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Nick Nolte, who admitted taking GHB before getting behind the wheel in September, illustrates Zvosec's point. Nolte, arrested for driving under the influence, was drooling on himself, incoherent and unrecognizable as a movie star when police found him driving the wrong way on a Malibu highway.
Withdrawal from GHB and its substitutes is horrendous, Zvosec and other experts say. Addicts dose themselves as often as every 30 minutes, and if they miss a swig, they suffer tremors, anxiety, sweating and hallucinations. It's tough to get through to them. "I'll say, 'You're drinking an industrial solvent -- you're drinking something that's used to make paint thinner,'" Zvosec says. "And they'll say, 'Yeah, but it's not as bad as alcohol,' or 'Yeah, but ...', 'Yeah, but ...', 'Yeah, but.'"
Mr. Brooks -- not his real name -- is an addict and a former Miracle Cleaning Products customer. He says the Harveys' company was easy to find -- he simply punched "GBL" into a search engine and the Miracle Cleaning Products' Web site popped up. That was in the spring of 1999, when he was looking for a do-it-yourself anti-depressant. Brooks says he has mixed feelings about GHB, BD and GBL, but one thing is certain: He got in way too deep.
"I would use it on the weekdays, only in the evenings," he says. "It's much easier on the body than alcohol. You don't have a hangover. In fact, it's almost the opposite. You feel more refreshed the next day. Actually my life improved, like a lot of other people's lives. For the first time in my life, I could act like normal people. I was not under constant anxiety. My sleep improved -- I slept well. There's no substance that matches up to it as an aphrodisiac. I mean, Viagra couldn't hold a candle to this."
On weekends, he would take repeated doses while clubbing. But the good times didn't last.
"The substance turned on me about eight months after I started using it," Brooks says. "I didn't have the energy without it. It got to the point where I needed to take it earlier and earlier in the day to feel OK, to actually feel normal. I ended up getting to the point where I was taking it early in the morning. At the end of the day, I wasn't doing well. I got into methamphetamine -- honestly, I got so hardcore into meth I stopped using the G. All of a sudden, I was hallucinating. I was having audio hallucinations. I thought it was due to the meth. I had no idea it was due to GHB addiction."
Brooks says he quit meth after about a month and stayed clean for about six months before returning to GBL and BD. After four months, he burned out. He was driving to rehab when he landed in big trouble, thanks to bottles of GBL and BD on the backseat.
"I had my supply with me, the last of it, and decided this is the last time I may ever feel normal again," he recalls. "It was very emotional. I was scared -- I was very scared. So I took a little bit too much."
Brooks was in Wisconsin when he swallowed what he thought would be his last dose. It nearly was. He regained consciousness about 70 miles away. He says he could easily have killed himself or others
"I woke up on the side of the road in Rockford, Illinois, with a cop banging on my window -- I was half-parked on Interstate 90," he says. "He found an anti-seizure medication and thought I was having a seizure. I could have gotten away with the whole thing. Because I didn't have any inhibitions, I was honest with him. I'm in a disassociative state. You can't underestimate just how horrible it is having five people yelling at you, 'What is wrong?' from all directions. I'm, just, 'Shut the fuck up!'"
The bust marked Brooks' second brush with the law resulting from his addiction. A year earlier, he escaped with a reckless-driving conviction after being stopped for driving under the influence -- the Breathalyzer registered zero, and the small-town cops couldn't figure out what he was on. He wasn't so lucky this time, given that he'd confessed to taking an illegal drug. "I was facing a mandatory minimum of six years, and I was facing up to 30 years' imprisonment in Illinois," he says. Eventually he got probation. But his legal fees approached $15,000.
He still couldn't break the habit. While in rehab, he got a pass, went to a public library and ordered two liters of BD from a Web site. He says he's been clean for nearly a year, and his postings on drug chat rooms have largely ceased. But he hasn't been able to say goodbye forever.
"I honestly have tried to take myself out of the loop," he says. "Unfortunately, I have some e-mails I should delete. If I delete them, I'll never know where to find these people again. But I always kind of leave that as an open door."
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