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From the January 4th, 1999 issue of Smart Drug News [v7n1]. Copyright (c) 1999. All rights reserved.

Editorial and Political Update:

GHB Madness,
Two Years Later

by Steven Wm. Fowkes and Ward Dean, M.D.

Although “GHB Madness” began, technically, with the sensationalism surrounding River Phoenix’s death outside a LA nightclub in 1993, the medical examiner later reported that River Phoenix died of other drugs. The government’s real “poster child” for the war on GHB has been Hillory Farias, a 17-year-old high-school senior from La Porte, Texas, who died under mysterious circumstances during the early morning hours of August 5th, 1996. For more than a month, Farias’ death remained unexplained. Then a memo from a crime task force on the dangers of GHB triggered the Police Chief of La Porte and a county medical examiner to examine Hillory Farias’ stored blood for the presence of GHB. They found it; exactly 27 milligrams of GHB per liter of blood. Eureka! They quickly announced that they had discovered the real reason Hillory Farias had died — GHB! The investigation was then instantly transformed into a high-profile murder investigation with media coverage from coast to coast. Hillory Farias’ family was paraded before the media and their emotional turmoil exploited to inflame the nation against GHB: the “killer, date-rape drug” that was exploiting and corrupting our youth.

Just how deadly is 27 milligrams of GHB per liter of blood? Well, since the average person has about 5 liters of blood (a bit more than a gallon), Hillory had approximately 135 (27x5) milligrams of GHB in her blood. While the average reporter may be impressed by such numbers, the average GHB user, who takes 2000-4000 mg of GHB per dose, can only be scratching his or her head in puzzlement. That’s a 10-fold discrepancy!

On one side, we have the supposedly well informed opinion of the official Harris County coroner saying that 135 mg of GHB is an obvious cause of death. On the other side, a typical narcoleptic patient consumes 6000-8000 mg of GHB per night for months to years on end — and none have ever died. That’s a 40-fold discrepancy! One person even consumed approximately 75,000 mg of GHB and lived to tell about it. That’s a 500-fold discrepancy! How can 135 mg of GHB possibly be lethal?

Of course, it can’t. The coroner’s report was pure fantasy. In fact, recent forensic evidence from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office suggests that 0-50 mg/l of GHB is routinely found in human blood during autopsy — in people of all ages, who died of random causes, without even an inkling of any connection to GHB. Yet despite this new evidence, and despite piles of scientifically validated information contradicting every presumption that GHB caused Hillory Farias’ death, the coroner’s finding remains that Hillory Farias died of GHB. It is now two years later, and still no retraction, correction or alternate explanation.

In another bizarre twist of fate, local reporters, who originally took the coroner’s report hook, line and sinker and ran with it in a series of sensational stories about the “killer, date-rape drug,” are now questioning the veracity of the coroner’s GHB theory. There appear to be two reasons for this about-face. The first and most straightforward reason is that the coroner’s office is mired in multiple controversies about 1) body stacking, 2) the mishandling of evidence, 3) autopsy delays, 4) a long backlog of cases, 5) the firing of whistleblowers, 6) widespread employee discord bordering on open revolt, and 7) the hiring of an unlicensed physician to do autopsies. The District Attorney’s office even made public comments about the coroner’s office being uncooperative in honoring subpoenas to testify in court. Multiple lawsuits and criminal investigations are pending. These issues have undermined the credibility of the coroner’s office with the media and courts.

The second and far more unusual reason for the about-face on Hillory Farias’ death is that police are now investigating another mysterious death, that of Michelle Villanueva, a 30-year-old woman in a nearby city who was found naked on her bed, shot in the back of the head, with the gun in her hand. The bizarre twist connecting these two deaths is that this alleged suicide/accident of Villanueva was reported to police after an unexplained delay by a young woman who 1) left the scene of the death, 2) was alleged to be intimately “involved” with Villanueva, 3) was also a friend of Hillory Farias, and 4) was at the club with Hillory the night immediately before she died.

A December 14th Houston Chronicle newspaper account of this sensational set of relationships surrounding these two unexplained deaths have raised doubts about the coroner’s conclusion that GHB killed Hillory Farias. The article even quotes from our book GHB: The Natural Mood Enhancer saying that 27 mg/l of GHB wasn’t enough to even “give her a buzz,” let alone kill her, and that Hillory’s actions after being dropped off at home by another friend (walking unassisted, talking with her grandmother, and getting ready for bed) were at odds with the coroner’s GHB theory.

Does this mark the beginning of a trend for media reappraisal of the government’s “pack of lies” about GHB?

We can only hope.