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The invisible epidemic of drugged drinks


If you've spent an evening anywhere people gather for drinks and a good time over the past three decades or so you've probably seen a poster or heard a warning watch your drink. Don't leave it unattended. If in doubt pour it out it's not a new problem. It is is a chillingly persistent one. It is also an issue for which Canada is still struggling to find a coherent strategy and for all those warnings warnings and awareness campaigns. Unless you've been a victim of these drugs you're probably underestimating. The effect they can have that was driven home in December and a series of viral videos that documented one young woman's week long recovery from a drug slipped into her drink at a bar. How big was the dose? She got don't know what drug was. It exactly also don't know how many other women were targeted in the same establishment published at least one but beyond that we don't know before you can find the solution to a problem you have to understand the SCOPE COPA and we're still grappling with the fact that these anecdotal stories and viral videos and occasionally even charges and convictions are likely just the tip of the iceberg. So how can we see. What's underneath the water? I'm throwing this. Is the big story Rosa. Sabah reports at the Calgary Bureau for the star but this time she covered hovered something out on the East Coast. Hi Rosa I'm doing. Well a little more disturbed after reading your report. But why don't you start by telling me about jobs as Sonya. What happened to her? Sure so shows. Eight is a twenty year old student in Nova Scotia She's traveled with some of her classmates to Halifax on January seventeenth to celebrate her birthday her twentieth birthday as well as kind of she described it as kind of like her last big night house. She's in her last semester. She's looking forward to graduating starting her career and she wanted to have one night out with her friends. Celebrate her birthday. Celebrate the next chapter of her life if but unfortunately it did not end well so they went out to a few a few bars clubs. She describes it as she had a few drinks not got a lot but what happened was she started vomiting. She started getting sick at the second place they went to and her friends took her home when they took her home to the Airbnb I she started losing control of her legs so they were numb. She couldn't walk properly. Her vision was blurring. They knew something was wrong and so they called nine hang on one and brought her to the hospital where she was told that her drink had likely been drugged so not a great end to birthday. Luckily obviously her friends were with her but those effects lasted for more than a week so. Jj shared a few videos on facebook showing her completely unable to walk. She needs to have people helping her. She can't control her legs and obviously a very very frightening experience. Not Not what she was planning at all. Tell me a little bit more About the videos maybe be described them a bit and and why did they go so viral because these things are really spread. Su there's a couple of videos one of the shared on the evening after that night out and then one of them was shared the day after that January nineteenth and I found not one really striking. Because she's in a living room I believe she's at home with her parents. It's and she tries to stand up from the couch. She needs help standing up from the couch. I'm and she's holding onto the coach with one of her arms and then both of her arms. She's trying to move her legs and you can tell that she can't really she can't really move her knees properly. Her legs are kind of flopping around. Looks like she barely has any control of them. And this this is a day and a half after the drug and I think the why these went viral. I mean there's two reasons one is. It's it's striking. When we think of what people call date rape drugs we don't realize the kinds of effects they can have? Maybe we think of someone passing out someone having Amnesia. We don't think someone completely losing control of their limbs for multiple days and the second reason that I think that her videos went viral is just because people don't share these experiences if you do get drugs or you believe you've been drugged it's a you know. Most people wouldn't share video of themselves and say look. This happened to me so I think it's the honesty combined with sort of the shock of what those drugs did to her. That made these videos resonate resonate with people across Canada. How unusual is that When you talk to doctors or people at the hospital for those symptoms to last so long afterwards I mean you reported where did that? She was still feeling the effects almost a week later. And to your point yes that is. I mean maybe stupidly but not something that I would associated with these kind of drugs. It's not something I would have associated with it either but when I talked to a doctor here with Alberta Health Services Dr Mark Your Amo He said it's actually more common than you think. It definitely depends on the drug. It depends ends on dose. It depends on the person but he said it's not uncommon for the effects of these drugs to last up to two weeks. So I mean the act. Sadly the act of of someone being given these drugs And getting sick is not news. It happens a lot but one of the things you kind of delved into his what we still don't understand stand About the problem as a whole what. What are we missing? What pieces are there are still not there well? Data is definitely a big part of it. I mean the first thing I did is is try and find out on how many people have their drink. Spiked are drugged on a night out. And they're they're simply is not conclusive conclusive data. There's been a few studies done on A. D. F. S. A. which is the acronym for drug assisted sexual assault there have been studies. Toxicology studies on those people to try and determine how many of with them were drugged with what we think