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Posted at 8:56 p.m. EDT Friday, October 15, 1999
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49 Deaths linked to GHB, the 'date rape' drug

                  By KEITH BRADSHER c.1999 N.Y. Times News Service

GIBRALTAR, Mich. -- Students from the Oscar Carlson High School here say that when they go to parties these days, they try to keep an eye on their drinks at all times, put caps back on bottled beverages between sips and never accept a cup from someone they do not know.

The precautions follow the death last January of Samantha Reid, a
15-year-old freshman who drank a glass of Mountain Dew laced with GHB, an increasingly popular recreational and "date rape" drug that is colorless, odorless and virtually tasteless. Samantha's death, one of 49 linked to the drug nationwide since 1990, has galvanized an effort to crack down on GHB, gamma hydroxy butyrate.

Two Michigan Republicans, Rep. Fred Upton and Sen. Spencer Abraham, have sponsored bills in the U.S. House and Senate that would put GHB to the federal government's list of the most-controlled substances, joining heroin and LSD as a so-called Schedule 1 drug.

The House passed its bill on Tuesday by a 423-1 vote with little debate. The Senate bill, introduced two months ago, is in committee but is also expected to win passage. The bills would make GHB trafficking punishable by a sentence of five years to life in prison.

The bills would not only ban GHB but also similar chemical compounds, including some dietary supplements for body builders that can be used to make the drug. GHB "is easily synthesized by a lot of people who can get the recipe off the Internet," said Dr. Felix Adatsi, the chief toxicologist of the Michigan State Police.

Small quantities of the drug produce a temporary euphoria or sometimes hallucinations, while slightly larger quantities produce lassitude, unconsciousness or even respiratory failure and death. The drug can be lethal in even tiny doses, or if poorly prepared.

Samantha was an average student who loved to play basketball at Carlson High School in this small factory town on the outskirts of Detroit. She encountered the drug on a Saturday night when her mother thought she was going to a movie. Instead, Samantha and two other freshman girls joined four young men, two of whom were seniors at Carlson, and went to the apartment of one of the men to watch rented videos.

Her mother, Judi Clark, was summoned to the local hospital in the middle of the night, where she found her daughter dead. "I fell asleep on the couch and was woken up by the phone at 3 or 3:30," said Ms. Clark, who resumed using her maiden name after her divorce from Samantha's father in 1986. Ms. Clark raised Samantha and Samantha's older brother, Charles, now 18.

Douglas M. Baker, the Wayne County deputy chief prosecutor for drug crimes, said that one of the young men at the party with Samantha, Joshua Cole, 19, later told police that he had secretly put GHB into all three girls' drinks to make the party more "lively." Cole also told police that two of the other three young men had agreed to the plan and helped carry the drinks to the girls, Baker said.

Samantha died a few hours later. One of her friends went into a coma but was revived. The third girl never touched her drink. All four men, ranging in age now from 18 to 26, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and poisoning, and, if convicted, could be sentenced to life in prison. Cole and the other three young men have pleaded not guilty. Lawyers for the other three young men have contended that Cole was solely responsible for the death.

Ms. Clark has turned her daughter's death into a crusade for limits on GHB. Ms. Clark took six months off from her job as a unionized construction worker after Samantha's death to study the drug and write letters to politicians seeking controls on it.

Ms. Clark has not touched her daughter's room. Samantha had strewn clothes on her bed and floor in choosing what to wear when she went out on the night she died. The clothes are still there. So are the black lava lamp, the white strobe lamp, the posters of Leonardo DiCaprio and the movie "Titanic," the stuffed animals and the stacks of magazines.

"I haven't even dusted," Ms. Clark said. "It's just like the night she left, except more dust."

Michigan is not alone in having a GHB problem. The use of the drug has been spreading in New York, California, Florida, Pennsylvania and other states. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, hospitals and law-enforcement officials have reported at least 5,500 cases of GHB abuse in 42 states, in addition to the 49 deaths, fiveof which occurred in Michigan.

Yet no one is certain of the true extent of the problem. Because GHB is not yet on the federal list of controlled substances, the DEA does not actively pursue cases involving it, said E. David Jacobson, an agency spokesman.

The agency has helped with local investigations in some of the 29 states where the drug is a con- trolled substance, including Michi- gan.

GHB breaks down quickly in the body, and is extremely difficult for laboratories to detect even before it breaks down. Only four laboratories in the country even have the equipment to detect GHB, and they can do so only if a blood or urine sample is gathered within a few hours after the drug is ingested, Adatsi said.

Because kits for making GHB are illegal in Michigan but legal in many other states, the state attorney general's office reached across state lines to combat it. The office bought kits over the Internet from two vendors in Florida and Colorado last summer, then filed criminal charges against the two men and extradited them for trial here. They have pleaded not guilty.

GHB prosecutions are, "an extremely high priority, in that this substance has popped up at these rave parties, and kids can't detect it in a drink," said Jennifer M. Granholm, Michigan's attorney general, adding that she planned to speak on the subject when the nation's state attorney generals gather in January in California for a conference on Internet-related crimes.

Gamma hydroxy butyrate is a highly addictive chemical compound that depresses the central nervous system. Toxicologists say that in carefully measured quantities, with the ingredients prepared in very precise ratios, GHB produces a mild euphoria followed by sleep, with no hangover.

But GHB is seldom prepared with clinical care or administered in precise amounts. Kitchen chemists use caustic liquids like paint remover, furniture polish remover or drain clearing agents to prepare the drug, which, when poorly mixed, can cause severe chemical burns to a user's throat. The drug is also such a powerful sedative that an error in dosage of a tiny fraction of a gram can cause a coma and eventually death, as the person stops breathing.

