Mike Scarcella | Mr. America & Mr. USA

The passing of Mike  Scarcella—Mr. America & Mr. USA

Fighting the GHB Addiction Demon……

By Trinka Porrata

[Photo & Obituary]

…There are good days and bad days. Some days working with GHB addiction is like being called to the roof of a tall building to talk down a “jumper.”

Sometimes they jump before you get there. You never even get a chance to help them and you can’t help but think, “If only I’d known sooner. If only I could have gotten there sooner.” And, sometimes—even though you get there, it’s too late. They are too committed to give you a chance.

Other times, you arrive and try helping them to realize there is a way to resolve their problems (at least hoping in your heart that there is) and to decide to come back to safety. Progress is being made, though often slowly. But then at times the unthinkable happens. They decide to climb back off the ledge, only to find they are too off balance in their footing, or get agitated from the roller coaster of emotions. They step back just a little……………..and you grab for them but miss, or worse, you grab their hand but they are too heavy, struggling too hard. You can’t keep hold of them.

The passing of Mike Scarcella on August 25, 2003 was one of those moments of sadness as one slipped away, one who wanted help and wanted to make a difference for others. I was looking forward to working with him since I know how widespread GHB abuse/addiction is in the athletic world, even if the sports giants (team  owners/coaches) want to ignore it. One sports magazine editor didn’t want to talk about GHB because he didn’t want anyone to think it’s a “disease” of bodybuilders. It isn’t about labeling something negatively or placing blame…..it’s about saving lives. And Mike’s is another one that I wish I could have magically saved.

Mike came forward for help recently. He truly wanted to stop GHB this time and LIVE for the sake of his young son. And, he wanted to find a way to help others escape from it safely. We were working to get him into detox with high hopes for a rehab plan that would keep him safe from relapse. Sadly, there were complications beyond anyone’s expectations.

Mike isn’t with us now to tell his story and determine his own future. But his passing does not have to be in vain. His story will be told in the days to come. I do hope it will reach the hearts of others who have been in GHB’s grip or have witnessed the struggle of a loved one. I hope it will help prevent others from ever touching GHB or becoming addicted to it. GHB withdrawal is NOT a safe “cold turkey” detox. It should be done in a medical facility with competent help to guard against the high risk of stroke or cardiac arrest. Unfortunately GHB withdrawal is not yet common knowledge in the medical world. Project GHB is partnering with the National Assn. Of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) and other organizations to facilitate change. A number of dedicated doctors and researchers are working diligently to improve our response and protocols in handling GHB overdoses and withdrawals.

 SCARCELLA, Michael David, 39, of N. Dallas passed away on Aug.25, 2003.

He was born Sept. 20, 1963 in Florida and raised in W. Virginia. An accomplished bodybuilder & personal trainer he has been on the cover of Muscle Magazine and held titles such as Mr. America, Mr. USA and Mr. Lone Star Texas. Despite all of his awards, his greatest accomplishment was being a father to his 5 yr. old son. He was loved and respected by a multitude of friends & family. He will be so dearly missed.  

Approximately 2,000 GHB addicts have come forward to the Project GHB Addiction Helpline since December 23, 1999. Being a volunteer organization with limited staffing of any type, we haven’t been able to maintain an accurate state-by-state count as we hoped to do, but we know that nearly every US state plus 18 foreign countries are represented in these cases. We know the ages range from at least 18 to 65, with highest concentrations from 25 to 45. We know about 15 percent or more are female. We know there have been too many accidental overdoses (typically from accidentally ODing on other drugs, trying to self medicate through withdrawal since so few treatment centers know how to handle GHB withdrawal and since patients many don’t have insurance). We also know too many have committed suicide in the grip of GHB withdrawal or in the depression that follows at least temporarily.

And each one of them can name others in the same boat, whether or not they recognize their situation just yet. For the most part, these stories have gone unheralded. Dateline featured the tortured journey of one Seattle family through the maze of GHB addiction. ESPN TV recently featured a young champion wrestler who battled the GHB monster and lost. One day he banded his head on the cement until his forehead was bloody, and then another day doused gasoline on himself and lit a match. Baseball star Mike Piazza’s friend and personal trainer, Mike Fox, ultimately shot himself while trying to escape GHB’s grip. Fox was featured in a series in the New York Daily News.

But many other stories have gone untold…..from athletes in the gym to professional sports stars, from businessmen to seniors……….all told GHB is a safe and wonderful sleep aid, a workout aid, an anti-aging compound. Indeed for many it initially seems to make them blossom, but then it takes hold and lives change for the worst. Some stories have been shared on our GHB addiction message board and there are commonalities abounding in them, from frequent drunk driving episodes to loss of jobs/friends/marriages/money to frequent failures at detoxing, concerns over long-term effects, etc. References to suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, are frequent elements too, even in those with no prior depression issues.

I’ve spent more than one night talking someone into putting down the gun they were holding. I’d gladly spend many more nights doing that if only they’d come forward to us in time and if only I had the magic words to save each one. But sometimes, they slip away from you……….and you can never forget that they were reaching out for help. So you try harder, reach farther, wider and faster to help the next one.

Sometimes pro-G folks tell me it’s a waste of time to be working with this website. That I should devote my time to something big like breast cancer, deaths from ‘bigger’ drugs, etc. But, there are many folks working on those other issues, important as they all are. And that IS the point………………….we at Project GHB do THIS because so few are devoting any attention to GHB sexual assaults, abuse, drunk/drugged driving……………..and death. Someone has to care and we DO.

Thank god for the ones who do climb back off the ledge and give life another try. The ones who move on with their lives, even if they have to struggle long term to beat the GHB demon of addiction. And especially for the ones who then go on to help others (like some of our men and women on the message board)….….and spread the word………….and make a difference in this world. At times like these, we all need the boost of a success story.

For those in the Dallas area who are experiencing GHB dependency, please do not attempt to detox on your own. Medical help is available at Homeward Bound, Trinity Center, 233 W. Tenth Street, Dallas, (214) 941-3500.
(Intake is handled only in morning hours, 8-1130) I

f you are in crisis, at Parkland Hospital ER (Poison Control Center doctors in that region are experienced and will be called in to consult).

For those needing help in other areas, please fill out our Addiction Help Form and be sure to include your city and state as we may already have experienced doctors in the area.

We will be updating our facilities list on the website soon. Facilities experienced with GHB withdrawal can be added to the facilities list.
Click here to add a facility.


Something I noticed

It's really funny that someone with a blood infection and pneumonia died of a GHB overdose first...