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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 friendly or not…i’m sick of having to ask my next date if he uses meth…that shouldn’t be a question you have to ask, but its become a standard question…

  5. “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.

  6. 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 ALONE. If you want to bring awareness to drug use in the gay community then do it, but dont do it while trashing someone you dont even know.

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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 is doing it. its not ok to “try” drugs or even associate with those who do. drug users are not victims. they choose this lifestyle.

  12. It is apparent that those who comment focusing on drugs being a problem in his life are the people who did not know him personally. Yes, we all make choices. And the majority of people have made this same choice at some point in their lives. Enough stones have been thrown out of hands that have been just as dirty.

  13. life is about choices. we know what could happen when we make certain choices. some results we can control others we cannot. Jovin had the ability to control the results and he chose to take the drug knowing what could happen. we need to stop blaming society, city council and anything else that people think is responsible. Jovin is the only one responsible for what happened. he chose this knowing the risks. To the younger generation: think about what could happen before you make choices.

  14. Normal people who don’t have a problem w/ drugs don’t die from drug overdoses. It is also important to point out that drug overdoses are NOT accidental. You don’t accidentally use drugs. It’s a conscious choice you make that has risks & consequences. I knew Jovin. He was a beautiful soul. But all souls even the most beautiful ones have demons. If we pretend he didn’t it is a diservice to his life and his death was in vain. We must learn from this.

  15. This makes me sad and angry. Two more young men dead way too soon because of recreational drug use. I’ll repeat what Jimmy P said, above:
    “Every time I hear of another life being stolen by an OD, i wonder if people still think it is “cool” to use. It’s not. It just really is not.”

  16. This situation is horribly tragic. I hope this serves as a wake-up call to people who think occasional or “casual” drug use is harmless. It’s not. You don’t have to be an addict to overdose; anyone can die this way, even first-time users. No one is invincible. And to pretend that these lives were not tragically cut short by drugs is a disservice to their memories. I hope people can learn from this discussion. This didn’t need to happen and no one else needs to die from drug abuse.

  17. @markanastasios – Why is it wrong to bring attention to an issue and problem that could help save someone else’s life? It’s like saying it’s wrong to have an anti-smoking commercial showing people who’s lives have been cut short or are now irreversibly damaged due to smoking. If ONE person read this and said, ‘I won’y try GHB tonight’, that could be a life saved. You can’t hide and pretend everything’s OK, when it’s clearly not.

  18. So sad. Duran’s outreach is a good start, but clinics staffed by therapists and psychologists
    would do more to address this problem. Also, free AA meetings are great resources for users who want to get sober.

  19. I can not imagine that it is the best idea to spell his name two different ways in this “article”. It is also probably not a good idea to slap a name and multimedia up over an “apparent” overdose. He is not the poster child for this issue. His network of loved ones is enormous. Had you done the appropriate steps of researching for this “article”, you would have found a much different story. Or, maybe you did and decided to be a sensationalist. Even the NYPost retracted using the victims names in this case. Thank you, “staff” writer.

  20. I think it’s always the appropriate time for a conversation about drug use and abuse in the gay community. While I feel for those who knew Jovin (I met him only once), I also feel for those who will lose someone in the future. Jovin was extremely charismatic and his death is truly tragic but sweeping things under the rug serves only to cause more pain to others in the future.

  21. If the article is wrong, that is a sad state of affairs. I don’t know the man, so I won’t comment on the story with regards to him personally.

    As a person living in recovery, it is terribly tragic to hear of lives continuing to be taken by that appearance of excitement. I was a frequent users of both ‘g’ and ‘tina’. The times I had were good times, until they weren’t. I hate when I read articles about meth and it stresses the fact that you can loose your teeth. While that is true, let’s stress the fact that you can loose your mind. This article mentioned that, only after the teeth statement. Meth can, and eventually does–to most, take everything from its’ users. I have seen people carried out of Miami nightclubs and placed under cars from ‘g’ overdoses.

    I agree with another poster, education, support, rehab, prevention and MORE are all areas that need an extreme amount of attention. Not only do we have to be concerned for our brothers, but our sisters and everyone inside of our community. The numbers are rising everywhere. We have to get to the core of why we use and the reasons, the theories, and the safety nets behind using and address those issues while supporting and loving one another.

    Now, I know not everyone has issues. There are those people who can use on the weekend and return to ‘normal’ life come Monday. I am not speaking for those people. just sharing my experience.

  22. can there be any discussion about personal responsibility and life choices?
    it’s such a damned shame for a this young man and the heartache of his family, but the gay community’s refusal to accept responsibility for gross use of drugs, is sad and pathetic.
    mark, … remove the article? now, we are so immature that news can’t be reported?
    the instances of hiv infections on the rise, due to poor judgment is sad. drug use and some weird notion that aids is a thing of the past will destroy lives.

    wake up and walk the walk. the gay community wants respect and acknowledgement and yet behaves like ignorant fools. who’s going to care about this young man if we don’t learn from this event.

    very sad. just a repeat of the same bad behavior.
    if this offends you, hit craigslist and look for some tweaking tina fiend and waste away your life.
    and for the ‘make no judgments crowd, or how dare I, a man died and no one wants to ask how this keeps happening.

  23. The discussion this may yield is important, as the disease of addiction is real. It was NOT, however, a disease that Jovin suffered from. Jovin had his occasional fun, but first and foremost his addiction was to his friends, his fitness family, and his dog. He was in NYC celebrating a friend’s milestone birthday. What resulted was a devastating accident; the kind of accident that rarely happens to the type of person you’d expect it to happen and instead happens to people like Jovin, who make a bigger impact. Those of us that Jovin cared most about will know this forever, and will not allow speculation and assumptions and shocking news articles to cloud his memory or his legacy. I can’t wait to read your piece on last night’s candlelight vigil, in which countless, actual loved ones spoke of his real legacy.

  24. This is wrong. And those that know Jovin, know this. Anyone with any self dignity, respect for him, those grieving and the truth would remove this article all together.

  25. The disease of addiction, is not going anywhere fast. We need to put as many dollars as possible towards education, recovery, and after care as possible. This is a tricky business, battling drugs, but we just can’t give up. Not on prevention. Not on awareness. And certainly not on our brothers who are having troubles. Every time I hear of another life being stolen by an OD, i wonder if people still think it is “cool” to use. It’s not. It just really is not.

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