Medical student dies after taking 'party drug' GBL that Home Office failed to ban

By chillinwill · Apr 29, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    A promising medical student has died after taking a "party drug" that the Home Office failed to ban despite announcing that it would be made illegal eight months ago, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

    Hester Stewart, 21, an "outstanding" student whose ambition was to become a surgeon, was found dead at a house in Brighton on Sunday morning, after a friend called police and said that she had taken a liquid drug called GBL.

    Police are investigating whether she took the drug knowingly, but a long-term friend has told Miss Stewart's family that she "never ever took drugs" and would "never have knowingly taken this substance".

    In an emotional interview with The Daily Telegraph, Maryon Stewart, her mother, a leading nutritionist, said that she felt "cheated, frustrated and angry" that the Home Office had hesitated on a promise last year to ban the substance, despite it being illegal in several other countries.

    She said she was "mortified" to learn of the delays in prohibiting the drug, which is similar to the notorious "date-rape" drug GHB, and said that it may take "my darling Hessie to die for somebody to take notice".

    The Government announced plans to ban GBL in August and said at the time that the drug "can lead to dependence, unconsciousness and even death by intoxication". But a delay in the ban becoming law has meant that it is still legal today and freely available on the internet for as little as 50p a dose.

    The questions put pressure on the beleaguered Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

    Miss Stewart is believed to be the third person to have died in the past 12 months after taking GBL – gamma-butyrolactone – which has been an increasingly popular drug on the party scene for the past five years.

    GBL is converted in the stomach into GHB, which was banned in 2003. Doctors first gave warning about it in 2005, when one said that it was "vastly more dangerous than ecstasy". Dr Sean Cummings, who runs a private clinic in central London, said he knew of two deaths linked to it.

    Last August, the Government's drugs advisers told the Home Office that the substance should be classified as a Class C drug.

    But because it also has a use as an industrial solvent – in the plastics industry and as a nail polish remover – officials have been delayed in framing the legislation. It is banned for personal use in America, Canada and Sweden.

    "How can the Home Office not be accountable for something like this? How come it's not classified? How could this happen?

    "Some pen-pusher somewhere should be able to work out how to ban it," said Mrs Stewart. "How come they hesitated?

    "This is a disaster. It's just beyond belief that something like this could have happened to such a brilliant, caring, intelligent girl who had so much to offer the whole world, not just her family.

    "I feel gutted, I feel cheated, I feel bitterly frustrated and angry that this has been allowed to happen."

    Mrs Stewart is a founder of the Natural Health Advisory Service and presents a series on a satellite television channel. "In my work I teach people how to look after themselves and all the stuff I do is caring about people, and that's the kind of environment Hessie's been brought up in," she said. "I'm just gutted the Home Office didn't care enough."

    It is a tragic case with echoes of Leah Betts, the schoolgirl who died on her 18th birthday in 1995 when she took an ecstasy tablet.

    Her parents became vocal campaigners against drug use.

    Miss Stewart's father is Dr Alan Stewart, a nutritional physician. She has a sister, Phoebe, 27 and brothers Chesney, 26, and Simeon, 17. The 21-year-old was top of her year studying molecular medicine at Sussex University, where she was tipped to achieve a first class honours degree next year by tutors. She was paid by the university to act as a mentor to first-year students. A post mortem examination is due to be carried out today , although toxicology results are not expected for another week.

    Miss Stewart, a cheerleader, had been at an awards ceremony with her team The Waves at the Thistle Hotel, Brighton, on Saturday night, before going to a party in Patcham area of the city.

    Sources said that a party-goer had told police that he and Miss Stewart had taken the substance. The man has been interviewed under caution and not arrested. It is not an offence to take the drug or to distribute it.

    A Home Office spokesman insisted last night that a ban on the drug was still under consideration. He said: "We are currently looking at the legislative options for control, to target the problems of misuse of GBL, which has a number of legitimate uses. We will consult with the chemical industry and the wider public over the coming months on this issue."

