I Want a New Drug

Users call it G, Scoop, Goop, EZLay, Georgia Home Boy, or just plain old GHB. What's it like? Euphoric… and potentially deadly.

"Because this wasn't a drug of concern for so many years, there's not a lot of data," he claims and adds that health professionals weren't systematically looking for the drug's presence in blood or urine because for years there was little to no knowledge of its deadliness. "When I first asked medical examiners [about it], there was a silence," adds McDonough.

"That's what's insidious about club drugs," he says. "One: We didn't recognize the problem. Two: It's growing like top seed. Three: There's a climate, a belief by people that these drugs are benign. Take it from a guy who's looked at the death reports; it's not."Thirteen minutes after dosing, warmth rushes up my left arm. My fingertips are tingling. House music pours over the club in smooth and melodic surges. A mustachioed man pounds a set of glossy congas. Nelson's saying something to me, but I can't listen. Don't want to. I'm mesmerized by the gelled lights sweeping the floor, glinting off the mirrored ball twirling from the ceiling. He disappears. Not sure where Ally went.Doesn't matter. The flash of heat has spread to my neck, my head. I'd like to lay down on a soft blanket of grass right now, maybe have someone bring me a cold piece of fruit.

The odd thought startles me, and I turn to find my companions. But my legs aren't cooperating. I want to walk, but I can't seem to lift my feet. I manage to shuffle in place for a moment. A tiny merry-go-round has geared itself up inside my stomach, and it's throwing me off balance. Yet it's a tight and pleasurable dizziness, a measured swooping that's traveled from my extremities to my bellybutton. And I like it enough to start laughing, drawing the attention of the young stud-boy guarding one of the club's many velvet ropes. He stares at me.

I lean against a railing, take out my notebook, and try to write, but what appears on the page looks like waves. I feel wavy. Wavy gravy.

More laughing, but I'm not sure if it's out loud or inside my head. The club guy inches closer to me. Where's Ally? I'd asked her not to leave me alone. As if on cue, she touches my elbow. I grab on to her jersey shirt and let her lead us to the corner.

"Has it hit you yet?" she asks me. She's all smiles. We pay each other compliments, giggle, decide to take a spin around this fine club. What in the world was I so worried about? I'm floating. Ally and I take a tour of candles, stopping at the largest to breathe in its apricot scent. Fact is, neither one of us can find a thing wrong with our surroundings. I glance at my watch. 11:55 pm. It feels as if we arrived hours and hours ago.

When a woman wearing a ruby-red dress glides by us, we celebrate her perfume. I want to follow her, ask her where she purchased it, tell her of the ready bliss it's offered us. Ally steps away and a man brushes by me on his way to a sequin-studded lounge in the back. I'd like to follow him too, and I take a step in his direction.

But I hear Ally's voice from what sounds like the end of a tunnel asking me for something. I take a final look at the lounge, then turn to see what she wants. It occurs to me that, if the devil were to appear in a puff of crimson smoke and beckon me with one hoof, I'd follow him too.Since 1997 GHB has claimed 19 lives in Florida. In comparison to cocaine (more than 1000 in 1999) and heroin (206 in 1999), the numbers seem paltry, hardly enough to alarm law-enforcement agencies, which have plenty on their plates with Colombian heroin and cocaine flooding through Florida's ports. Even state agencies fail to rank GHB as one of the top four drugs plaguing Florida; cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine top the list. And recently a DEA spokesperson claimed that GHB was not at the top of that agency's priorities.At the Broward Sheriff's Office Crime Lab, forensic chemist Randy Hilliard concedes that 80 percent of the seized drugs tested turn out to be cocaine, mostly crack, with marijuana coming in a close second. The lab's drug analysis unit serves as many as 45 police agencies and processes about 12,000 cases a year. "GHB is part of that, but it's such a minor part. If we see it maybe once a month, we've got a lot," says Hilliard.

But he's certain that G use is prevalent and that its most dangerous facet is its clandestine production, with dealers mixing too-potent dosages or carelessly substituting ingredients. Hilliard believes he sees little of the drug because the people selling or using it do a good job at not getting caught. Those who are usually get snagged by accident when officers pull over suspected DUIs and find GHB instead.

G users claim that recent busts in Pompano Beach and Boca Raton have spooked other sellers and made the drug harder to find. But users are scoring somewhere. At Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, health care professionals claim to treat GHB-related illnesses every weekend. "Most of the ODs typically arrive between midnight and 5 a.m.," says Joe Spillane, a pharmacologist who works at Broward General and also teaches at Nova Southeastern University. He adds that the hospital's seen about 50 cases of GHB overdose in 1999 alone, with at least 6 deaths recorded in Broward County.

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