2002-09-21 / Front Page

St. John’s Doctor Defends Her Position

Cites Concern Over Attempts To Discredit Amyl Nitrate Story
By Gary G. Toms

St. John's Doctor Defends Her Position


"I am having a hard time understanding the position these people seem to be taking, and I think many of them are totally missing the point," said Dee M. L'Archeveque, MD, and Chairman of the Emergency Medicine Department at St. John's Episcopal Hospital South Shore in Far Rockaway."I am having a hard time understanding the position these people seem to be taking, and I think many of them are totally missing the point," said Dee M. L'Archeveque, MD, and Chairman of the Emergency Medicine Department at St. John's Episcopal Hospital South Shore in Far Rockaway. Cites Concern Over Attempts
To Discredit Amyl Nitrate Story

As a result of the last week's front-page story, "It Won't Be Long Before Someone Dies," many calls and Emails came into the office from people, who all declined to have their names published, claiming that The Wave printed incorrect information regarding the little silver canisters that were found along the sea wall of Beach 146 Street several weeks ago. Those who corresponded stated that the canisters did not contain amyl or butyl nitrate, and that the drug being used by kids was actually nitrous oxide or "laughing gas."

"You guys have the story all wrong. I know what these things are because I used them in the earlier days of my youth," said one caller.

"I'd know them anywhere. I know them like the back of my hand."

Another, outraged by what he described as "sloppy" reporting on the front- page story, denounced the findings of the investigation.

"That's not amyl nitrate you found on the beach. If you bothered to do some real research, you would've found that it was nitrous oxide. They are commonly referred to as "whippits," and I used to do them with my friends 15 to 20 years ago. They've been around for years. This is nothing new."

Still, another blasted the investigative feature as a blatant attempt by The Wave to scare the community with incorrect facts and information.

"Why are you treating this like its such a big deal? People have been doing "whippits" for years. The stuff you found on the beach is not as bad as you are making it out to be. You get a little buzz and that's it. It's not that dangerous."

The Wave contacted the Chairman of Emergency Medicine for St. John's Episcopal Hospital South Shore, Dee M. L'Archeveque, MD, FACEP, who served as the medical consultant for the story. She was very concerned about the phone calls we received.

"I am having a hard time understanding the position these people seem to be taking, and I think many of them are totally missing the point," said the Chairman.

"The fact that our youth are using any inhaled substance is dangerous, whether it's nitrous oxide or amyl/butyl/cyclohexyl nitrite. Coming from 6 years of experience at the rough and tumble county election districts (ED's) of Oakland and San Francisco, California, I have seen numerous youth, and their families, destroyed by substance abuse.

The doctor conveyed that national statistics show that the percentage of 12th graders using inhalants is about 18 percent, including such substances as Freon and propane. Moreover, L'Archeveque stated that canisters or inhalers of dangerous substances, like nitrous oxide or amyl/butyl/cyclohexyl nitrite are common.

"These drugs have been around for a long time, and they have only changed in seductive labeling and now have Internet sites for distribution instead of storefronts. Silver canisters that have been found on the shores of the Rockaway peninsula are indicators of dangerous behaviors and a potential life threatening substance."

When asked about claims that the story, and her analysis, was totally incorrect, the doctor issued the following response.

"We ran the sample obtained from The Wave through our lab, and I am confident that we have it right. I believe the substance in the canisters to be amyl or cyclohexyl nitrite because of the "rage" of its use in the New York Metropolitan area, and the fact that nitrous oxide in these small bottles "whippit" bottles would not produce a significant high."

L'Archeveque then offered a second reason as to why she believes the substance is not nitrous oxide.

"What many people don't realize is that Nitrous oxide "laughing gas" has been strictly regulated for any large scale use and is only available for whipped cream dispensers on the Internet. I have been a doctor for a number of years, and even I would have a difficult time trying to get nitrous oxide."

The fact that some people from the community are downplaying the seriousness of the drug, and the situation, is a major point of concern for L'Archeveque.

"The down side of this anaesthetic is that it can cause respiratory depression, hypoxia and a person can stop breathing or have cardiac arrhythmia, such as flat line death. The amount of nitrous oxide needed for a high is large, and at these levels the medical problems start."

Again, The Wave asked the doctor if she was absolutely convinced of the lab's test results. She did not waiver.

"After discussion with laboratory and clinical drug experts, we believe that this is most likely a liquid used in an inhaler, such as an asthmatic would use, matching the newer cyclohexyl nitrite that is advertised heavily on the internet as "video head cleaner."

L'Archeveque was given the opportunity to issue a statement to the Rockaway community regarding this latest and potentially dangerous trend. She offered the following.

"All I can say is the point drugs kill, and the drugs these days are more potent and dangerous. Inhalation use of any drug, except for medical reasons, needs to be stopped before more young people die. This is a very serious situation, and I want to thank the reporter, and The Wave in general, for bringing the issue of substance abuse to the forefront of the public."


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