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Drugs, alcohol found in bodies of Heaven’s Gate members

April 5, 1997

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Blood tests released Friday show most of the 39 Heaven’s Gate cult members ingested a combination of drugs and alcohol before dying. None had the AIDS virus.

The tests confirmed earlier findings that the suicidal cultists ate pudding or applesauce laced with the anti-seizure drug phenobarbital. Most of the members also drank vodka to enhance the drug’s potency.

The results only suggest what killed the Heaven’s Gate followers. A final cause of death will be announced next Friday, county Medical Examiner Brian Blackbourne said.

The blood tests do not address the issue of suffocation, although plastic bags were found on some bodies.

``Even with massive amounts of phenobarbital, you’d linger a long time,″ said Gordon McGuire, a pharmacy professor at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center. ``Alcohol would help, but they were clearly using the loss of oxygen as the final capper.″

HIV tests _ done at the request of family members and to answer questions from the media _ also came back negative.

The cultists’ bodies were discovered March 26 after they killed themselves in the belief they would catch a spaceship to the ``Next Level.″

All 39 members had phenobarbital in their blood. Thirty-three had alcohol and four had the painkiller Vicodin in their blood.

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