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W.Va. police explore 'designer' drugs

November 13, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

W.Va. police explore 'designer' drugs



SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - High on "Ecstasy" and other designer drugs, people crowd into huge dance halls for all-night parties called "raves."

The raves are designed to enhance the effects of Ecstasy as much as they are to give people the chance to dance to the fast-paced "techno-music" the events are known for, said Scott Perkins, a retired detective from the Orlando, Fla. Police Department.

Ecstasy can act as a hallucinogen, and the bright strobe lights at the raves and colorful clothing being worn by the participants heightens the effect of the drug, Perkins told 83 Tri-State Area police officers who came to the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center Monday to learn more about so-called "club drugs."

Dancers have even been known to hang from the speakers to feel the sensation from the heavy bass in the music, Perkins said.

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The Tri-State area may have not witnessed significant amounts of Ecstasy yet, but "it's coming," said Perkins.

"It has taken over the U.S.," said Perkins, who retired from the Orlando Police Department after being shot in the hand in a non-rave related incident. "Cocaine? No way. Ecstasy is No, 1," Perkins said.

Charles Town Police Chief Mike Aldridge worked with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to bring the day-long seminar to Shepherdstown. Aldridge said he and other local law enforcement officials wanted to have the conference because they feel they needed to be prepared on how to control club drugs.

There have already been two rave parties in the Eastern Panhandle in the last four months.

In July, West Virginia State Police broke-up a rave party in a field on W.Va. 480 near Kearneysville that attracted about 400 people.

Troopers arrested a man for possession of untaxed cigarettes at the party held near the White Rock subdivision, but Trooper E.S. Fultz said he was "sure there was more going on there than meets the eye."On Oct. 20, a rave was held in the Multi-Purpose Center at the Berkeley Plaza on U.S. 11 just north of Martinsburg, said Martinsburg Police Chief Ted Anderson.

Anderson said the rave did not cause any problems. But Anderson said it is possible that officers in his department are not familiar with certain indicators that could hint that club drugs are being used in Martinsburg.

"He raised the awareness considerably today," Anderson said of Perkins' two-hour presentation. "Obviously it's a deep concern to have," Anderson said.

Perkins familiarized local police on how they can tell if people are using club drugs. When youths are using Ecstasy, the drug causes them to lose their inhibitions and causes them to be very affectionate with each other, Perkins said.

The drug heightens sensitivity in the skin, and dancers in the raves can often be seen massaging each other to intensify the drug's effect, Perkins said. Products that cause heat-like sensations, like Vick's Vapo-Rub, are often inhaled by dancers to intensify the effect, said Perkins.

Some dancers put the Vick's Vapo-Rub inside gas masks and dance with the masks on stage, according to Perkins.

Other substances associated with club drugs are date-rape drugs like G.H.P., a liquid which is dispensed into a woman's drink. The drug causes the woman to eventually pass out, which is when she is raped, Perkins said.

"G.H.P. rapes are everywhere," said Perkins, especially in college towns.

Two Shepherd College nurses who attended Monday's seminars said there have been rapes reported to them where the victim complained of "losing time."

But it was hard to determine whether the time confusion was due to a G.H.P. case or alcohol use, said nurses Joy Phillips and Pat Sherwood.

The nurses said they plan to focus more closely on the situation in the coming year.

Youths who began going to raves and using club drugs in the early 1990's lived by what they called the PLUR concept, which stood for Peace, Love, Unity and Respect, Perkins said.

But now all those ideals have vanished, and now violence like robberies can occur at raves, Perkins said.

Importation of Ecstasy and similar drugs into the U.S. is primarily being handled by Russian and Yugoslavian crime families, Perkins said. Current demand for Ecstasy is outpacing supply, he said.

When Ecstasy was initially discovered in the U.S., about 500,000 pills annually were confiscated. Now about five million pills are confiscated every year, said Perkins, who travels throughout the country talking to police about club drugs.

"Guys, this is a huge empire you have targeted," Perkins said.

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