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Elise Hagmann had never heard of GHB until the medical examiner told her that Kyle, her 20-year-old son, had died from an overdose of the drug in his college dorm.

"We live in a real small town," said the California resident. "Big Bear Lake is up in the mountains, really sheltered, and this is just one drug you never even heard about."

Kyle Hagmann was studying sports medicine at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks when he first encountered the drug. He turned to the Internet to do some research, and his mother believes he found one of many dubious Web sites that promote the drug as a natural substance, no more harmful than water.

Kyle took GHB a few times after a long night of studying to help him sleep. First used by medical researchers looking into its anesthetic effects, GHB was adopted by bodybuilders who thought the deep sleep it induced promoted the production of growth hormones.

Although most experts agree its main use is as a recreational drug, it also has a more sinister side: Because it can cause a deep sleep and erases memory, it has acquired a reputation as a rape drug.

Ms. Hagmann's message is that it can happen to men, too. She believes the night Kyle died, a roommate slipped the drug into Kyle's drink to knock him out so the roommate could have sex with a girlfriend. ". . . I'm just trying to say, 'Hey, you know what, people can give it to men unknowingly, too, for whatever reason.' "