Dancing With Death 

Dancing With Death 
Posted by FoM on June 04, 2000 at 21:18:25 PT
By Per Ola and Emily d’Aulaire 
Source: Reader's Digest
The “party” drug called GHB is leaving a trail of tragedy across America. The four Connecticut teenagers were in top spirits after taking final exams last June. To celebrate, they left Ridgefield High School and drove to a local diner, where three of the boys measured out a small amount of a clear liquid into their milk. 
Later 16-year-old David Grover drove them to his house to pick up his viola for orchestra practice. Feeling mellow, he and two pals poured more of the drug into a bottle of soda and passed it around. Then they headed back to the car. Grover drove only a short distance before saying, “I need to pull over.” He staggered from the car in the driveway of a recreational area. Soon he lay down on his back and passed out. Before long, two others joined him, slumping into unconsciousness as well. The fourth boy, who had not taken any GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), looked on as his still-unconscious friends began to twitch convulsively and vomit. Now panicked, he summoned help. Minutes later police arrived. “They were covered with vomit,” Sgt. Daniel Ryan of the Ridgefield Police Department recalls. “The officers found no pulses, no signs of life. They were dying.” Medics from three ambulances worked desperately on the boys, then rushed them to the hospital. Firetruck hoses were used to wash down the mess left at the scene. One boy revived that afternoon, another the next day. Grover lay in a coma, on a ventilator, for two days. Today he still has a short-term memory deficit from the time his brain was deprived of oxygen. Driven Underground:These three young men are recent victims of a fashionable drug that has been sweeping through the country. “GHB is considered even cooler than heroin,” notes Ginna Marston at the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA). At $5 to $10 a hit—one to two teaspoons—GHB is relatively cheap. It is also difficult to detect, and easy to concoct from recipes anonymously posted on the Internet—“easier than baking bread,” according to one message. At low doses, the drug acts as a relaxant, lowering inhibition and creating a euphoric state of well being. It does so by depressing the central nervous system, as do alcohol, barbiturates and tranquilizers—only indescribably more so. “You feel kind of drunk, warm and cozy,” one user explains. “And there’s no hangover.” But it doesn’t take much GHB to move a user from cozy or euphoric to unconscious, or even dead. GHB came on the market as an over-the-counter sleep, diet and body-building aid in the ’80s. “It didn’t take long for users to notice the drug provided a buzz,” says Trinka Porrata, a former narcotics detective for the Los Angeles Police Department who now consults nationally on drug issues. The FDA seized dietary supplements containing GHB after a number of illnesses were reported. “The drug just went underground,” Porrata notes. “And the number of victims has increased steadily.” A Certain Cachet In January 1999, 15-year-old Samantha Reid and several friends were watching videos in Grosse Ile, a Detroit suburb. That evening, GHB was poured into her glass of Mountain Dew—to make things more “lively,” as one individual said. The freshman basketball player fell into a coma and died the next day. Three young men were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. A fourth, convicted of being an accessory after the fact, was sentenced to up to five years. The DEA has recorded more than 5700 GHB-related cases in the past decade, including overdoses, possession, trafficking—and 65 deaths. Experts believe there are many more, partly because lab tests used by law enforcement and health professionals do not routinely screen for GHB. The Houdini-like drug, which is quickly metabolized by the body into carbon dioxide and water, vanishes with barely a trace within 12 hours. Ironically, GHB’s danger is part of its attraction. “One of the drug’s nicknames is Grievous Bodily Harm,” says PDFA’s Marston. “Rather than warning people away, the name has a certain cachet for some. ‘Look at me,’ users say. ‘I’m on the edge. I’m dancing with death.’” Walt Davis (not his real name), a 20-year-old disc jockey, attests to the drug’s popularity at all-night parties called raves: “You get bored with what you’ve done; you keep searching for that next answer, that better high.” Adds Jacqueline Marque, a recent college graduate from New Orleans, “A lot of people go to raves just because they love the music and like to dance, but if you’re interested, drugs are readily available—including GHB. Most raves offer ‘chill-out’ rooms for people too high to dance any longer. There’s always someone who’s passed out.” Too late some of these party-goers learn about another, seamier side of the drug. “Kids trust people they’ve never seen before,” one law enforcement officer told Reader’s Digest. “With GHB on the scene, sometimes they discover a week or two later they’ve been raped.” Knockout Drops:The DEA has tallied 48 victims of alleged sexual assault who tested positive for GHB, as well as 30 victims in documented sexual-assault cases. But it’s believed countless episodes go unreported. The drug can knock a woman out, leaving her powerless to resist a sexual assault and with no memory, or only spotty memories, of it later. In August 1999 San Francisco businessman Angel Flores was convicted of raping four women after spiking their drinks with a drug believed to be GHB or something very similar. San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Linda Klee selected only the strongest cases to present to the jury. One of the women, for example, testified that she woke up in Flores’s bed with him on top of her. She immediately pushed him away and fled, informing the police. Flores, who was sentenced to 24 years in prison, admitted to having sex with up to 70 women. All of the women consented, he claimed—including the four who testified at trial. Flores has appealed. Equally egregious was a 1997 case in Los Angeles, where a 39-year-old disc jockey and his 