Pubdate: Thu, 11 Jan 2001
Source: Charlotte Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2001 The Charlotte Observer
Author: Janet McConnaughey


At least two people have died from a chemical cousin of GHB and six others 
have overdosed in the decade since the government banned the sale of the 
"date-rape drug," a study found.

The overdoses took place in Minnesota, Texas and Florida and were blamed on 
1,4-butanediol, which turns to GHB in the body.

Butanediol is used as an industrial solvent and is also included in 
supplements sold under names such as Thunder Nectar, InnerG and Zen.

More such overdoses have almost certainly occurred but have gone 
unreported, in part because many coroners and emergency rooms do not test 
for GHB, said medical anthropologist Deborah L. Zvosec, a Ph.D. who led the 
study published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

Butanediol can cause dizziness, seizures and coma, and can slow breathing 
to dangerous levels. It can intensify alcohol's effects and is also said to 
be more dangerous when taken with other depressant drugs.

The butanediol overdoses all occurred after the Food and Drug 
Administration banned over-the-counter sales of GHB in 1991. Last year, 
Congress also made possession of GHB illegal.

GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate, is sometimes used at all-night rave parties. 
It is known as a date-rape drug for its ability to incapacitate people and 
leave them vulnerable to sexual assault.

Dr. Ward Dean, author of a book titled "GHB -- The Natural Mood Enhancer" 
and defense witness in a number of GHB cases, said the journal study is 
another attack by people who are biased against the drug.

"This would almost be funny if it wasn't so tragic -- that this article is 
going to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine and so many 
people are going to believe it," he said.

Dean said some people mentioned in the report had been taking supplements 

Butanediol is used to make polyurethane, Spandex, moisturizers and legal 
drugs. About 500,000 metric tons of 1,4-butanediol were used worldwide in 
1996, according to SRI Consulting Inc.
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