Jovin Raethz’s Death from Apparent GHB Overdose Sparks Discussion of Drug Abuse in Gay WeHo

Thu, Mar 20, 2014   By Staff    29 Comments

A well-known and well-liked member of West Hollywood’s gay community died of an apparent drug overdose in New York City on Monday, sparking a flurry of discussions in local gay circles and online about drug use among gay men.

Jovin Raethz, featured in HIV Equal's anti-stigma campaign.

Jovin Raethz, featured in HIV Equal’s anti-stigma campaign.

Jovin Raethz, 37, of West Hollywood, a fitness trainer, was found in the 19th Street apartment in Chelsea of Shaun Murphy, 34, who also was dead. Investigators found GHB in the apartment.

GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid) is prescribed under the name Xyrem to treat sleep disorders and catalepsy. But it’s also notorious for its illegal use and the fact that it can have fatal consequences when used with alcohol or other drugs. At lower doses it has an effect similar to alcohol, making the user feel relaxed and sociable. But higher doses can cause vomiting, muscle spasms and loss of consciousness. When ingested with alcohol, it can slow down one’s breathing rate and quickly result in death.

In a report earlier this month the West Hollywood branch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported a significant increase in arrests for possession of GHB, heroin and cocaine in the last six months of last year. There were 36 arrests for possession of those drugs, with no breakdown as to individual drug, which was a 29 percent increase over the year before. Arrests for possession with intent to sell increased to eight from three in the same period the year before. The report also noted a major increase in arrests for possession of methamphetamine, also known as “tina” or “crystal.” There were 115 arrests for possession of the drug, a 13 percent increase over the same period the year before.

Both drugs are viewed as major issues in the gay male community, which makes up 40 percent of West Hollywood’s population. On Monday the West Hollywood City Council approved a proposal by Councilmember John Duran to allocate $5,000 to fund a campaign by the city’s Public Information Office and Social Services Department to raise awareness of the dangers of those drugs among West Hollywood residents. Duran produced three public forums on abuse of crystal meth in 2005 and 2005. “‘G’ has been the source of an incredible amount of social trauma and grief for our community for the past few years,” Duran said. “Meth will make you lose your teeth and your mind. G will stop your heart beat.”

Raethz’s death prompted posts on various social media sites from those who where his friends. One of the most moving is the memorial video, posted above, from YouTube.

Jovin Raethz with friends.

Jovin Raethz with friends.

The death of Raethz and Murphy attracted news coverage in New York City and in Europe because it occurred on the same day as the apparently unrelated death of Charlie Denihan, 28, a member of the family that owns the James and Affinia hotel groups, at his apartment on Union Square. Investigators found GHB in Denihan’s apartment. There is no other apparent connection between the deaths.

Raetz is a native of Faulkton, SD, where funeral arrangements are being made.

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West Hollywood Magazine

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  1. kab1200Sun, Mar 30, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Taylor, good luck with that, since meth is the number one drug problem in Idaho. What the hell group did you get into? L.A. is a big city, there are all kinds of people here, apparently, you did not look for any decent ones.

  2. luca dWed, Apr 02, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    it’s so sad to say, but this crap about who was “chosen by god”, and don’t make judgments, is pathetic.
    sorry doobs, but i’m pretty sure that when the headline reads that a young soul has passed and from apparent ghb overdose, there might be a few folk who want to vent about the waste of a life, any life.
    gay men in west hollywood, of a certain age, just might be over indulging in illicit drug use, exposing them and their potential partners to std’s, HIV, and ultimately, an untimely death.
    so, I think you should be less interested in the kind of post mortem spin that quite frankly, is embarrassing, and just sit back and mourn. quietly.
    frankly, I did not know your relative, “prominent in the weho community”, but perhaps his passing could be something of a wake up call, at the very least, within that circle of prominence.
    that would be a decent legacy, as opposed to you shouting people down.
    don’t make a bad situation worse.

  3. Randy MatthewsWed, Apr 02, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    I think its possible to have a healthy discussion about drug abuse in the gay community while at the same time, respecting family privacy. If I were a family member, and had access to information the general public might not have about the situation (or the author of this article), I might find it difficult to see this outpouring of uninformed opinion and conclusion-drawing.

    I know no more than anyone here what happened. But I wouldn’t make this young man the poster child for drug abuse, or an example of the “gay community’s drug problem,” without conclusive facts. Let the family mourn just a bit.

  4. jakeMon, Apr 14, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Just came across this article, Jovin and I once talked on myspace when I first moved to LA (long time ago)..he was a super sweet guy but we never ended up meeting up. I saw him around a few times and we chatted. He seemed like a really good guy, my condolences to his friends and family. RIP buddy.

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