Pubdate: Tue, 27 Mar 2007
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Rob Shaw, CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Club Drugs)


She Thought She Was Taking A Drink From A Bottle Of Water

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 
party three days earlier.

She had taken 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 viscous mixture of substances such as floor stripper 
and drain cleaner.

Used as a recreational drug, GHB can, in small doses, loosen 
inhibitions much like alcohol, without causing a hangover. It is 
called the date-rape drug because it has been slipped into girls' 
drinks, putting them into a deep sleep and causing partial amnesia.

But 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. "Zoe was just blossoming in so many ways, she was 
wanting to learn more."

"She really did have a generous spirit," added Laurie, her mother. 
"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 about 
Read's accident in the hopes the tragedy can warn other young people 
about the pitfalls of 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 it can shut down your respiratory system and [you can] die."

It's unclear just how much GHB Read ingested. The B.C. Coroners 
Service said it is difficult to test for GHB and toxicology results 
were not available.

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 recent overdose on GHB in Victoria. Two men overdosed 
outside bars on Feb. 23 but survived.

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

"It's 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 tell Zoe's story to people who do drugs.

Read was just weeks away from graduating with a biology degree at 
UVic, and was thinking of becoming a naturopathic physician, said her mother.

UVic intends to honour Read with 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. V0G1Z0.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom