I Want a New Drug

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"I had seen what happened to some people, and I was afraid. I didn't want that to happen to any of my friends. I didn't want them hurting themselves or passing out in the car," she says. Her high times ended after using the drug for a brief six months.

Laura's recollection of her assaults is patchy. She remembers pushing the men off her, asking them to stop, saying that she didn't want to do this. She remembers waking up the next morning with knees so skinned and bloodied, she was forced to wrap them in bandages. She doesn't recall how they got that way, but she still has a small scar on each one. The experience terrified her, and she cut ties with the people with whom she dosed. And with GHB.

"That pretty much ended my going out to clubs all the time and to parties. After that night I poured it all out. I had half a gallon left, but I told myself never again," she says. "I never touched it again."This past February President Clinton signed the Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Drug Prohibition Act of 2000. Farias was a 17-year-old teenager who died in her sleep in 1996 after someone allegedly slipped GHB into her Sprite at a Texas club. A 15-year-old from Michigan, Reid died in January 1999 after four males allegedly poisoned the ninth grader at a party.The act added GHB to other Schedule 1 substances, like MDMA (Ecstasy), heroin, LSD, and marijuana, all of which federal officials have deemed drugs with high abuse potential. The law still allows for ongoing research into GHB's potential as a treatment for narcolepsy. The act also made it a federal crime to possess, make, or sell GHB or GBL, with up to 20 years' incarceration waiting for infractors and life sentences for those linked to GHB deaths.

Still, the legislative deterrent is not enough. At least not in Florida, where the numbers of GHB-related date rapes, overdoses, and trips to the emergency room are steadily climbing. So much so that two years ago the state took its own stance and ranked GHB a controlled substance along with cocaine and amphetamines. While Florida's drug czar, Jim McDonough, puts the number of statewide deaths caused by the singular use of GHB at 8, he claims that, in more than 70 cases, GHB or other club drugs were found during autopsies over the last three years. McDonough says the figures are underreported. One reason could be that GHB is not easily detectable in routine toxicology screenings: Emergency rooms often miss the drug's presence because it leaves the body in approximately 12 hours.

"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.

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Emma Trelles