Drug overdose sends two seniors to hospital

Early Sunday morning, two male Williams students were transported by ambulance to the North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH). The Williamstown Police Department (WPD) is currently investigating the hospitalization of the two students, which resulted from their ingestion of a drug believed to be either Ecstasy or Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB). A female student was also transported to NARH Sunday morning; however, at this time, it is not clear if her condition was related to that of the two males.

“[The investigation] was done in such a way and with Williams College Security that the folks involved, their health and their well-being was paramount to the investigation,” Williamstown Police Chief Arthur Parker said. “Despite the fact that this is a law enforcement mission, if you would, clearly the health of the people involved was at the forehand.”

At 12:38 a.m., Security responded to a medical assistance request for two students in the Purple Pub parking lot. According to Al Baker, a Pub employee, two ambulances arrived on the scene. Parker stated that the two males and the female were transported in separate ambulances to NARH. One of the males was treated and released. The other was admitted and released later Sunday.

“The stuff that happened Saturday night is clearly the stuff that we’re trying to prevent with alcohol, and now, we’re upping the ante,” Parker said. “I would much rather that people get a diploma and a gateway to a fantastic career when they leave Williamstown and Williams College rather than the gate to the backdoor of the hearse opening and a cemetery.”

“Right now the drug that we have in our possession is going to be taken to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Health Pure Food and Drug Lab. They conduct an analysis on it, and then they will tell us specifically what it is. I don’t know if it’s going to be Ecstasy or [certain other drugs],” said Parker.

Ecstasy and GHB are both designer drugs associated with rave or club culture.

Ecstasy, otherwise known as methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), is a stimulant that has hallucinogenic properties. Sold in tablet, gelatin capsule and powder form, the drug can bring about tingling sensations and a state of euphoria. It also increases heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse. The use of Ecstasy can result in hot and cold flashes, nausea, vomiting, anxiety and panic attacks, hallucinations and convulsions.

Like Ecstacy, GHB is a Class A drug in Massachusetts, which means that it has no medical purpose and is placed it in the same class of drugs as heroin. Under federal law, it is a Schedule One drug, which is “a drug that has absolutely no legitimate purpose,” said Parker.

GHB, originally used by body builders to stimulate muscle growth, is a sedative that can be distributed in the form of a white powder but is more commonly taken as a clear liquid. It is both odorless and tasteless and can induce states of extreme relaxation or euphoria. According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, GHB has been reported as used in cases of date rape since it can easily be slipped unnoticed into someone drink without them realizing it.

GHB abuse can result in comas and seizures, and when taken in combination with alcohol can lead to nausea and difficulty breathing. Withdrawal effects such as insomnia, anxiety and sweating may also occur. Parker, quoting from a drug enforcement document, said that since 1990 there have been over 7100 overdoses and law enforcement encounters with GHB in 45 states. GHB has resulted in 65 deaths.

A Monday WPD press release stated that the WPD expects to file charges based on the results of laboratory analysis of the drug after concluding their investigation. Officer Kevin Garner is conducting the investigation with the assistance of Security and members of the College administration.

“Depending on the conclusion of this investigation, there is a possibility that you could be looking at minimum mandatory sentences,” said Parker.