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Illegal Aphrodisiac Kills New York City Man

by AP/David B. Caruso
May 23 2008

Time magazine reports that health officials are warning New Yorkers to stay away from an illegal aphrodisiac made from toad venom after the product apparently killed a man.

The city's poison control center issued the warning Friday after receiving a hospital report that a 35-year-old man who ingested the hard, brown substance died earlier this month.

The product is sold under names including Piedra, Love Stone, Jamaican Stone, Black Stone and Chinese Rock at sex shops and neighborhood stores. It is banned by the Food and Drug Administration.

City health officials said the victim, whose identity was not released, was admitted to the hospital complaining of chest and abdominal pain. He died two days later.

Health officials said the hardened resin, made with venom from toads of the Bufo genus, contains chemicals that can disrupt heart rhythms.

The aphrodisiac was supposed to have been applied to the skin, not eaten, but authorities said even that use can be harmful.

"There is no definitely safe way to use it," said Dr. Robert Hoffman, director of the city's poison control center. "Don't buy it. Don't sell it. If you have it, don't use it. Throw it out."

The same type of product killed a 40-year-old man in Brooklyn in 2002 and at least four New Yorkers in the early 1990s. A 17-year-old boy also fell seriously ill, but survived following hours of aggressive treatment.

Following that outbreak, city investigators went looking for the poison and found it was being sold sporadically in grocery stores, smoke shops and from street vendors.

Inspectors have been on the lookout for the stuff ever since, but identifying it isn't always easy. It is sometimes sold in packaging labeled only in foreign languages.
It isn't clear how available the aphrodisiac is elsewhere in the U.S., although some similar products have been seized from suspected drug traffickers in other East Coast cities, authorities said.

Find this article on the Time magazine web site.

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