging. ``In fact, you're going to be a walking felon.''War of Web Sites:Typing GHB into an Internet search engine will generate a seemingly endless list of Web sites, including overseas suppliers of the drug with mail order forms, recipes for homemade GHB and sleek ads for sleep improvers and energy stimulants such as Liquid Gold, Midnight Blue and Adaptogen.The search also will open the door on a war of words being waged over the Internet. On the attack are groups such as Partnership for a Drug-Free America, who describe Liquid X as a potentially addictive drug abused for euphoric effects at raves and night clubs, causing comas, seizures and vomiting and being slipped into drinks unsuspectedly.On the other side, a network of doctors and chemists has posted articles lauding GHB as a potential treatment for insomnia, narcolepsy and depression, yet is being hunted down by the government for dubious reasons. On the front lines of the resistance is Dr. Dean, a West Point graduate, former Delta Force member, founder of the Center for Bio-Gerontology in Pensacola and director of Research and Development for Vitamin Research Products in Carson City, Nev.Dr. Dean travels the country as an expert witness for the defense in GHB prosecutions and is a co-author of GHB: The Natural Mood Enhancer, which includes a chapter accusing the DEA and Food and Drug Administration of manipulating public opinion about GHB through scare stories, police reports and news releases.When mishaps are linked to swallowing GHB, they're usually the result of mixing it with alcohol and other drugs -- the more common date rape drugs -- which can wreak havoc on the mind and body, he said.``I have yet to find one case where a death was due to any toxicity of GHB,'' Dr. Dean said, adding that motivations for banning the ``miracle molecule'' are grounded in the pharmacy industry, not unlike the ``reefer madness'' campaign waged against marijuana, supposedly by the government on behalf of rope-making nylon companies.``It's a better anti-depressant than Prozac, Paxil or Zoloft. It's a better anti-anxiety agent than Ativan or Xanax. It's a better sleep inducer than Dalmane or Restoril. It's safe with almost no side effects and has a very low potential for addiction,'' Dr. Dean said. ``We're stepping on some pretty big pharmaceutical toes here.''Asked about Dr. Dean's claims, DEA spokeswoman Rogene Waite in Washington said: ``The response is obvious. If this was something that was beneficial, it wouldn't have been made a Schedule I drug.''If GHB has medical uses, they haven't been proved, Ms. Waite said. As for the doctor's allegations about stirring up public trepidation, any actions by the DEA were prompted by abuse statistics, she added.FDA spokeswoman Laura Bradbard said the agency spoke out against GHB because of increasing reports of adverse events, including hospitalizations, permanent disabilities and even death. It's a central nervous system depressant that can stop breathing, she said.What's worse, it's being made in clandestine labs, she said. It reportedly has been mixed in bathtubs out of household chemicals that can be bought at hardware stores or ordered from industrial distributors. When someone orders drugs through the Web, a DEA agent on the other end of the line isn't the only risk, she said.``People need to realize that buying things over the Internet has the same risks as buying it on the street corner. You don't know what you're getting and it's a very dangerous way to do business,'' Ms. Bradbard said.The Black Market:Although GHB no longer can be found on the shelves of mall vitamin shops and health stores -- where it was sold through the late 1980s until the FDA issued a warning against it -- a few products are still out there that, when ingested, convert to GHB in the body.According to an article by biochemist Al Adrian appearing in Vitamin Research News in April 1999, the Polynesian herb Kava Kava contains kavalactones, which are chemically similar to GHB and seem to promote euphoria and relaxation.GABA, an amino acid sold in stores, is another naturally occurring brain chemical that, in high doses, can have similar effects to GHB.Larry, who lives in Chamblee, Ga., said he was dozing at the wheel of his car before a friend told him about GBL, a precursor of GHB that converts to GHB in the body. GBL is an industrial chemical used in fabric dying, as an engine degreaser, as a paint stripper and in cosmetics. Larry began taking about three milliliters each night at bedtime. He hesitated to divulge where he got the drug, saying only that he has an interest in a small chemical business that grants him a modest supply. Now, he's sleeping soundly, studying martial arts, muscling up from lifting weights twice a week and giving away GBL to friends for free, he said. The same federal bill that made GHB illegal also made GBL illegal for human consumption. Industrial users of the chemical must be registered, and all transactions will be monitored closely, the law mandates. How widespread GBL products can be kept out of reach of other users is unclear.``They're going to have to shut down some important sections of American industry to make GBL illegal,'' Larry said. ``They're guaranteeing a black market on this stuff.''Ms. Waite said that although illegal use of the chemical is sure to continue despite tougher regulations, government record-keeping will make it harder for lawbreakers to obtain pure GBL.``There are always bad guys,'' Ms. Waite said. ``But this is one way to make it more difficult for them. Each thing that you put in the way that blocks them makes a difference.''Good Intentions:Neither Kava Kava nor GABA will do his patients any good, said Seattle-based psychiatrist and neurologist Dr. Bradford Weeks. He is treating hundreds of people suffering from chronic fatigue, insomnia, alcoholism and drug addiction who have benefited from the much stronger Renewtrient, a GBL precursor recently pulled off the shelves of health food stores, he said.One 34-year-old woman suffering from depression was unable to have a baby while taking Lithium and Tegretol, which can weaken the immune system and cause birth defects, he said. Last year he told her to switch to the GBL product, and she bought a year's supply and became pregnant.Dr. Weeks doesn't know what will happen when she runs out.``Now she's going to be a felon,'' Dr. Weeks said. ``I have many patients in this bind.``At the very least, this should be available by prescription. This is absolute nonsense,'' he added.GHB won't be the first three-lettered drug developed with good intentions only to be outlawed when embraced as an intoxicant by subcultures. Lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD, was first synthesized in the 1930s by Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann as an investigational tool in neurological research and psychiatry.Sold in surf shops and courted by people such as Harvard University lecturer Dr. Timothy Leary, LSD was made federally illegal by 1970.In the early 1960s, French physician and Nobel Prize nominee Dr. Henri-Marie Laborit synthesized GHB as an anesthetic. In other countries it's being used to treat drug and alcohol abuse because it eliminates withdrawal symptoms.``Instead of prosecuting kids for abusing it, we need to be educating people about what it really is,'' Dr. Dean said.GHB Breakdown:Source: Drug Enforcement AdministrationSome facts about gamma-hydroxybutyric acid:What it is: A carbohydrate molecule found in body tissues and in the mammalian brain, GHB was first synthesized in the early 1960s by Dr. Henri-Marie Laborit. It is found in plants and in foods such as beef and apples. Until 1990, it was sold in health food stores as a muscle builder. Forms: Liquid and powder. Can be snorted, smoked and mixed in drinks.Approved uses: GBL, a main ingredient and precursor of GHB, is an industrial chemical used as an engine degreaser, a paint stripper and in cosmetics. Because of a clause in a federal law, Minnesota-based Orphan Medical Inc. is developing Xyrem, a medically formulated GHB to treat narcolepsy. In Italy, GHB is used to treat drug addicts and alcoholics because it eliminates withdrawal symptoms. Unapproved uses: GHB is federally illegal to possess, manufacture or distribute. Anti-drug groups say it is often being slipped into drinks to facilitate date rape. Chemistry sets for making GHB can be purchased over the Internet, and police say it's being made in clandestine labs and sold on the street. It reportedly can cause coma, seizures, vomiting, loss of memory and death. Penalty: Up to 20 years in prison.What is at Stake?Provisions of the Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Drug Prohibition Act of 1999, which was signed by President Clinton in February:GHB is a Schedule I controlled substance, illegal to manufacture, distribute, possess or import/export. This status became effective March 13.Currently, there is no FDA-approved GHB product. If approved, it would be a regulated prescription drug.GBL and related substances can be treated as Schedule I drugs if intended for human consumption. All transactions involving the chemical are monitored closely. A final rule clarifying GBL laws is being developed.Web Posted: April 16, 2000Reach Johnny Edwards at: (706) 823-3225 or jedwards92 hotmail.comPublished: April 16, 2000 ©copyright The Augusta Chronicle. CannabisNews Articles On GHB: Club Drugs Hit Crisis Stage Among Teens Votes to Put GHB On List of Illegal Drugs

