Pubdate: Tue, 27 Mar 2007
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw, Times Colonist
Bookmark: (Club Drugs)


Powerful Cheap Drug Is Becoming Popular At Parties, Nightclubs

With a bright smile and boundless energy, it is no surprise Zoe Read 
thought this about the world: "Life is something we all have to do, 
so enjoy it while it lasts."

But those words, written in the 22-year-old University of Victoria 
student's journal, now seem bittersweet.

Read died at Royal Jubilee Hospital on March 13 after accidentally 
overdosing on gamma hydroxybutyrate, commonly known as GHB, at a 
house party on Herald Street three days earlier.

She took a swig of what she thought was water from a clear Gatorade 
bottle. But it was in fact the colourless, odourless, liquid drug GHB 
- -- a vicious mixture of chemicals such as floor stripper and drain cleaner.

Used as a recreational drug in small doses, GHB can loosen 
inhibitions in the same way alcohol does, but the user does not 
suffer a hangover. It is most commonly referred to as the date-rape 
drug because it has been slipped into girls' drinks, putting them 
into a deep sleep and causing partial amnesia.

An overdose shuts down the body's respiratory system.

Read spent three days in hospital, but the damage had been done. The 
young woman, described as a social butterfly with a zest for life and 
an inquisitive mind, could not be saved.

"It's just so sad," said her father, Rollie Read from the family home 
in Salmo, east of Castlegar. "Zoe was just blossoming in so many 
ways, she was wanting to learn more."

"She really did have a generous spirit," added her mother, Laurie. 
"But also she had a bigger view, she did want to help people in a 
bigger way. She was just at a point in her life she was deciding what to do."

Her family, including twin-brother Kyle, is speaking publicly in the 
hopes the tragedy can warn other young people about GHB.

"It's such a dangerous thing, it's poison," said Laurie. "It's 
unmarked and around in that form in a water bottle. Just by taking a 
glug [you] can shut down your respiratory system and die."

Although the accident was investigated by Victoria police, there were 
no charges against anyone at the party, said Insp. Les Sylven.

There were about five other people with Read at the time. She and 
others had been drinking alcohol as well as using cocaine and smaller 
amounts of GHB before the accidental overdose, said Sylven. It is the 
third overdose on GHB in the past month in Victoria. Two men 
overdosed outside of downtown bars on Feb. 23, but survived.

Although it has not replaced cocaine in terms of popularity, police 
are seeing more and more cases of GHB use because, at $5 to $10 a 
dose, it is a relatively cheap high and popular among teens and young 
adults in clubs.

"It is anything but glamorous," said Sylven. "If people knew what a 
small amount it takes of GHB to overdose, maybe that would prevent 
these tragedies."

At Read's funeral in Salmo on Saturday, her father gave a passionate 
eulogy, urging friends to share her story as a warning. Read was just 
weeks away from graduating with a science degree in biology and 
psychology at UVic. She had high grades and was thinking of becoming 
a naturopathic physician in the future, said her mother. UVic intends 
to award Read a posthumous degree, said spokeswoman Patty Pitts.

The Read family has also created a memorial scholarship fund in Zoe's 
name at Selkirk College, and the Salmo Valley Youth & Community 
Centre., Box 1000, Salmo B.C. V0G 1Z0.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom