The Talking Drug

Photo by Jack GouldEverybody's talking about GHB about its function as a "party drug" a "new synthetic weight-loss drug" a "nightclub sex drug" a "new designer drug" a "lethal drug" a "dangerous synthetic-steroid drug" and a "killer aphrodisiac" but we still don't know what the hell it does except that saying it makes us feel like we're really building a connection with you our friends and readers right here really relating you know like (is it hot in here?) just saying "GHB" gets us beyond that social stuff about roles and status and hierarchy and we're just here you and me or rather all of us . . . Someday, maybe, we'll all live in a world in which there is no dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, convulsions, loss of peripheral vision, confusion, agitation, hallucination, slowed respiration, unconsciousness, coma, date rape and death. Oh, and no painful nighttime leg cramps. While we're at it, imagine life without knee-jerk newspaper, radio and TV reports; endless Internet arguments; informational FDA "talk papers"; patronizing congressional hearings; quick-to-criminalize-life state legislatures; and skulking undercover narcs. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Meanwhile, I just try to be grateful for the blessings of the real-world moment, which as of about a week ago included the fact that I can finally pronounce "gamma-hydroxybutyrate." And you know what? You can pronounce it, too, if you dare. C'mon, try it. Don't be afraid. Lots of people are saying it. Yeah, it's a little weird at first, but you'll end up loving it. There's nothing to worry about. Look at me: I'm saying it—gamma-hydroxybutyrate, gamma-hydroxybutyrate, gamma-hydroxybutyrate—and you don't see me freaking out. But let me tell you: inside, I am fuckin' buzzin'!

Who knows what it means? For that matter, who says we really have to get all caught up and bogged down in definitions? Probably not most of the people who actually take gamma-hydroxybutyrate. Probably not most of the people who curse it. They're more apt to call it "GHB" or "scoop" or "liquid ecstasy" or just plain "G" or a "controlled substance" or a "felony" or a "colorless, odorless, crapshoot with your life" or—well, I could go on and on. But, again, why? Why do that when I can now, finally, say the real thing—gamma-hydroxybutyrate—and when saying it feels SO . . . DAMN . . . GOOD?

Beyond the fact that the experience is so bodily and mentally pleasant, everything has seemed so connected since I started going around pronouncing "gamma-hydroxybutyrate." Last week, I was calling all over Orange County saying it, and everybody just seemed so cheerful and helpful. In ways I hadn't experienced in a long, long time, people seemed to know exactly where I was coming from. It was like we suddenly all had our own secret, personal code. We understood.

"Gamma-hydroxybutyrate," I'd say into the receiver.

"Isn't that the date-rape drug?" whoever was on the other end of the line would usually respond. "Isn't that the drug that all the young people are getting high on and passing out and even dying from at raves and nightclubs?"

"Well . . . yes! Yes, I guess it is!"

And we'd go on to have a wonderful conversation, really relating to each other, building a fellowship on the foundation of this new common bond, encompassing the whole Magical Mystery Tour of human emotion and experience—from love to fear, from chemistry to hyperbole. We were in tune! I could hear a synchrony. It happened again and again, and to think it all began with the utterance of a 20-letter, eight-syllable hyphenate (all together now): gamma-hydroxybutyrate.

But at the end of the day—and it takes a good 24 hours of practice to get the word really be-bop-a-lula-ing out of your mouth—there's something about gamma-hydroxybutyrate that's still hard to say. That is: What's the big deal?

Ben is a strapping, 25-year-old general contractor from an out-of-county beach town who comes to OC—a Weekly staffer found him just before the bouncers evicted him from the Boogie in Anaheim for all but passing out at his table—not only to pronounce gamma-hydroxybutyrate, but to ingest it. He makes gamma-hydroxybutyrate at home; then he mixes it with water and sips it from mini water bottles, measuring out doses in the bottle caps.

"What's the big deal with gamma-hydroxybutyrate, Ben?" I asked.

"It's a mood enhancer," Ben replied, his answer as transcendentally meaningful as it was blessedly short-winded. "Whatever you're feeling, it makes it stronger."

And, you know, that ishow it feels! Because I used to be confused about gamma-hydroxybutyrate. But then I started talking about it—just talking about it—and now I'm very confused.

Last week, I was even saying gamma-hydroxybutyrate to a cop—to a couple of 'em, actually—and the next thing I knew, we were communing as if we were connected by the same thin, umbilical-blue line. And nothing we said sounded as if the future would bring us anything but closer together.

"We are seeing this stuff all around our city," said Sergeant Leo Jones of the Irvine Police Department's narcotics division. "We are seeing it among adults in our nightclubs and youths under the influence on our streets. It has come and gone in popularity during the 1990s, and now it's back again—and we are taking it on. Any time we hear about it, we attack it. But I'm afraid we're going to see another explosion of this stuff."

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