Behind the music and lights

Since 1995, Bob Gordon has been teaching people about drugs. With the growing popularity of “club drugs” in the late-1990s, he focused his teaching on this rapidly growing area of concern for parents and educators.

On Tuesday night Gordon lectured to a small group of students and peer educators at USF about the facts and myths associated with “club drugs.”

In the lecture, Gordon discussed the facts and fictions behind drugs like ecstasy, Rohypnol and Gamma Hydroxy Butrate (GHB).

“When you leave here tonight you will be able to help yourself and your friends make informed decisions about club drugs because there is a lot of bad information out there,” Gordon said.

Ecstasy — This popular “club drug” usually comes in a pill form. These pills, primarily made from MDMA, come in a variety of colors and designs, including Superman, 007, dolphin, Volkswagen and shamrock, to name a few.

Some ecstasy pills may not have any color or special imprint to distinguish them; this is partly due to the fact that in the United States pill presses are registered and the government monitors its sales. Ecstasy pills that are stamped with a design are likely to come from the Middle East or northern Europe; both are major exporters of the drug.

The commonly found active ingredient in ecstasy (MDMA) gives the drug’s user a euphoric sensation because it causes the brain to overproduce serotonin, the chemical that makes people feel happy. After the brain is flooded to the point of oversaturation, production of the chemical stops so the brain can process the rest. This sudden halt in the production of serotonin is what makes a person “come down” from an ecstasy trip.

“People say that taking ecstasy puts holes in your brain, but what is actually happening is that the serotonin levels get so low in some parts of the brain after (taking) ecstasy the brain is scanned, and the scan allows you to see the spots which have no serotonin, and they look black on the scan so people say they look like holes,” Gordon said.

Rohypnol — To put this drug into perspective, think about this: Taking one “roofie” is the equivalent of taking 10 Valium, and the pill’s strength increases significantly with the consumption of any alcohol.

Roofies dissolve quickly in carbonated beverages and are hard to detect in a person’s bloodstream. Eight to 10 hours after ingesting the drug it’s already out of the body, which makes it the perfect date rape drug because by the time the victim realizes what has happened and goes to the police or the hospital the drug is practically impossible to trace.

These pills, prescribed for sleep disorders and as anesthetics in surgery, are illegal in the United States and in some other countries as well. The drug’s effects are so strong that for most people, Rohypnol is not a recreational drug.

To help ensure that no one slips you a Rohypnol, Gordon advises to be on the lookout.

“Be aware of your drink while out at clubs or bars,” Gordon said. “Watch your drink being poured and also keep your hand over the top of your cup when you’re walking around.”

GHB — Nicknamed “G” or “Georgia Home Boy” or “Liquid X,” GHB is a synthetic drug which attempts to mimic GBL, a chemical produced by the pituitary gland. Do not be fooled by the nickname “Liquid X,” this is not liquid or “pure” ecstasy.

In 1990, a person could go to a health food store and purchase GHB. It was thought to be similar to taking human growth hormone, known to make a person feel younger and stronger. By 2000, GHB was illegal to possess or to make because of its proven harmful effects on the body.

Today GHB is made illegally. Its main ingredients are lye and floor cleaner which gives a pretty clear indication of why it is so dangerous to take. GHB is most commonly sold as a clear liquid. People put it in water bottles and measure it for consumption with the cap to the bottle.

“With GHB, a teaspoon can get you high and a tablespoon can kill you — now you tell me, can you tell how much is in a filled water bottle cap?” Gordon said.

The feeling that GHB gives its user is similar to a Rohypnol. The difference is that its user doesn’t feel extremely tired — instead it makes the user feel like he or she is in a coma awake; the body’s sense and time are both distorted.

Mike Farley, coordinator of Greek life, arranged Gordon’s visit to USF.

“I met Bob at a conference last year, and I bid on a speech by him and that’s how he ended up speaking for us tonight,” Farley said.

Both Gordon and Farley belong to a professional association for fraternity advisers; Farley representing USF and Gordon representing the University of Akron, Ohio. Farley is also involved with the Substance Education Abuse Team (SEAT) at USF.

“Once a month a group of counselors, athletics coaches and campus police meet to discuss drug and alcohol abuse on campus,” Farley said.

“We use normative education to try and change people’s perception of the norms of drinking and drugs — for example, we buy space in The Oracle for educational ads that say things like, ‘Did you know that four out of five students don’t drink to get drunk?’ Because even though it may seem like everyone drinks to get drunk, this just isn’t the case and that is true for a lot of related things — not everyone is out there doing this stuff.”

Farley said students should look for the white SEAT tent around campus at visible locations like patio Tuesday and movies on the lawn on Wednesday’s. This month the organization is giving out information on alcohol because of Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week, which falls on the third week of October.