By ELEANOR CAMERON – Staff Writer
Fri Apr 18 03:00:08 2003
“GHB is the most dangerous drug on earth, right up there with heroin,” Trinka Porrata told a Chico State University audience of 300 people Wednesday.
Ecstasy, GHB and Ketamine. These are not new drugs,” Porrata told the crowd in the BMU auditorium. “We just haven’t talked about them. Everyone knows heroin is dangerous. No matter what we say about heroin, a few people will still blow it and end up dead.”
Porrata came to the university with a message that should frighten any parent, and pulled no punches in delivering it to the mainly college-age audience. A former detective with the Los Angeles Police Department’s narcotics unit, she is an expert on raves, “club drugs” and gamma hydroxybutyric acid – GHB.
GHB is made from gamma butyrolactone and sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. Those are chemicals most commonly used as floor strippers, degreasing solvents and drain cleaners.
Porrata said she is worried about the people who are naive about the drugs, unknowing victims of predators and “friends.”
“I am not anti-rave. But can you hold a rave without drugs? Not really.” The rave culture rejects alcohol but embraces prolific illegal drug use, she said. “Rave promoters will bring in drug dealers.”
“This is organized crime reaching out to out 12- and 13-year-olds. There are brain-dead parents dropping their kids off at fairgrounds for high school parties. What high school party needs security and EMS on stand-by?”
Porrata has seen instances where ravers have danced for hours next to a dead friend, too “hopped up” to realize what had happened.
One of the myths of GHB is the user will sleep it off in four hours, she told the audience, a myth promoted by pro-GHB Web sites that don’t want to attract attention to the drug’s use, Porrata explained.
“People will leave their friends to sleep it off. They will leave ’em lying on their backs,” she said. Users lose their gag reflex. “They will choke on their own vomit. If it’s not slept off in four hours, it’s called death.”
Chico is no stranger to the hazards of the drug. Soroya Ali, 22, died after taking the drug on the evening of Sept. 7, 2001. Christopher James Law, 22, and Adam Eugene Orr, 25, both Chico students, are awaiting sentencing for supplying the drug to Ali.
The pathologist listed the cause of death as “acute GHB poisoning.”
The victim consumed a mixture of orange juice and as little as “a half-capful” of GHB two separate times at Orr’s Hazel Street residence.
Another rave drug, Ecstasy, increases the body’s temperature from the normal average of 98.6 degrees to 104 degrees and higher. The increased body temperature literally burns up the brain, Porrata told the audience.
The No. 1 myth with Ecstasy is drinking a lot of water and cooling off under water sprays will prevent harm from the skyrocketing body temperatures.
Rave promoters are all about making money, she said. The security at the gate isn’t keeping drugs out. They are keeping water out.
“No water is allowed in and water is sold at excessive prices. The record I’ve seen is $20 for a 16-ounce bottle of water,” she said. “They will turn off the cold water in the bathroom to prevent people from buying one bottle and refilling it during the night. They will turn off the drinking fountains.”
Porrata punctuated her comments with slides and videos of people under the influence of GHB and Ecstasy – people as young as 12 years old.
“Here’s dad babysitting the kids at a rave,” she said, showing a video of what appeared to be a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old in the background. The rave took place in Fresno.
GHB is known on the street as Gamma-OH, Georgia Home Boy, Grievous Bodily Harm, Liquid X, Liquid Ecstasy, Scoop, Water, Great Hormones at Bedtime and – most notoriously – Easy Lay.
The nickname Easy Lay comes from its use as a rape drug.
There are 36 drugs used to rape women. GHB is the fastest to use and becomes untraceable. It is also the hardest to catch since the victims appear to be willing participants, said Porrata.
“There is a rapid high intoxication; an out-of-body experience and sexually-oriented behavior. Vomiting is common.”
The sexually-oriented behavior is used to justify victim-blaming after sexual assaults, Porrata told the audience. “It was consensual. She asked for it. Never mind she doesn’t even know where she is.”
GHB will also cause blackouts. Victims will not know what happened while they were under the influence of the drug.
Prosecutors, when faced with the sexually-oriented behavior and blackouts caused by the drug, will hide behind it as an excuse not to prosecute, Porrata said in an interview after the presentation.
“DAs are elected officials. They want high winning prosecution rates.” She predicts it could take civil lawsuits against law enforcement to create changes. “Law enforcement is not up to speed on this.”
The cases are often complicated by victims who don’t report the assaults right away and by how quickly the drug is flushed from the body.
There is a six-hour window of opportunity to find the drug in a victim’s body. Porrata said a newly developed hair residue test can find GHB traces up to 30 days after ingestion, but it is expensive.
“The most common way guys dose a drink is with nasal spray bottles,” Porrata said. GHB has a salty taste that can be masked by sweeter, fruitier drinks. Drinks like red wine are harder because everyone knows what they are supposed to taste like. “(A predator) may offer you a sweeter drink than you have.”
Women need to beware of bartenders, she warned. “Bartenders are the notorious first line of dosing.”
GHB isn’t limited to the rave culture. It has been sold to body builders, athletes and businessmen as a sleep aid and to the elderly as a way of fighting aging.
There are a lot of suicides by people trying to get off GHB addictions.
“Most users don’t see themselves as addicts,” Porrata said. “In the first stage of addiction, GHB is a wonder drug. You don’t know how you have managed to live without it.” In the second stage, a user’s wife, children or roommate are the first to know there is a problem.
“He thinks he’s sitting on the edge of the bed eating chicken,” Porrata said as a video of a jerking, shaking man played across the screen. He uncontrollably tossed himself across the bed and bent himself into shapes that looked painful.
Psychotic episodes also begin in the second stage.
“It takes 10 to 14 days to detox from GHB. Detox patients must be kept in restraints,” Porrata said. Patients have severe seizures and hallucinations during the detoxification process.
Porrata currently works as a drug consultant, providing expert testimony, instruction and legislative support on various drug issues. She has also been burned in effigy at the summer counter-culture event known as Burning Man.
“I wish they had invited me,” said Porrata.