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Comment #2 posted by dddd on April 16, 2000 at 19:41:18 PT

Creation of a "monster"

This GHB frenzy is an excellent example of the idiocy of the anti drug wierdness. The fact that this has been publicized as the "date rape drug",and given such heavy media attention,has done far more harm than good. I'll bet way less people would have even been aware of the devious uses of this normal "drug",if it had not been focused on by the media,and made illegal by the insipid governmental entities,,than if they would have left well enough alone. And now it has become another devilish item,zeroed in upon by #%*holes who feel they are protecting the public somehow,or/and have nothing better to do. I'm sure there are many other similar "drugs",that are now normal,and legal that could easily be used in such ways. I think they're on the verge of attempting to control many herbal remedies with the "protecting people from themselves"justification. The out of control government continues to do far more harm than good,and the worst part is that they make it seem as if they are only concerned with protecting people,but in reality,they have a big money interests driven agenda.They are able to put forth their crooked programs because they have bought the national media. I probably sound like some leftover 60's "radical" hippie,,,,,,,,and it's true.........dddd
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Comment #1 posted by Scott on April 16, 2000 at 18:48:32 PT:

How many dead did you say?

>But in other forms, the Drug Enforcement Administration >says, it has factored into at least 65 deaths and more >than 7,000 overdoses, hospitalizations and run-ins with >the law since 1990.65 deaths in 10 years, which equals out to 6.5 deaths per year. Alcohol kills over 300 people a day and tobacco kills over 1,250 people a day. So what the hell are they bitching about? Automobiles kill around 70 people a day, and improper dieting kills over 800 people a day. Don't ask me to make sense of it, because I can't. DOn't ask the DEA to make sense of it either, because I'm sure they wouldn't be able to. 
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