The party drug GHB is so deadly it made private ambulances a fixture in New York nightlife and led clubbers to dub overdose collapses "the GHB drop." But the first major East Coast bust took place not in an of-the-moment dance club in Manhattan but in a nondescript office building in Long Island City.
Through two Websites, Invigorating.com and Buyverve.com, four people, including two principals of a Queens company, allegedly sold GHB and a related chemical, GBL, over the Internet under innocuous brand names like Verve and Verve 5.0 that were billed as sleep aids and muscle relaxers, according to an indictment obtained by New York Magazine. Filed in federal court, the twelve-count indictment charges Scott Ansaldi, John Goetz, Claudine Dematos, and Rodney Dean Gates with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, money-laundering conspiracy, and related crimes.
Used in the eighties by body builders looking to retain muscle mass, GHB became popular in the early nineties with clubbers who called the drug "liquid ecstasy." Though the drug can provide an ecstatic high, it can also induce unconsciousness, and the difference between safe and dangerous doses is very difficult to measure. GHB was declared unsafe to market by the FDA in 1990, but it was only in 2000, after it was used in a number of date rapes, that the drug was made a Schedule I substance along with heroin and cocaine. In New York State, possession became a crime only in February.
Partly because both GHB and GBL have legitimate uses as circuit-board cleaners -- and because they're colorless and odorless -- law enforcement has had a tough time reducing their availability. In the fall of 1999, New York was able to purchase a two-ounce bottle of a similar product called GHgold from the Queens company for an article about the availability of the drugs on the Internet.
Now the boldness of some dealers will make them easier to prosecute. "A case like this really is only the beginning," says former New York special narcotics prosecutor Robert Silbering. "But you'll be seeing more and more cases like this as synthetic drugs become more popular."