    By Richard Edwards
    April 29, 2009

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  1. Alfa
    So how would a ban have prevented this? GBL is widely available in countries which have banned it.
  2. guldenat
    I also tend to think that a med student would know more about GBL than Jaqui Smith, but that's just me.
  3. thirteenthfloor
    What is "Home Office", is it an office supply store or a government thing. Sorry if that is a dumb question, just never heard of it before.
  4. Alfa
    Ministry of Health.
  5. bananaskin
    Not specifically the Ministry of Health, more an agency that deals with policy within the united Kingdom.
    The Ministry of Health is a sub-agency.
  6. Euthanatos93420
    Okay, am I just paranoid or doesn't this article read like some random chick was murdered to further a prohibitionist political agenda?
  7. honourableone
    Drug ban plea after student dies

    The mother of a 21-year-old student who died after taking the drug GBL has called for an inquiry into why the substance has not been banned.
    Police are investigating whether Hester Stewart, from Brighton, unknowingly took the drug. She died on Sunday.

    GBL is illegal in many countries but has not been banned in Britain.

    A Home Office spokesman said the government accepted there was harm associated with the misuse of GBL and was looking at options for control.
    But Miss Stewart's mother, Maryon, said: "I'm absolutely devastated I've lost my daughter. She wasn't the kind of girl who would risk her life.

    "There should be a formal inquiry to find out why it's been banned in Canada and America, but the UK cannot get its act together and ban it for personal use.

    "I'm in a state of shock. I know my daughter would have wanted me to make others aware of the dangers and make her death more meaningful if that's even vaguely possible."

    Mrs Stewart added: "She was the most caring, beautiful, intelligent, warm, wonderful girl you could ever wish to meet."

    Sussex Police are investigating whether Miss Stewart, a student of molecular medicine at Sussex University, unknowingly took the drug during an evening out with friends in Brighton.

    Hester Stewart was studying molecular medicine at the University of Sussex

    'Outstanding and talented'
    The Home Office evidence showed its misuse was low, but "we are concerned that its use appears to be increasing".

    "GBL has a number of legitimate uses, such as cleaning agents, paints and nail polish, and we will consult with the chemical industry and the wider public over the coming months," the spokesman added.

    A post-mortem examination is being held with toxicology results expected in the coming week.

    On Wednesday, Dr John Armstrong, head of biochemistry at Sussex university, said students and staff were shocked and saddened at Miss Stewart's death.

    He said: "She was an outstanding and talented student on track to get a first class honours degree and was preparing to apply to medical school.

    "She also found time to act as a mentor for younger students. She was outgoing, charming and universally popular and she will be greatly missed by many in the university community."

    By BBC News, 29th April 2009
    Original Source:
  8. Nature Boy
    Re: Drug ban plea after student dies

    Just another flaw of the war on drugs. When people see that something isn't illegal, they tend to think that it's "safe". Truth is, almost all drugs are potentially dangerous, legal or not. It's this irrational notion that people have built into their heads that causes these unfortunate incidents. Banning everything doesn't work. New drugs appear all the time and more people will die in the future due to the ignorance instilled by government policies. People don't think for themselves and they get naive ideas inside their heads. A true shame.
  9. PuKeTaG
    Oh my god, I just start reading the paper as I have been working all day and this is on the front page. Words can not describe what I am feeling now...*seethe*.

    As tragic as it is for this poor girl's family, why can't the blame just be put on the girl who knowingly took it and foolishly mixed it with alcohol. It seems to me, that parents love to make a big deal out of their childrens death and blame the government in order to make their children stand for something rather than it just being an accident.
  10. honourableone
    Bananaskin you should remove the hyperlinks here. If someone clicks them then the government will know exactly where they came from, and we don't want to draw that kind of attention to D-F. You can remove the hyperlink by editing, "going advanced", highlighting the links, pressing the icon of a chain with a red cross through it, and then removing the "http" bit and putting spaces into them so they don't work.
  11. Rightnow289
    Brighton cheerleader Hester Stewart's death linked to party drug GBL

