Watch your drinks

By Sally Jade Powis

With the dawning of a new school year, and the partying that goes along with it, students must be aware of date rape drugs, and that anyone can become a victim.

The City of Calgary Police Service was first in contact with the University of Calgary Campus Security four years ago when concerns of date rape drugs hit the city. According to Campus Security Manager Lanny Fritz, there have not been any cases of date rape drugs on campus confirmed by a medical check-up.

"There have been two occasions when students have come in complaining of memory loss," said Fritz. "We had no other reason to believe that they had been drugged."

The best-known and most widely used of date rape drugs is Rohypnol, or "roofies," which contains the potent tranquilizer known as flunitrazepam. Rohypnol intoxication is generally associated with impaired judgment and motor skills and can render a victim unable to resist a sexual attack.

Sedation occurs 30 minutes after administration, peaks within two hours, and can last for up to eight hours. Users may appear extremely intoxicated, with bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and a loss of coordination. Furthermore, they may experience drowsiness, nausea, decreased blood pressure, visual disturbances, gastrointestinal disturbances, and urinary retention.

Rohypnol produces a hangover effect that might last several days. No memory exists of its consumption, or of the time spent under its influence. This makes investigation of sexually related or other offences very difficult.

In a drink, the drug is colourless, odourless, and tasteless. Therefore, drinks should never be left unattended. As well, by accepting a drink from anyone you do not know well, you put yourself at risk of being drugged and sexually assaulted. If you accept a drink, make sure it is an unopened container that you open yourself.

As if the worries of unwarranted and unprotected sex weren’t enough, Rohypnol may lead to respiratory depression, aspiration, or even death when mixed with alcohol or other drugs. It is commonly reported persons who become intoxicated on a combination of alcohol and Rohypnol experience blackouts that can last up to 24 hours following ingestion.

Some of the other rape drugs on the streets include "cherry meth," "easy lay," "gammo," "O," and "liquid X," and come in liquid, capsule or tablet form. They are difficult to detect, so it is important to immediately discard a drink if it has an abnormal taste, contains a residue, or appears foamy or cloudy.

According to Detective Nina Vaughan of the City of Calgary Police Services drug unit, all of the drugs used for those purposes are found in Calgary.

"There are no statistics indicating the frequency of date rape drug usage in the city," warns Vaughan. "But for people to assume that just because they aren’t seeing stories in the paper that they aren’t occurring is unrealistic."

It is very difficult to determine whether drugging has occurred because the drugs to not stay in the system long. Therefore, it is important for the individual to get to a hospital immediately, and have the necessary lab work done.

"We’re always on alert and trying to create a level of awareness on the campus," said Fritz.

Campus Security promotes the "buddy system," which entails friends watching out for one another. If you suspect a friend has been drugged, get immediate medical attention requesting a urine sample be taken to screen for the presence of any date rape drugs. As well, talk to the individual about the possibility of filing a police report once they have recovered.

For informational pamphlets on date rape drugs, visit the Campus Security office, located in MacEwan Student Centre, Room 260.

Leave a comment