‘Date rape’ drug easy to find, misuse | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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‘Date rape’ drug easy to find, misuse

A warm feeling of euphoria or a quick trip to unconsciousness and coma. The newest “party drugs” can be found in just a few minutes on the Internet or easily obtained in nightclubs, bars and rave parties.

While debate rages on the Internet on the good and bad of GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate, the government is warning that at least eight deaths have been related to the drug, which has been marketed as a “legal” high.

The problem was brought home this month when a South Lake Tahoe girl left a high school dance in an ambulance. She was found by an off-duty officer passed out on the dance floor of a possible GHB overdose. The girl recovered and was out of the hospital the next day.



Not everyone is so lucky. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the drug’s action is rapid, and in an overdose, unconsciousness can occur in as little as 15 minutes and coma within 30 to 40 minutes. The drug acts as a depressant on the central nervous system and can cause vomiting, seizures and low breathing rates.

Although the drug was banned in the United States in 1991, it still presents a difficult law enforcement problem. GHB is created from two common chemicals that are non-regulated and readily available from chemical supply companies – GBL, or gamma-butyrolactone, an industrial solvent, and sodium hydroxide, better known as lye. Together the two create GHB, an odorless, tasteless chemical.




Douglas County Sheriff’s investigators said GHB use at the lake has mostly been related to date-rape cases.

“There may have been more cases that we were not aware of because we didn’t have a test for it,” said Detective Rory Planeta. “They are hard cases to investigate because most of the victims have trouble remembering.”

GHB is quickly eliminated from the body, making detection difficult. The DEA reports 13 sexual assault cases since 1996 relating to GHB use. The assaults involved 22 victims in eight states, including California.

Planeta said the drug first gained popularity among body builders as a safe and “natural” food supplement to stimulate muscle growth or as a sleep aid. In 1990 the Food and Drug Administration declared GHB unsafe and illicit except under FDA-approved scientific studies. The drug is part of a clinical trial as a possible narcolepsy treatment.

Talk rooms on the Internet advertise GHB as a safe high and a helpful sleep aid for insomniacs, but also warn about the dangers of overdosing and using it in combination with alcohol. The FDA put out another consumer alert this month warning Americans to avoid GHB and products containing chemicals related to it like GBL, which is converted to GHB in the body. Some such products are sold under the names Revitalize Plus, Serenity, Enliven, GHRE, SomatoPro, NRG3, Thunder Nectar and Weight Belt Cleaner, the FDA said.

An informal survey of South Shore health food and drug stores found none of the named products. But a concerned parent, who didn’t wish to be named, said South Lake Tahoe teens are still obtaining the drug by ordering the chemicals and making it at home.

“Ecstasy and GHB are a problem in our community,” said Detective Sgt. Les Scott. “I’m not sure if the kids are buying it illegally or being given it. It is clearly an issue that needs to be dealt with.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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