A Friend to Have Award

Project GHB “A Friend To Have Award” Recipients

To counter the prevailing myth that people overdosing on the drug gamma hydroxy butyrate (GHB) should be allowed to “just sleep it off,” Project GHB in 2003 initiated the “A Friend To Have Award” honoring those

  1. with the courage not to let friends or others die needlessly from this dangerous drug,
  2. those who have escaped its addictive grip and taken time to help others, and
  3. those who have contributed dramatically to GHB prevention/treatment issues.

Recipients to date of this award include:

The 2008 Project GHB Friend to Have Award went to Colt Haugen, 22, a student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  A relatively new employee of the local Ruby Tuesday restaurant, he observed a customer slipping a pill into the drink of the woman who was with him.  Shaken by what he observed, Haugen told the manager and police were called.  Ultimately the customer, Robert Psaty, 56, was arrested on suspicion of inducing someone to consume a controlled substance.  Nancy McGrath considers him her angel, with good cause.

In 2007, the Project GHB awards were given to Karri Cormican and Hannah Bridgemann of San Francisco; John Lyons, a criminal investigator in the Johnson County Attorney’s Office in Texas; and Dr. Deborah Zvosec, a researcher specializing in GHB issues in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Karri Cormican & Hannah Bridgemann are waitresses at Noe’s Bar in San Francisco and intervened when they observed a man dosing his date’s drink.  Karri was serving a young couple and when the female was away from the table, Karri noticed that the man took out a small packet of white powder and shook it into her drink.  Karri realized what was happening and, thinking quickly, grabbed the drink saying the beer was spoiled and she would replace it.  She showed it to Hannah, who was bartending; they could even see the white powder floating on it. 

As they tried to calculate how to deal with the issue, the female returned but then went out to smoke.  Karri went after her to tell her what she had seen.  The woman said it was a first date; they had met a few weeks earlier at a dance class.  Hannah rushed out with more stunning news.  She had observed the man drop two pills into the new beer.  They confronted the man and called the police.  The two beers were analyzed and had been laced with Sonata, a sleeping medication, and Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug.  Never mind that it wasn’t GHB.  There are more than 40 drugs used to facilitate sexual assault, GHB being just one of those.  This is important that someone observed such behavior and TOOK ACTION.  Joseph Szlamnik, who was then a senior management assistant for the San Francisco Unified School District, was arrested and pled guilty to transporting and furnishing a drug.  He was sentenced to a year in jail with six months suspended, and he was fired.  

Dr. Deborah Zvosec, PhD, Minnesota Medical Research Foundation, has won this award once before.  Project GHB felt compelled to honor her again, this time for her incredible dedication and determination is tracking down, analyzing and preparing the data for publication regarding GHB-related death cases.  This data is an incredible leap forward in getting knowledge about GHB death issues to the medical profession, law enforcement officials and the public.  No one but Project GHB had been tracking GHB-related deaths.  Project GHB had maintained a list of any reported via the death report form on the website, www.projectghb.org, as well as any references to possible deaths in the news or from other emails, etc.  Project GHB had compiled some data on more than 300 such deaths.  Dr. Zvosec took that information and tracked down details on as many as possible.  She has now done a death case review and analysis of 226 of the documented cases.  This study has clearly blown away two common myths about GHB:  1—That you can’t die from GHB alone; you can die only if you mix it with alcohol or other drugs.  More than one third of the 226 cases were from GHB alone.  2—That you don’t need to seek medical care for someone who has overdosed from GHB, but just let the person “sleep it off.”   Many of those who died from GHB overdoses might well have survived had they received medical intervention prior to cardiac or respiratory arrest. 

John Lyons—The March 2007 Project GHB International Conference on GHB & Chemical Drugs in Dallas, Texas, would not have happened without John’s dedication and assistance.  After Project GHB President Trinka Porrata was bitten by a spider carrying Guillain-Barre Syndrome, it was tough to get back on track with a rescheduled conference.  John’s persistence in helping with speaker selection and promotion was very important to a successful conference.   

2004-2005 recipients were Rosemary Roberts for her Internet radio three-part series featuring GHB issues via www.thepatientsvoice.com, and to “Lynn,” assistant manager for the Project GHB Addiction Message Board, for her efforts to help others through the maze of withdrawal and recovery from GHB addiction, following her own two-year active addiction to GHB.

Rosemary Roberts was nominated due to the three-part series she did in 2004 via her Internet Radio program, The Patient’s Voice, www.thepatientsvoice.com.  Lynn, the other 2004 winner, has been a long-standing contributor and assistant manager of the GHB Addiction Message Board.  GHB addicts from several countries have signed up on the Message Board for support in their struggle to break free of GHB dependence.   

Sidney Ray of Rogersville, Missouri, was awarded (March 2003) the “A Friend to Have Award” for her insistence on getting medical treatment for a friend who had overdosed on GHB (having accidentally picked up the wrong drink).  Trying to reach her friend on the phone, Ms. Ray learned that her friend was unconscious from an overdose when someone else answered his cell phone.  She returned to the club, was disturbed by her friend’s condition and took him to the hospital, in spite of the insistence of those around him to just leave him on his side and let him sleep it off.  By the time he arrived at the emergency room, the friend’s heart rate was dangerously low and doctors said her friend might well have died without medical intervention at that time.  In fact, this award was created as a result of this incident.

“Ira” of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, and “Aaron” of Alexandria, Virginia, were the other first-round recipients (March 2003) of the award.  Both Ira and Aaron know all too well how difficult it is to escape from addiction to GHB, and have spent countless hours helping others through the maze of recovery.  Their dedication to keeping a positive tone to the Project GHB Addiction Message Board, accessed via www.projectghb.org, has aided many working to get off of GHB and onward to a healthy existence.  

Doctors Stephen Smith (Minneapolis), Christopher D’Amanda (Philadelphia), Karen Miotto (Los Angeles), Alex Stalcup (San Francisco), Deborah Zvosec (Minneapolis) and Jo Ellen Dyer (San Francisco) were all presented A Friend To Have Awards at the May 2003 national GHB conference in Orlando for their dedication to GHB issues, especially addiction/withdrawal.  All of these doctors are involved in seeking the best treatment for the potentially severe withdrawal from GHB and in spreading the word to others in the medical community.   

Oscar Anzaldo, United Way, Stockton, California, was presented with the Project GHB award in May 2003 for the ongoing financial support and encouragement that he and the Stockton United Way have given to Project GHB.

These recipients are proof that people do care about others and can make a difference.

Project GHB President Trinka Porrata received the check on behalf of Project GHB from Andy Prokop of the United Way and Mr. Spanos' daughter, and also provided a copy of our brand new book about GHB addiction to the Spanos family.

Actor Mickey Jones was among the celebrities at the June A.G. Spanos Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament. Mickey is perhaps best known for his Breathsavers commercials (http://www.mickeyjones.com/bsaver.jpg) or his long stint in "Home Improvement, but has done hundreds of films and had quite a musical career before that. He has appeared in a number of LAPD training films as well. Mickey is shown here with Trinka Porrata, LAPD retired, and a representative from the another group receiving a donation from the tournament.