40-year-old roommate used a plastic bottle filled with GHB to spike the drinks of women—and their male dates. There were 16 official victims at trial, including ten women who were sexually assaulted. “Actually, these sexual predators victimized many more women,” declares Renee Korn, deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County. “We merely selected the strongest cases.” Several victims had no recall of being raped and sodomized. But there was proof. In some instances, the men took pictures of their crimes, which police discovered, and which were presented to a shocked jury. Steven Hagemann, the disc jockey who masterminded the plot, was sentenced to 77 years in prison. Danny Bohannon, his accomplice, got 19 years. Both men have appealed. Because of GHB (and other drugs), the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-U.C.L.A. Medical Center today offers tips for those going out on dates or to parties, nightclubs and the like. “Never leave a drink alone, only drink beverages you pour yourself and don’t drink from a shared container,” advises the center’s director, Gail Abarbanel. “Don’t drink anything that tastes or looks unusual, such as a soda that tastes salty, has excessive foam or leaves a residue on the glass.” Bogus Claims:Earlier this year President Clinton signed a law that classifies GHB as a federal Schedule-I substance, joining such drugs as heroin and LSD. Nevertheless, GHB use will not likely abate. Not only is it cheap and easy to synthesize, with recipes widely available on the Internet, but its safety and effectiveness are touted by many websites. Kyle Hagmann of Big Bear Lake, Calif., was one who mistakenly believed these claims. When a classmate at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif., told him GHB was a safe sleep aid, he checked it out on the Web, where its virtues were seconded. After going out for drinks with friends one night last April, the college junior with a 3.9 grade-point average took some liquid GHB to help him sleep—which it had in the past. He was found dead in his bed the next morning. Because illegal GHB is synthesized in clandestine labs using a common commercial solvent, there is no quality control and no way for a user to know the strength or safety of any given batch, which may explain Kyle Hagmann’s death. In addition, since it can take the drug up to 30 minutes to have an effect, the user, thinking he needs more before the drug kicks in, can easily overdose. The FDA is working hard to eliminate websites that sell GHB or kits and recipes to make it at home, but it’s an uphill struggle. Explains Dennis Baker, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at the FDA, “You’ve got a website, but where’s the location? Where’s the product? These people can ship GHB or the products to make it from anywhere in the world.” What’s the answer? In the end, those using it will need to understand that the high just isn’t worth the risk. “My parents made it very clear to me that I was not to do drugs,” says David Grover, the teenager in Ridgefield, Conn. “I’d look them in the eye and say, ‘Okay, I understand.’ Then I’d go off and do drugs. I had to learn the hard way.” Published: June 5, 2000Copyright© 2000 The Reader's Digest Association.Related Articles & Web Sites:Dance Safe MDMA Vault: PMA Vault: The Truth About Ecstasy Lure Of Ecstasy: Time Magazine 
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Comment #3 posted by CongressmanSuet on June 05, 2000 at 17:06:21 PT
Reader's Digest is ...
one of the worst when it comes to reporting on the facts of the WosD. If these myopic idiots arent on the ONDCP dole, I dont know who is. GHB by itself is not toxic, as the Doc says, and has numerous medically valid uses. It has the same affinity toward creating a "Date Rape" scenario as good old All American, officially santioned booze. But what to remember...the kind of people who read the rag, are the kind of people who love to take an alarmist attitude about almost EVERYTHING in their lives. OH MY GOD! ANOTHER NEW KILLER DRUG! WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TOO? Blah, drivel, sputnum....Gee, that article on exercise was good...I cant wait to see this wall of army ants reach the river.
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on June 05, 2000 at 11:16:41 PT:
A familiar name.
About two years ago, I was taking care of an elderly cancer victim. During some much needed down-time, I was reading some of her magazines. One of which was the RD. In one issue there was an article by this Per Ola person. On cannabis. The article was a typical mish-mash of the then-current pseudo-scientific claptrap (cannabis causes cancererous lesions in the lungs, stays in the body for days afterwards and keeps you high, etc.) blended in with cautionary tales of repentant teens 'fessing up that the antis were right, MJ is a dangerous drug, blah, blah, blah. The medical aspects of cannabis were lightly glossed over, and then dismissed as propaganda propounded by evil reprobate miscreants scheming to seduce your sons and daughters via THC induced rebelliousness against authority. Harry Anslinger would have been proud.I guess you have to consider the source.
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Comment #1 posted by drfist on June 05, 2000 at 10:40:37 PT
GHB madness
GHB is non-toxic, this is scientific fact. Yes, you may "fall asleep" or get real sick with an overdose (like on alcohol) but , it is not toxic alone at any amount. It does not deprive the brain of oxygen , it is found in babies brains and protects against brain damage at birth.The propoganda against GHB (very beneficial natural product) is the same outragous lies they used to ban Cannabis in the thirties. The 'Date Rape" issue was used first, this is a lie, now it's "deadly" even though it has been used and is still used in Europe for 30 years, as Gamma-O, a natural nurotransmitter used sucessfully to cure both alcohol and opiate addiction. I cured myself of alcohol additional 4 years ago with it, it took only a few days, hence a real threat to the alcohol and smack industry/jihad. 
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