Woman recounts ‘club drug’ nightmare

Fahrenheit, a club-style bar and restaurant at 4 Main St., Massena. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — Sheri Lazore didn’t think it could happen to her — until it did.

Ms. Lazore, of Akwesasne, spent an evening at a Massena bar earlier this month with her boyfriend and some friends. She spent the following day at Cornwall Community Hospital and several days recovering from what emergency department staff believed to be GHB ingestion.

A colorless, odorless liquid or a white powder dissolved in liquid, GHB can cause euphoria, confusion, vomiting and unconsciousness. In some cases, overdoses are fatal or cause seizures and comas.

The compound — gamma hydroxybutyrate — was popularized in the 1980s and used as a dietary supplement and a nightlife “club drug.” Though small concentrations of GHB are naturally produced in the brain, recreational doses cause dangerous depressive effects.

With GHB use surging in the United States by the turn of the century, Congress passed the Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Drug Prohibition Act of 2000. Hillory, a 17-year-old from Texas, died in 1996, and Samantha, a 15-year-old from Michigan, died in 1999, both after consuming drinks drugged with GHB.

The legislation categorized GHB as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act. The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies Schedule I substances as those without an accepted medical use carrying a high potential for abuse. The Food and Drug Administration had previously banned the manufacture and sale of GHB in 1991. A variant form of the compound is now approved as a Schedule III controlled substance for treating narcolepsy.

With her boyfriend Mike Jacobs, Ms. Lazore settled into a spot at about 11 p.m. Aug. 21, at Massena’s Fahrenheit. The club-style bar and restaurant, 4 Main St., opened Aug. 6 in the former Friar Tuck’s venue. Fahrenheit, with principals listed as Jason Premo, Jarred Shope and Scott French, filed for an on-premises liquor license with the state Liquor Authority in December. The license took effect Aug. 5.

Ms. Lazore said she was enjoying the evening, drinking with Mr. Jacobs and friends in a downstairs corner of the bar. They both recalled the drinks tasting strong, and Ms. Lazore said she switched to water after a few drinks.

By about 1 a.m., Mr. Jacobs said he knew something was wrong. They drink together fairly often and like to be out with friends, so Mr. Jacobs easily noticed that Ms. Lazore seemed lost and especially different from how she typically reacts to alcohol.

Ms. Lazore’s repeated vomiting and a general uneasiness pulled them home, where Mr. Jacobs helped with a shower and continued hydration and decided she needed to go to the hospital. Ms. Lazore’s Cornwall paperwork indicates she arrived at 5:04 a.m. and that her blood alcohol concentration was low. Medical staff told the pair Ms. Lazore’s symptoms were likely caused by GHB, which is difficult to detect in standard screenings.

Timeframes vary by health agency and depend on a person’s physical and metabolic characteristics, but generally, GHB effects can kick in within 15 minutes and last up to seven hours. Its concentration in the body diminishes significantly over that period and beyond, making detection in urine and blood highly time-sensitive.

Ms. Lazore didn’t leave the hospital until shortly after 2 p.m. Aug. 22, and slept intermittently for the next few days. She reported the incident to the Massena Police Department and said she was later told the department approached Fahrenheit to review security camera footage from that night.

Massena Police Chief Jason Olson declined to comment on the investigation. Fahrenheit inquiries were directed to co-owner Mr. Premo, who also declined to comment.

“They wouldn’t have just damaged me,” Ms. Lazore, mother of three kids, said. “They would have damaged my whole family if anything else would have happened.”

Attending a wedding with Mr. Jacobs this weekend, Ms. Lazore said she felt moments of anxiety rooted in last week’s experience. Those moments were punctuated by women and other acquaintances checking in with her.

After sharing a brief message about the incident on her Facebook page, Ms. Lazore said two women reached out privately to her. They were at Fahrenheit that night, too. They suspected their drinks had been drugged.

“You’ve really got to look out for each other,” Mr. Jacobs said. “You can never be too careful.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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