Because GHB can render someone unconscious or unable to remember what happens next, the drug has been used for several years by sexual predators across the country, who put it in women's drinks, Jacobson said. But more recently, young people have been taking the drug even more often for the euphoria it can produce, and in the mistaken belief among men that it builds muscles, toxicologists say.

There is no evidence of sexual misconduct in the Samantha Reid case, Baker said. Her death now appears to have been an early warning for the state, because overdoses have become more frequent since. Eight people overdosed on GHB in one weekend three weeks ago in Ann Arbor. While some overdoses since Samantha's have produced temporary comas, none have been fatal.

While Ms. Clark has returned to work, installing heating ducts in new office buildings and factories, she continues her fight against GHB in the evenings.

"I'm trying as hard as I can to make some purpose out of my daughter's death," Ms. Clark said. "She can't die without a purpose, or I'd go out of my mind."

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>From the SUBABUSE Email List:

Anyone looking at date rape drugs should also look for GHB.  It is easy
to get the recipe off the internet.  It is often not detected because it
leaves the body quickly.  In addition to being a date rape drug, it can
be fatal at a relatively low dose. It is a clear or soapy-looking
liquid. A dose is one or two drops. The kids carry it in visine bottles.
Nancy Rea
clifford l karchmer wrote:

> >From the SUBABUSE Email List:
> ============================
> I am collecting information on the so-called date rape drug,

Original Message ----- From: melinda Setzer <mms@tcdi.net> To: Janet Isenhour <isenhourj@weblinkmail.net> Sent: Monday, June 12, 2000 11:11 AM Subject: Fw: GHB KILLS

----- Original Message ----- PM Subject: GHB KILLS

GHB KILLS Memorial Day, 2000 will be an unforgettable day for us. We received a phone call parents never want to get.  The caller's message was: "the EMT brought your son into our emergency room, he is unresponsive.  We have him on life support, and we have pumped his stomach. His initial blood work does not show any drugs and we have taken him to x-ray to obtain a CAT Scan of his head.  There is nothing more we can tell you at this time ".  Our first reaction was to pray. Our son was in Georgia, we were in Salisbury and could do nothing. We knew our Lord was the one in control of the situation and was the only one who could help at this time. Several hours passed before Jonathan came out of his coma and all his vital signs became stable. Our prayers were answered. This article is not about the close encounter our son had with death and the scare we had of possibly losing our son. This article is about a health food supplement called GHB. GHB mixed with alcohol is what almost ended Jonathan's life. On the street this supplement is called "G", liquid ecstasy, salty water, or scoop.  GHB is a chemical that has been promoted for the following: a steroid alternative for body building, sleep improvement, weight loss, muscle strength, a mood enhancer, deterrent to alcohol and drug dependency, and sex enhancer.   What you say, could be wrong with taking a supplement that has so many positive attributes? As of February, 2000 the official death count from taking GHB stands at
66, with 30-40 additional cases being reviewed. There has been one recorded death in Charlotte, Florida has had 12 deaths, and California has had11 deaths. These figures are believed to be understated due to the lack of testing ability and knowledge of GHB by law enforcement and medical examiners, especially prior to this year. Even now, there is limited awareness. NBC's "Dateline" brought, GHB, into our living room last year when they ran the story of three young men who had been charged with the date-rape drugging death of a 15-year-old girl in Detroit. While attending a party with these three young men, Samantha Reid drank a soft drink they had spiked with GHB. Samantha died one day later. Her friend Melanie Sindone, now
16, who also ingested the drug was briefly in a coma, but survived. On March
2000 a Detroit jury convicted the three young men of involuntary manslaughter.  This was one of the nation's first trials involving a death linked to the so-called "date-rape drug". GHB is a colorless and odorless drug that can make a victim unconscious within 20 minutes. Victims frequently have no memory of what happened and the drug is difficult to trace, often leaving the body within 24 hours. It can produce drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances, unconsciousness, seizures, severe respiratory depression and coma. It is popular with high school and college students.  GHB is found at "rave" parties and upscale "smart drink" nightclubs. Effective March 13, 2000 GHB was placed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Effective immediately, GHB is subject to Federal regulatory controls and the criminal, civil and administrative sanction specified in the Controlled Substances Act.  The DEA Administrator stated,  "Making GHB a Schedule I drug sends a strong message to America's teens and young adults that GHB is not a harmless 'party drug.'  Almost 60 percent of GHB related deaths tragically involved young people between 20 and 29 years of age. Violators now face up to a 20 year sentence for illicit manufacture or trafficking of GHB, and if death occurs a life sentence can be imposed" Our son had used GHB over the years when his job required his travel by plane, as it helped relieve his fear of flying. He also used it for bodybuilding and later used it nightly to help him sleep. He then became addicted. We had known of his GHB use  and were thankful when he moved to Colorado and stopped taking the supplement. He related that it took months before he no longer had any withdrawal symptoms or desire for the drug. He recently returned to Atlanta. Due to circumstances in his life he was severely depressed on Memorial Day. He was able to obtain GHB and he began drinking alcohol, knowing that the two could render him unconscious. This mixture is what caused his coma. He was one of the fortunate ones who recovered from the coma. Jonathan realizes now how close he came to becoming a statistic.  Our family gives thanks to our Lord for sparing his life-------------this time. Our child and yours are members of the "feel good" generation.  They want to try whatever, be it drugs, alcohol, or sex to acquire the feel good status. Please warn your family of the GHB danger; believe me the phone call we received Memorial Day didn't feel good. Check it out: Ephesians 5:20

TEENS: I need help for an upcoming article on Teenage Drinking. All e-mails will be confidential. There are a few questions that I need answering and only you have the answers. E-mail melinda@myinsuranceman.net

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