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Montreal After-Hours Club Stereo Introduces Zero-Tolerance Policy for GHB

"Do I really want people to die in my club? It's not worth it, and we need to do something about it."

by Benjamin Boles and Britt Julious
Apr 15 2016, 7:50pm

Photo courtesy of Stereo

Stereo, a long-running after-hours club in Montreal, has taken a firm stance against GHB. Anyone caught with the drug will be barred from entering the space for life, the club announced this week.

In a Facebook post from Wednesday afternoon, the club said that "GHB is killing the club scene the world over," and that, as a matter of policy, anyone caught in possession of or using GHB will be barred for life.

"People are asking if something specific happened, but nothing out of the ordinary has happened," owner Tommy Piscardeli told THUMP over the phone. "It's just years of experience and caring for our customers which has made us say 'enough.' I've been here for 18 years, and I've seen it all, but I've never seen a drug react with people so dangerously."

Compared to opiates, GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyrate) haven't had a particularly high death toll. According to the World Health Organization, there have been approximately 60 GHB-related deaths in the US since 1990, although the real number is likely higher. In comparison, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says there were 47 055 fatal opioid overdoses in 2014 alone.

The substance, often called the "date rape drug," is known to have serious adverse side effects, from the mimicking of drunkenness to vomiting, blackouts, seizures and cardiac arrests. According to other Canadian club owners and promoters THUMP contacted (all of whom spoke off-the-record), it's by far the leading reason for 911 calls.

Since its early days, Stereo has worked with local authorities on monitoring drug use in the club. Any illegal drugs found on patrons during searches are placed in a secure "drug box" that only the police can access. The patrons are given the choice between turning over their contraband and entering the club, or keeping their drugs and leaving. The police periodically pick up the confiscated drugs, which help them monitor what's going on in the streets.

"Because of the drug box, we have regular meetings with the police, and they let us know if there's something going around that's really bad," Piscardeli said. "They'll tell us that if we find a particular pill that looks like this, to call them because it's very dangerous."

However, he said he wishes the club could go further when it comes to harm reduction, and said this campaign is just a first step.

"I'd definitely be into having a drug safety group come in and pass out pamphlets," he said. "I'd even be down for an actual drug testing counter, but drug testing is such a touchy thing. If the police would allow us to do it, I'd be the first one to do it."

For now, attempting to tackle the issues the club is facing around GHB use is his priority though.

"We're an afterhours, so people come here from a bar, and might already be drunk. GHB and alcohol together can be very deadly," he said. "We have to prevent it before something really horrible happens. Let's stop this before someone dies. I couldn't handle it if someone died here in my club. I can't accept that."