2002-09-14 / Front Page

'It Won’t Be Long Before Someone Dies'

By Gary G. Toms
It Won't Be Long Before Someone Dies

'It Won't Be Long Before Someone Dies'

Many little silver bottles were 
            found next to beer cans along Beach 146 Street two weeks ago. 
            Many little silver bottles were found next to beer cans along Beach 146 Street two weeks ago. Doctor Warns Parents About
Latest Drug Sweeping Rockaway

Last week, The Wave received a phone call from an angry and concerned Neponsit resident, who informed us of some disturbing events that were taking place on the beach during the early morning hours.

"There are all of these kids hanging out on the beach, and they are acting up," said the woman.

"They are drinking and playing very loud music at one o'clock in the morning, and it goes on for quite some time. When they're done partying, the area is a virtual mess, with beer cans laying all over the beach."

The Wave went down to investigate the claims, and we ended up finding far more than a bunch of beer cans on the beach. Upon closer inspection, several dozen small, silver canisters were found adjacent to many of the strewn beer cans. Two were taken as samples, and immediately taken to local pharmacies to help determine what they might have been.

"That looks like one of those carbon dioxide bottles that are used for seltzer water," said a pharmacist at Rockaway Beach Pharmacy, located on Beach 90 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

"If you found those on the beach, and kids were in possession of them, that can't be a good thing. They could be using them to get high. That is my first guest, but I'm not a doctor, so I really don't know what they are doing with them."

A staffer from a medical office next door to the pharmacy also offered an opinion on what the little mystery canister could have been.

"The only place where I have seen something like that is in liquor stores. Come to think of it, I have also seen them used for BB guns. They're like little air cartridges that you buy with the gun," said the medical secretary.

The Wave conferred with officers at both the 100 and 101 Precincts, and the "silver bullets" were a mystery to them as well.

"I couldn't even begin to tell you what that is," said one officer.

"You found that on the beach? Next to beer cans? I don't know, but that doesn't sound too good. If you find out what they are, we'd be interested in knowing what they're being used for."

After reaching a virtual dead end, The Wave went to St. John's Episcopal Hospital South Shore in Far Rockaway. There, we sought the help of Dee M. L'Archeveque, MD, FACEP, Chairman of the hospital's Emergency Medicine Department. Within a matter of seconds, we had an answer.

"Whoa! Looks like you've got a "popper!" Where did you get that?" said the doctor.

The doctor was informed that between fifty and seventy of them were found along the beach, and that kids might somehow be mixing them with alcohol.

"Oh boy! Bad deal. This is not good," she continued.

"Dr. 'D', as she is affectionately known, then told us that we had a ticking time bomb in our hands.

"This is amyl nitrate. It is also been called butyl nitrate, but they basically act in the same manner. What's happening is the kids are probably using it as an inhalant. They pop the tops of them, or inject small needles into them, and sniff the contents."

The doctor then logged on to a medical website, which gave a complete listing of information on the drug and the dangers of its use. She then presented the documentation to The Wave.

"I am shocked and displeased if our youth in the Rockaways are using amyl or butyl nitrate 'poppers.' There is a real hidden danger with these drugs. These instant highs are short term, but their effects on the human body can last a lifetime," said the doctor.

The Wave then asked her if she could describe in greater detail what exactly happens when using the drugs.

"Just think back to the time all those cardiac cripples were using 'Fen-Fen' or cocaine. This seemingly instant high has potential long-term cardiac effects. They sniff the contents, it expands the lungs and increases heart rate, and it gives them a sort of 'rush.' I'd hate to think that they are mixing this stuff with beer and hard liquor."

Suddenly, a look of serious concern appeared on the doctor's face.

"If a young person has an undiagnosed heart condition, the instant increase in heart rate, coupled with the decrease in blood pressure can kill. People don't realize that these canisters are made for CO2 pellet guns and other seemingly non-dangerous devices. If the kids are using them on a frequent basis, which they appear to be doing if you found that many on the beach, it won't be long before someone dies. All it will take is one kid with a heart condition."

Another doctor that was in the room nodded her head in agreement.

Dr D. was asked if she had recently come into contact with kids, in the emergency room, that may have been under the influence of the drugs. There was a slight pause, and then she said, "Hold on a minute. Let me check something." She made a phone call and requested the emergency room's logbook. Another doctor walked in shortly after and handed her the book.

"You may not believe this, but you may have helped us," she said.

As she thumbed through the pages, she explained that a number of kids, from ages 8 to 19, have been coming into the emergency room vomiting, agitated, anxious, and experiencing lightheadedness or dizziness, but the doctors had no clue as to why.

"I can't say that this is the actual cause, but it would make sense," stated L'Archeveque.

When asked why it would make sense that the drug could be linked to the patient's condition, she stated that the amyl or butyl nitrate would not show up in most of the tests conducted to determine the cause of illness.

"I want to issue a special warning to the kids in Rockaway. Be wary and stay away from this drug and others."

She then went on to say that amyl and butyl nitrate can be easily purchased in stores, particularly those that sell liquor or toy guns, for as little as five dollars a bottle. Also, the fact that many of the small bottles were found at the West end of the peninsula, leads her to believe that the kids must be getting them from someone in the area.

"I hope The Wave can expose who facilitates these drugs because they should be the ones that have to look into a mother or father's eyes, like I have, and tell them their child is dead. They should be the ones to experience the pain and overwhelming grief."

The Wave went to several discount, liquor, and toy stores along Beach 116 Street to see if amyl or butyl nitrate could be purchased. Most of the stores owners stated that they did not sell the little silver bottles.

Several groups of Rockaway kids were also consulted for this story, in an effort to find out if they knew anything about the drugs or where they might be purchased. They all declined to comment.

To obtain more information on amyl or butyl nitrate, you can log on to www.well.com/user/woa/fsinhale.htm.

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