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Date rape drug prosecutions nonexistent in Larimer County

Senior Reporter and Print Designer

Mind erasers, circles, easy lay, PM, saltwater, black hole, special K, roofies. These terms are slang for a group of drugs known as date rape drugs — they are designed to facilitate sexual assault when given to an unknowing recipient and metabolize so quickly that traces are hard to detect, just hours after an assault.

Tips according to CSUPD: How to reduce your risk

  • Always keep your beverage in sight. Don’t leave it while dancing or going elsewhere.
  • At a bar or club, accept drinks only from the bartender or server.
  • Avoid group drinks, punch bowls, or drinks being passed around.
  • Open your own containers.
  • If you experience the following symptoms, tell someone immediately or go to the hospital (or CSU Health Network if during business hours):
  • Dizziness, vomiting, extreme drowsiness, time that can’t be accounted for and can’t be attributed to anything else, or any other unexplained symptoms.
  • Try to retain a sample of the beverage.

“Unfortunately, they are very similar to alcohol,” said Nikolas May, a resident at the Poudre Valley Hospital Family Medicine Center. “The mechanism of action in the brain is very similar.”

The drugs are all controlled substances and are either illegal or require prescriptions.

For example, Rohypnol is a schedule II narcotic, according to Linda Jensen, public information officer for the Larimer County District Attorney’s. Rohypnol has never been approved by the FDA and is illegal in the United States. If a person were caught with Ketamine or GHB without a prescription,they could be charged with illegal possession.

Prosecutions of sexual assault in conjunction with date rape drugs are virtually nonexistent at CSU, in Fort Collins or in Larimer County as a whole — countywide, there are no statistics reporting date rape drug usage.

“While alcohol use is a very common factor in sexual assault cases and there have been many incidents involving excessive alcohol use, there have been no confirmed cases of GHB or Rohypnol being used to facilitate sexual assault on campus,” Smith said.

Part of the problem stems from the half-life of roofies, which metabolize very quickly in the blood stream. Unless a person gets a toxin screening within the first few hours, the drugs will disappear.

The drugs take effect within 30 minutes of ingestion, with side effects lasting up to 24 hours, according to May. In the cases when a victim does come in for tests, results are not specific enough to catch the drug traces right away.

“We sometimes have reports that women were given a date rape drug and assaulted,” said Kristy Volesky, member of the FCPD Crimes Against Persons Unit. “We have never charged a case of date rape drugs being used.”

By the time people are wondering ‘did something happen?’ it has usually been at least 12 hours, May said. By that point, only specific blood tests can pick up exactly what drugs might be in their system.

“(Reports) are almost always in conjunction with alcohol,” Volesky said. “We get positives on alcohol, but not on these other drugs.”

When a victim reports a crime, they are interviewed by detectives and may be tested for evidence. A forensic medical exam may be performed at a hospital, according to Detective Sergeant Adam Smith, a member of the CSUPD investigations division.

The exam, known as a SANE exam — Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner — includes urine and possibly blood testing for any unusual substances in the blood.

“Evidence of the metabolization of both GHB and Rohypnol can be detected in a urine sample, but only for a short period of time after ingestion,” said Detective Sergeant Adam Smith, a member of the CSUPD investigations division.

Another issue stands with reporting of crimes, which is low for sexual assault cases even without extraneous factors.

“It is our belief that many of those types of assault are never reported. If we had been presented a case where the victim claimed a date rape drug was used, there was not enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Jensen wrote.

It is often the case that alcohol is involved with administrations of date rape drugs. Roofies come in the forms of powders, pills and liquids, which can easily be added to unattended drinks at bars and parties.

The drugs can have serious effects within an hour. Ketamine is typically used as an animal tranquilizer. GHB is used to treat narcolepsy and loss of muscle control. Rohypnol can be used as a hypnotic, sedative, seizure treatment and an anesthesia preparatory drug. Other similar drugs, known as benzodiazepines, can cause drowsiness, slurred speech, confusion and amnesia according to May.

While many of these symptoms may resemble the effects of alcohol, they can also cause serious problems, the worst being coma or death.

“Come in as soon as possible if you are suspicious at all,” May advised.

Some of the drugs can be detectable.

Brand names, such as Rohypnol, have changed their pills to a dyed blue in places like Europe where the drug is legal. This dye will color a drink if a pill dissolves, according to May. Substances like GHB have a slightly salty flavor, but many of the other drugs cannot be detected once they’ve dissolved.

“It’s not common. We don’t see it every weekend,” said May, who has some familiarity with the goings on in the emergency room. “You do see it every once in a while though.”

Date rape drugs are not especially new either.

“When I was in college, there were people I knew who thought it’d happened to them,” May said.

Benzodiazepines like Rohypnol can actually be used as a detox method for alcoholics because the side effects are so similar to being intoxicated, according to May.

These side effects can make it very difficult to distinguish drugs from alcohol and alcohol is also used to lower inhibitions for sex.

“A lot of times alcohol is used to facilitate assault,” Volesky said. “I think we do have incidents of (roofies), but we have more incidents with alcohol. Alcohol is also a drug used for facilitation.”

Sometimes, when people get too drunk, they assume they must have been drugged because their behavior is so different, Volesky said.

Witness reports can confirm that victims drank more than they believed at times.

“Sometimes victims will come in and say ‘I only had three drinks,’ and then we have witnesses saying ‘Yes they had three drinks at first, but then they took more shots.’ They don’t always remember,” Volesky said.

When alcohol is a common factor, it is hard to say what substance may be to blame, but caution is important at bars and parties.

“There’s no way for us to be certain if it was drugs or alcohol or a combination of the two,” Volesky said. “That complicates matters.”

Collegian Senior Reporter Mariah Wenzel can be reached at news@collegian.com

 

Victims needing assistance can call this number Monday through Friday: 970-491-6384

Victims needing assistance can call this number at any time to speak to a confidential advocate:  970-492-4242

About Mariah Wenzel

I am a 21-year-old junior majoring in journalism and French. I am a design editor for the print edition of the paper and a senior reporter on the side. Follow me @mariahcwenzel. -With great power comes great responsibility


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