of the common date rape drugs. which are I rookies or Rohypnol and GHB which is gamma hydroxy? Acid and those are the common ones and those studies. The toxicology studies have found that. The numbers of those are very low. I but there's a number of reasons why I want. That doesn't mean that. Drink spiking slow first of all those are not the only drugs that are used in drink spiking. You can use almost anything. I missed your Ema told me like it's you you could use Ritalin you could use antidepressants. I mean any of these drugs. Combined with alcohol are bound to affect somebody and as he pointed out many people are simply he plied with alcohol and that counts as well as drug facilitated sexual assault. So it's it's hard to tell. Just how many people are purposely drugged. It's hard hard to tell. What's maybe a combination of alcohol and a medication? They're already on. It also doesn't help that both hypnotized or rupees. GHB disappear from the blood system really really really quickly. I between six to twelve hours but often even less than that and so if someone is tested which they often aren't those drugs might not show up so first of all studies make it very difficult to tell when someone is purposely drugged second of all that data isn't even collected collected in most hospitals primarily. Because it would just be so difficult to get data we can rely on when you spoke to people at hospitals and elsewhere. What do they suggest what we could do? Maybe to get a better sense of the picture. Is there anything or is it. Just sort of the nature of this particular beast. We'll obviously one thing as well that I that I should have mentioned action. That really affects us. Not knowing the scale of this problem is the fact that many people don't report this. We all know that. There's a huge stigma attached to to sexual assault and while not all cases of drink spiking and in sexual assault like shows Aa. Luckily she had her friends with her There's still kind of an element of shame. This is something that we know. Our society is is slowly progressing with but but we're definitely still not there and a lot of young women are taught to watch their drinks. Stunned drink too much. You know don't wear don't wear the wrong thing and so there is an I mean another another person who was a victim of drink spiking who I spoke to. She's in the Article Angela putter. That's what that's what she said. She said when she when she realized she'd been drugged she didn't want to report it because she felt ashamed. She even had people in her life. Tell her will. You should have been more careful all so one of the things that that the doctor I spoke to who really wanted to highlight wise. First of all if you're the victim report it go to the hospital as soon as possible if you believe leave. You've been drugged. If you're the friend of the victim believed them bring them to the hospital so they can get tested and if you're a medical professional believed them and test them. I think that that's one of really one of the really big barriers is is people not getting tested people not reporting these things soon enough and people not leaving each other. I wanted to go back to Joe's as experience in particular because it also illustrates something else about the larger problem. So tell me about what happened when she discussed her incident in particular and where it happened with people at the hospital hospital sure so she actually went to the hospital three times as she went obviously the night that it happened and she was not tested for for date. Rape Drugs She said that hospital staff told her there were so many different drugs. That could be used. That testing would basically like. It's there's so many different substances that they have to test test for. That is often not conclusive and not very helpful. This despite the fact that she says they also told her someone had been dragged at the same establishment. Just a a week prior. I mean in a hospital. Obviously you trust medical professionals I and and if they if they tell you something isn't worth it or if they don't do something thing often especially if you're under the influence of substance you're probably not going to question it so she didn't question it. They took care of her they sent her home are starting to the AIRBNB. She woke up a few hours later. Still felt absolutely terrible. Went Back to the hospital and her third hospital visit was actually back home so she went to see her family doctor a few days. He's later he sent her to the hospital again and she said that the medical professionals they are very frustrated that she hadn't been tested because by then it was too late to test her and and while once again when I when I spoke to the to the doctor who who explained the effects of these drugs I understand that there's a lot of substances that when contest for and that can make it difficult for hospital professionals but it I can also understand the frustration from from other medical professionals professionals. Sorry at not knowing what she had been drugged with. I think it was some kind of Paralympic which is why the effects were much more on her body on her muscles as opposed to her brain. But she'll she'll never know and the other striking part of what you just said. Is that the hospital stabs. Oh yes there's been another one from this particular place so what happens after hospital staff make that connection is this establishment on the radar of the police and Halifax what happens. Once it becomes. Clear the pattern. Well this is actually come up before in Halifax Oh Fox Specifically so there were a number I in two thousand eighteen or late two thousand eighteen. There were a number of public cases of drink spiking in Halifax at various clubs. I I to the point where you know. There's a little bit of a public outcry of the Canadian Press did a freedom of information request to find out whether there was data on this and that's when they found found out that Halifax hospitals weren't tracking drink tampering