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The only thing Hillory Janean Farias is known to have drunk that night was a couple of soda pops. Still, she came home from the dance club near her hometown of La Porte, Texas, with nausea and a severe headache. Within 24 hours the 17-year-old varsity volleyball player was dead. An autopsy showed no sign of alcohol or drugs. Then, alerted by Houston police of the dangers of a new club drug called gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, investigators decided to take a second look. Sure enough, Farias' tissues showed that she had died of a GHB overdose. "This kid was a role-model type," says La Porte Lieut. Carl Crisp. "There's nothing to indicate that she willingly took this drug."

Police speculate that someone slipped the GHB into Farias' soft drinks when she was not looking, either as a joke or out of more prurient motives. GHB overdoses are a growing problem: more than 100 suspected cases have been reported over the past several months in Texas, Florida and California. Most teenagers seem to take "Liquid X," as it is sometimes called, to get high. But GHB is also known on the street as "Easy Lay," and authorities fear it may be taking the place of Rohypnol, the tranquilizer that made headlines last year as the "date-rape drug."

One of the reasons GHB is so popular is that it is easily home-brewed in basement chemistry labs; instructions can be found in libraries or on the Internet. The drug, even in its purest form, is odorless and nearly tasteless. It can quickly depress the respiratory system, particularly when mixed with alcohol. The risk is that not enough oxygen gets to the brain, triggering both unconsciousness and loss of memory. "A substance that knocks out the victim and leaves her with amnesia makes the perfect agent for date rape," says Michael Ellis, director of the Southeast Texas Poison Center. Unfortunately, as the Farias case makes clear, the dose required to knock someone out isn't much lower than the one that kills.

--By Christine Gorman. Reported by Deborah Fowler/Houston