    Girl found dead after taking legal drug GBL


    A promising medical student has been found dead with a container of an unclassified drug near her.
    Hester Stewart, 21, was found at a house in Patcham on Sunday morning, with a container of a GBL close to her.
    The colourless, odourless drug, used on the party scene, is legal, freely available on the internet and not classified by the Home Office.
    It mixes with the body's stomach acid to create date rape drug GHB.
    Hester, who lived in the Queens Park area of Brighton, but grew up in Lewes, had been at an awards ceremony with her cheerleading squad, the Brighton and Sussex Waves, at the Thistle Hotel, Brighton, on Saturday night, before going to a party in Patcham.
    It is not known whether Hester, a student of molecular medicine at Sussex University, took the drug deliberately.
    Hester's mother, nutritionist Maryon Stewart, from Warren Road, Brighton, said: "She was a dream of a daughter.
    "I am devastated. I have lost the most wonderful daughter.
    "She saved our dog when the house flooded in Lewes. She got a bravery award from the RSPCA.
    "She was going to work at the hospital in the summer, holding the hands of blind people, being their eyes.
    "She was just a shining light.
    "They found this substance in the room where she was found. We don't know the circumstances.
    "She would never have bought it off the internet. How she came to take it we will probably never know.
    "How do I come to terms with that?
    "I have to face up to the fact that I had the most wonderful 21 years with her as my daughter.
    "She had so many dreams she wanted to be a surgeon.
    "She wanted to make a difference in the world.
    "But I have to come to terms with the fact that she is never going to come home."
    Hester had a family dinner with her mother and brothers Chesney, 26, and Simeon, 17, on Friday night.
    Ms Stewart said: "She was telling me all about how wonderful her life was.
    "We said how much we loved each other. It was almost like a goodbye."
    Hester's sister Phoebe, 27, said the family could not understand why GBL is legal in the UK when it has been banned in Canada and the US since 2004.
    The drug is sold cheaply in large quantities on the internet, with one 2ml dose costing as little as 50p.
    There is no mention of GBL on drugs information resource Frank.
    Hester's family are now hoping to petition the Government to ban the drug.
    Mother Ms Stewart said: "We want to stop this happening to other people and make them aware. Then we'll feel we have done something at least.
    Hester's father, Alan Stewart, who is a doctor in Lewes, was sent a medical leaflet about the drug five days before his daughter died, but the rest of her family had never heard of it.
    After leaving the awards ceremony that she attended with her cheerleading teammates on Saturday evening, Hester went to two bars before going to the house in Patcham.
    She had arranged to meet brother Chesney for a drink but called him at 3am to say she was going to a party instead.
    Former Brighton College pupil Hester was born in Hove and spent most of her childhood in Sussex.
    Sussex Police are investigating the cause of her death and awaiting toxicology results.
    Dr John Armstrong, head of the Biochemistry department, who taught Hester at Sussex University, said: "Hester was in the second year of a degree in molecular medicine.
    "She was an outstanding and talented student, on track to get a First Class Honours degree, and was preparing to apply to medical school.
    "She also found time to act as a mentor for younger students.
    "She was outgoing, charming and universally popular, and she will be greatly missed by many in the university community."
    The university said counselling was being provided to unprecedented numbers of students and tutors in the wake of Hester's death.
    A post mortem is due to be carried out today before funeral arrangements can be made.
    Today at Sussex University v Brighton University varsity games, contestants will wear black armbands and remember Hester with two minutes silence at 2.30pm.
    Hester's sister Phoebe has set up a Facebook group called In Memory of Princess Hessie after Hester's mother was inundated with messages of condolence.
    More than 300 of the student's friends have joined the group and left messages.
    Anissa Patel said: "I have so many wonderful memories of you and your infectious giggle. I will never forget your friendship Hess, and my thoughts are with your friends and family."
    April Edmonds-Ball said: "Little Hester, an amazingly talented and very funny young lady, I'll always remember you re silly laugh."
    Becca O Neill wrote: "You were the sweetest person I know. You were so happy all the time it was like an angel had sneezed on you."
    Did you know Hester? Leave your tributes below.

    By Emily Walker

    Chief Reporter at the Telegraph

    Source -
  12. fidelcatsro
    So many have been lost to poor education, most non suicide ODs happen due to poor education or the product shifting in quality.
    When will people learn that these are tools and like many a tool if used incorectly can be dangerous
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