Letters 05-04-2000

Laugh, Don't Cry

I was trying to explain how Phoenix works, or rather doesn't work, to my out-of-country sister and brother-in-law before Sunday's baseball game. Reaching for a New Times at Filiberto's on Broadway in Tempe, I read aloud to them David Holthouse's column on Mayor Skip Rimsza's "State of the City" luncheon ("Rimsza Job," April 20). They nearly choked laughing on their breakfast burritos. The cosmic humor of our situation can sometimes only be appreciated through visitors' eyes.

But for a brief interlude during Terry Goddard's administration, the corporate oligarchy has always controlled this town. Today it has such confidence that it does not even bother to script its puppet. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain; he's paying no attention, either.

Michael Dollin
via Internet

Bad Chemistry

Just wanted to add my (informed) two cents ("Chemistry Decree," James Hibberd, April 20). First, GHB is not the so-called date-rape drug. That name was reserved years ago for Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam). (See many articles in Yahoo http://www.health.org/pubs/factsht/rohypnol.htm)

About a year and a half ago, the FDA got the idea to remove GHB from the U.S. market and make its possession or importation a crime so the major drug companies could introduce some new patented drugs for alcohol/drug withdrawal and senility. As there are already many sleeping pills, the FDA/federal government decided to start calling GHB the date-rape drug. The only connection possible is that if you take enough, you get very sleepy. The best time to take GHB is at bedtime (as the instructions say). But since the government's plan was to get it removed, it needed some major issue to rally unaware people around. (The 1990 act only served to remove it from health-food stores, and a few states outlawed it based on the FDA allegations at that time.)

Next came the stories of deaths. I defy you to find one death caused by taking GHB. At best the FDA can claim that the death may have been related to GHB and alcohol consumption. We all know the risk of alcohol. It causes deaths every day. There have been several claims of death in the media, but every time I checked, there was no autopsy or hard medical evidence. GHB is a naturally occurring substance in every cell in your body. In higher doses, it suppresses the production of dopamine so the serotonin-to-dopamine ratio is changed, and this makes you sleepy. In very high doses, it can induce a comalike sleep that can last for several hours.

It is still sold in many European countries (both over the counter and by prescription) for alcohol/drug withdrawal, sleep disorders and depression, and it is great when traveling through many time zones (better than the hormone melatonin) to readjust your body clock. Until recently I used this product for years and learned of it overseas many years ago. It has also been used by weightlifters/bodybuilders because it is the most powerful single chemical growth hormone releasing agent presently known. Growth hormone plays many roles, but is best known for body contouring (by changing body composition from fat to muscle), anti-aging properties, improved healing, etc.

The story here is the same as with tryptophan, which is a safe and required (read: essential) amino acid that has been removed from the market because a single supplier delivered a tainted batch that did, in fact, cause a death. Every year thousands die from FDA-approved drugs and, of course, both Tylenol and Advil have had tainted batches that caused deaths, but they are still on the market. The moral here is that if you have a patent or a way to control the profits interest, then a few deaths here and there are okay, but if your product is natural and can't be patented, then neither the FDA nor the drug companies want it on the market.

Sorry to harp on this subject and correct your facts, but I am sick of seeing good products, remedies and non-prescription drugs removed from the market in the U.S. to our detriment so GLAXO, Pfizer or Merck can make more money while the puppets at the FDA help them however possible.

Rick M.

Scottsdale

James Hibberd responds: Having followed GHB's growing popularity since Newsweek incorrectly suggested that it may have killed River Phoenix in 1993, I'm familiar with the details of its controversial history. And while it's true that many news stories borrow heavily from the FDA's propaganda campaign against GHB and GBL, my story is accurate. Rohypnol ("Roofies") was the first substance to earn the nickname "date-rape drug" (aside from alcohol, of course), but using GHB as a Mickey is so common that the term is now standard for both drugs -- a database search of "date-rape drug" and "GHB" recalls thousands of stories.

Second, whether the drug is entirely to blame or not, several deaths have been "attributed to GHB" -- which is what I wrote in my story. The truth is that GHB is very powerful medication that can be deadly if abused -- just as sleeping pills can be lethal if taken in high doses and/or mixed with alcohol and/or used in any environment where sudden unconsciousness would be unwise. The best argument against the demonization of GHB is that by turning a once-common health-food-store product into an unregulated and unlabeled sexy black-market drug, the government may be the biggest culprit in inspiring irresponsible GHB use.

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