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

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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jake
jake
6 years ago

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.

Randy Matthews
6 years ago

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… Read more »

luca d
luca d
6 years ago

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… Read more »

kab1200
kab1200
6 years ago

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. http://www.cdhd.idaho.gov/CHEC/Etc/meth.htm

Taylor J Kauer
6 years ago

I think that the drug use in Los Angeles in general is extremely high and after living here for 1.5 yrs I can’t wait to leave. It’s not just the illegal drugs, but prescription drugs as well. I’ve never seen so many people who are attractive and stuck on themselves taking one thing in the morning to get them going and another at night to take them down…over and over and over again thinking that there continually bleeding issue is gonna be resolved by some magic pill because they are entitled to a quick fix. I’m going back to Idaho…gay… Read more »

Daverator
Daverator
6 years ago

“God has chosen Jovin and who are we to judge.” What a complete denial of reality. By that logic, God made the choice to take his friend Shaun also. Let’s stick our fingers in our ears and completely ignore the fact that they made some bad choices that had tragic consequences.

That’s not judging or bashing anyone, that’s just stating it for what it is. If folks continue on fatalistically thinking that “God took them,” that kind of denial will only cause more needless deaths.

I sincerely wish you peace in the midst of your loss.

debbie
debbie
6 years ago

Jovin is my relative and I do NOT appreciate any bashing about Jovin and a drug overdose. We just got back from a very emotional funeral and until you stand in our shoes you all need to get a life and let us try to deal with our tragedy. Some of you have the mentality of two year olds. Yes a drug was found in his system but that does NOT mean Jovin was an addict. God has chosen Jovin and who are we to judge. AND there IS still investigating being done, so SHUT THE HELL UP ANDLEAVE IT… Read more »

barrett
barrett
6 years ago

clearly no one disputes the fact that he had a huge amount of friends. except in cases of old age and terminal illness is death ever actually “timely” ?? i dont believe anyone painted him as an addict however he made the conscious decision to do it. ppl are dancing with the devil
taking drugs like that its not as though one can sue a pharmaceutical company when an od or death occurs.should serve as a wake up call and a cautionary tale dont know what purpose being in denial will serve. Rip

david
david
6 years ago

LUCA is 100% correct, preach it gurl….life is cause and effect we all pay the piper for our choices good and bad…its called free will

truthteller
truthteller
6 years ago

thank you Luca D for the honest post. does anyone else tire of the PC bs about lionizing someone for being ‘taken too soon’ when all of that could have been avoided had the individual in question made smarter decisions in life? And what about the eye-rolling irony of a self-professed ‘fitness trainer’–who, I might add, chose to make a living by inspiring others to lead a healthy lifestyle–overdosing on illegal drugs??? #NoSympathy

Scott
Scott
6 years ago

To Eric: you live in a bubble and yours is an opinion of someone who read an article and did not know the person. Your statistics are wrong on drug use. It’s 1 in 3 people who have tried a drug only one time. This fact is not discriminatory against age, race, religion, or sexual orientation it is all encompassing. Your level of compassion and understanding needs to be elevated and you are not going to find either one of them on that soapbox you’re standing on.

erik
erik
6 years ago

to scott: how can you say that “the majority of people made the same choice” that really speaks volumes about your own behavior and what you think everyone else is doing. speak for yourself. I’m not dead from drugs because I chose not to take them. in fact, only 15% of people try drugs. I don’t believe this was a “one time” thing for jovin or it was “accidental”. this is the wrong message to be sending to young people. accidents like this don’t happen. its like saying its ok to drive 100 miles an hour without your seatbelt, everyone… Read more »