Volume 91, Issue 70

Tuesday, February 3, 1998



Rape drug strikes student

By Mark Brown
Gazette Staff

Students are being warned to pay more attention to their drinks at parties and bars following a recent incident involving a student who was sexually assaulted at McMaster University after drinking a substance believed to be spiked with Rohypnol – more commonly known as the date rape drug.

The incident was reported following a night at the McMaster pub, The Downstairs John. Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police have since launched an investigation.

The police believe the drug was used in this incident because of three other reports this year at the sexual assault clinic by students who experienced similar side-effects, said Sgt. Ken Bond, public relations officer for the HWRP. We believe we've had approximately six incidents [involving Rohypnol] since July 1997."

"We are one of the alleged bars that this situation occurred at," said Jeff Dockeray, general manager of bar operations for the McMaster Students' Union. "Right now this is only speculation but we are taking all the precautions."

Dockeray said he was surprised by the incident as he did not hear about it himself until late last Friday night and does not recall anyone at the bar being intoxicated to the level that the drug would have incurred. "There have only been a couple of people who have left the bar that intoxicated and they always leave attended [by a member of the staff]."

Rohypnol is a tranquilizer 10 times stronger than Valium and can not be bought legally in North America, said Cindy Camp, Western's health education coordinator.

The drug can not be detected by someone once it has been mixed in a drink as it is tasteless, colourless and odourless. It takes effect about 30 minutes after it is ingested, Camp explained.

So far Western has not had any confirmed reports of the drug being used, said Const. Wendy McGowan of the University Police Department. "If you are going out in a group, watch each other – don't leave drinks unattended and don't accept drinks from strangers."

Tests to determine if the drug was consumed must be done within 12 to 24 hours and if someone suspects they have been exposed to the drug they should go to the hospital to be tested, Camp added.

However, the effects of the drug are stronger when it is mixed with alcohol, cautioned Victor Timilio-Martinez, Rohypnol production manager for Hoffman LaRoche, the company which produces the drug in Mexico City.

Because they were worried about their image, Hoffman LaRoche is currently waiting for Federal Drug Administration approval for a new Rohypnol that turns blue when mixed into a drink, Timilio-Martinez said.

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998