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In Site: Sellers Have Inside Line to Young Buyers
by Phoebe Zerwick
Feb 3, 2002
Originally published in Winston-Salem Journal
In his 21 years at Reynolds High School, Stan Elrod has had to call more students than he can remember into his office to question them about drugs.

Like it or not, that's part of the job of a high-school principal.

His students would tell him a lot of stuff. Sometimes more than he wanted to know. But no one had ever introduced Elrod to his "connection" - until last week.

Elrod had in his office a student suspected of handing out a drug called GHB. Where did this stuff come from? Elrod wanted to know. Easy. No magic here for anyone who knows how to surf the Web.

"The young man I spoke to, the young man who supposedly ordered it, he said, 'Mr. Elrod, I didn't think I was doing anything illegal because it was available online,'" Elrod said.

"He even pulled the Web site up for me and showed me how he did it."

Elrod couldn't remember the address for the Web site his student showed him. But a quick search with the words "GHB" and "buy" turned up all kinds of information. I found a site called VitalChemistry, which sells GHB but says it doesn't ship to the United States, where the drug is illegal.

Taken off the shelf
Until recently you could buy GHB in health-food stores among all the other diet supplements. Insomniacs used it as a sleeping medicine. Some said that it helped them beat depression. Body builders liked it. So did people looking for a buzz.

It makes people feel euphoric. It also knocks them out. Ever heard of "drug rape?" That's the work of GHB, also known as "Liquid Ecstasy" or simply "G."

It has been illegal in the United States since 2000 for good reason. It's not the kind of thing any of us would want our children experimenting with.

But if you read The Vaults of Erowid, a Web site of the drug culture, and if you're 16 or 17, GHB might sound cool and safe.

Children have always been able to figure out where to buy drugs in this town, but the Web gives the illusion of taking the danger out of the purchase.

"My order was received just a week ago," says one anonymous testimonial from a VitalChemistry customer. "Thanks! I tried it the other night, just a quarter of a gram to start off with ( I am a very sensitive flower! ). I was really impressed! It gave me tingles all over and a nice sense of well-being."

So chatty and friendly. So seemingly safe.

Skirting the law
The facts in the Reynolds High School case are still far from clear. The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office began investigating Tuesday after a 15-year-old student became incoherent in class and had to be taken to the hospital.

"She was under the influence of something, what I considered to be very dangerous," Elrod said. "All indications are that she took it at school that morning."

The investigation led to a 26-year-old man who knows at least one Reynolds student and into the world of cyber-drug deals. Deputies confiscated his computer and called in the State Bureau of Investigation to help download evidence from it.

It's also not clear whether there will be any charges. Investigators confiscated a bottle of clear liquid in a juice bottle and sent it off for testing. Tom Keith, the district attorney, said Friday that the liquid turned out to be a chemical that drug-makers have concocted to skirt the law. When ingested it's converted into GHB, but on its own it is not illegal. Drug-makers are getting cleverer every day.

The investigation is continuing. And the Web beckons, bringing the shady world of illicit drugs straight to your family's home computer.