Date-rape drug topic of public seminar

Posted: Friday, December 15, 2000

"In my 20 years of nursing, I've never seen a drug that scares me this bad," Deb Blizzard said.

Blizzard is a certified emergency nurse and member of the sexual assault response team at Central Peninsula General Hospital. The drug in question is the so-called date-rape drug -- GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyrate.

A central nervous system depressant, GHB's nicknames include "G," "Liquid Ecstasy" and "Grievous Bodily Harm." GHB endangers not only recreational drug users, but others who may unwittingly be doped by people trying to exploit it as a date-rape drug. And now that it's showing up on the Kenai Peninsula, Blizzard is on a crusade to warn people here about the hazard.

Saturday she is offering a free seminar for parents on GHB and other "rave drugs." It will be from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Soldotna High School library.

"This drug is out on the Kenai Peninsula, and (parents) need to know about it," she said. "That is my main message. They need to know what can happen."

Blizzard learned about the drug at a training session in late September and realized it matched symptoms she had seen. When she started asking around, young people told her the drug has been used in the area for as long as two years.

Since that time, she has been traveling the peninsula sharing what she has learned with students, parents, teachers, emergency services providers and health care professionals.

Several characteristics make GHB insidious. A clear, odorless and nearly tasteless liquid, it is easy to conceal. It occurs naturally, and doses disappear from a person's system quickly, so it is difficult to detect. It can turn abruptly into an overdose. Contaminated with the caustic chemicals used in its manufacture, it can be poisonous.

Symptoms include drunkenness, ranging from euphoria to coma, and occasional complications such as seizures, breathing problems or even death.

A March ABC News report cited the federal Drug Enforcement Agency as saying GHB has been linked to about 60 deaths and more than 5,700 drug overdoses since 1990.

That year, public sale of GHB was banned. In February of this year, a federal law made making, possessing or distributing it a crime. It is now classified as Schedule 1 drug like heroin or cocaine.

In March, three young men from Detroit were convicted of manslaughter as well as drug charges after a 15-year-old girl died and another spent hours in a coma after consuming GHB-spiked drinks at a party.

Closer to home, three recent sexual assault cases in Homer have involved GHB. And it has shown up on the central peninsula, too.

"Our first overdose was over one and a half years ago," Blizzard said. "We were not aware of it at that time."

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