by Annetjie van Wynegaard & Leigh Raymond
A night out with your friends could turn into days of nausea and memory loss. It is not a new phenomenon for drinks to be spiked but recent cases of drink spiking at Rhodes are becoming more frequent. Second year student, Karen Tennent, had her drink spiked at the Union on Friday, 25 July this year. Tennent had complete memory loss, but says that she can remember running home. Tennent’s friends told her that they had gone to the Union and were dancing when she told them someone had bought her a drink. She then disappeared into the bathroom, where her friend found her crying. Her friend went to fetch her some water but when she returned Tennent had run home. Tennent woke up the next morning in her own bed, feeling very sick with a fever. She said that she kept on passing out and couldn’t walk. It took days for her body to recover.
Two years ago, 18 year old Michelle Bailey, now a second year Law student, had her drink spiked while she was at Friar Tucks. Bailey was with a few school friends when an acquaintance bought her a strawberry Brutal Fruit and insisted that she drink it. Bailey didn’t finish the drink and she doesn’t remember it tasting strange, but she said as soon as she put the drink down she began to feel nausous. Only a few minutes later she ran to the bathroom and vomited. She was later found by a friend after having passed out. “I was sick for four days and had severe dizziness. My whole body was sore and I had a severe headache,” she said. Bailey had only had one other drink that evening. Upon going to the doctor she was informed that eye drops had most likely been put into her drink and that if she had not brought it up she would’ve had to go to hospital. Although she didn’t report the incident to the police, it was reported to the owner of Friars.
Since then, Friars owner Mike Hubbard has installed thirteen CCTV cameras throughout the well known student haunt and says that this assists greatly in preventing incidences of drink spiking. The footage from the cameras is watermarked and can thus be used as evidence in a court of Law. Hubbard said that all patrons of Friars are welcome to view the footage upon request, but that the tapes are re-used and concerned patrons should request a viewing within five days. The cleaning staff at Friars have been instructed to remove all unattended drinks, full or not, after ten minutes so as to minimize chances of tampering. Hubbard recalls incidences where NetCare took students to the hospital from Friars, but says that this occurs only once or twice a year.
Grahamstown pharmacist, Wimpie Bosch, says that the most commonly used date-rape drug is Rohypnol (otherwise known as Rufies) or its equivalent, Sandoz Fluitresepan, which are hypnotic sleeping tablets. The drug’s effects are increased by the simultaneous intake of alcohol which leads to severe memory loss and can cause headaches, nausea and sleepiness. These drugs are Schedule six and can only be given with a prescription; the pharmacist also needs to take the particulars of individuals who purchase these drugs. “People can die from an overdose of Rohypnol,” said Bosch.
Both Bailey and Tennent chose not to do the test that would tell them which drugs they ingested, as it costs R2000, Bosch said that there is a new over-the-counter test that can be used, but which is less specific. The drugs are undetectable due to their tasteless, colourless and odourless nature, and all traces of the drugs will leave the body within 24 hours.
Bosch is skeptical about the effects of eye drops as a date-rape drug as he could not think of an ingredient in eye drops that could produce a similar effect to Rohypnol. He was under the impression that potential culprits might use the eye drop bottle as a dispenser for another drug.
However, a Health24 article in 2005 reported that the effects of certain chemicals in specific brands of eye drops can have the same effect as a date rape drug. When these chemicals are mixed with alcohol and taken orally the effects can be equally harmful. According to the article, “Safy Bleu contains the ingredient nafazoline which suppresses the central nervous system. When the drops are mixed with alcohol, the body temperature drops and the heart rate slows down. The person then becomes sweaty and drowsy and may even lose consciousness. In severe cases, intoxication with this mixture can lead to memrory loss, coma, and even death.” EyeGene contains Phenylephrine which functions the same way as adrenaline or noradrenalin causing nausea, hallucinations and fainting. EyeGene also contains anti-histamine which leads to drowsiness. These chemicals can also cause memory loss, according to the article.
Larissa Klazinga advocates the careful consumption of beverages. “Any drink can be spiked, it doesn’t have to be alcoholic,” she said. Klazinga also advises all students to watch their friends, and that the first indicator of foul play is when normal behaviour patterns are not followed. “It is most important to know your limits, and if you find that you are reacting differently to alcohol than normal, then you should ask for help,” Klazinga said. She also advises students, male and female, to buy drinks that are consumed directly from the bottle, such as beer or cider. “Take the drink with you to the dance floor and put your thumb over the opening of the bottle,” said Klazinga.
Students should therefore bear in mind that any substance which can be used to commit rape, because it renders you incapable of saying no, is technically a date rape drug. If you had sex, but you cannot remember doing it or giving consent, by law you have been raped. It is imperative to report any suspicions of the use of date rape drugs against your person.