or sorry health ex-police weren't weren't tracking drink tampering because they said that the statistics a report of drink. Tampering didn't warrants putting in the effort to track that data. There was obviously I after that request. There was a bit of a public outcry especially from victims and so the Association of police chiefs in Nova Scotia agreed to look into it but the biggest thing that they did at that time was is to call for people to report it so they said because the data in terms of how many people had actually reported it was so small. They didn't have an idea of the scale of it. And the more people who came forward to report it the more clear become of how big of an issue it was and that could lead to better data gathering so about a year later Joseph follows that procedure and reports. It and they don't test her cracks. She has filed a police report. I checked up with her yesterday. And she said she she She's assured within an investigation is ongoing. But she hasn't heard anything yet. Do we have any numbers or even any comment from the police in Halifax sort of what they saw in that year after they vowed to do better Unfortunately not no. This is something that takes time and I and I think that what they said about it. Being important for people to report is very telling about about vote like the the fact that I think they believe it's a bigger issue than the numbers show but the unfortunate fact is if we don't know when people have been drugged we have no way of knowing knowing how big of an issue is data-gathering it's this is something that that can take a little bit of time to build up so unfortunately we don't have an idea of that just yet But I am hoping hoping that the prevalence of people coming forward and saying this has happened to me. I mean obviously shows as video went viral Those very public cases in two thousand eighteen eighteen were very widely read about. And hopefully that'll buy you know make it easier for people to come forward and talk about it and then in a few years we might have a better idea of the problem in in the meantime when you talk to experts on this. What do they recommend that people do? Because you know this is not a new issue and it seems kind of crappy to me that you know a decade later more than a decade later the best advice we still have his leg. Hey Watch your drink be careful. Well what are the things that really struck me and you know it's it's hard to find a positive and a story like this but the one positive I did find was when I spoke to Angela. The Toronto Woman Who's also who stories later on in my article. She spoke talk to me about an incident that happened to her in two thousand one and aside from a few of her friends and family members she had told no one about that because she said that she really felt ashamed and in fact her boyfriend at the time his first reaction was. You should have been more careful. She felt ashamed. And then you know here we are are almost twenty years later. She's going on the record with a national newspaper saying what happens. I asked her. What drove you to to to reach out and to say I'm willing to talk about this. And she said that she felt like society has changed enough that she no longer feels as a shamed. She's done some work herself and realized that it wasn't her fall and she does feel like especially this get set a lot. But I you know. In the in the METOO era and the era of people coming forward and talking about instances instances of being taken advantage of instances of of sexual assault. She felt like she was going to be believed and she didn't have anything to be ashamed about so that that was a big positive for for me. It's why ended with Angeles Story and I think that that that you know one of the things we can do other than just telling people to watch their drink or not drink too much or or something like that. which which puts the onus on the potential victim? It's to believe people if they see something is wrong. Believe them if you're out with your friend and your friend has had two or three drinks. Yes and they're stumbling all over the place or they're vomiting or they're not acting in a way that's consistent with how much they've had to drink even if they don't realize it you need to do something because it's it's better safe than sorry. You never know what's going to happen. The most important thing is if someone is clearly under the influence of something that is stronger than they are You get them out of there you you take them to the hospital. You make sure they don't go home alone. The onus is is to be you know to take care of other people and I think that's what it does is friends did right. She started vomiting. It only had a few drinks. They knew something was wrong. They got back to the AIRBNB and she couldn't walk and they knew that this was more than just alcohol right and it's very important written to to believe people and to watch out for each other. I did speak to a few other people who didn't make it into the story. And they said that the way that felt to them was essentially they'd had one or two drinks six and it felt like they'd had way more. I think that's a big warning signal for people. All of these drugs affect people differently but the most common sign is acting and I'm feeling way more drunk than is warranted given the amount of alcohol you've had and so I think that I'd like to put the onus on other people not on the victim but on On their friends on the medical professionals on on the police to just just believe them and test them and make sure that they're okay because it's always better safe than sorry and it's also never their faults and finally I guess what about on a more macro level. I know we mentioned not much is being done. But there are sort of small initiatives in Halifax and elsewhere what would health professionals and people who deal with this lake to see and is there any push for that anywhere once again. It's it's difficult because of the range of drugs that can be used and and as as Dr Year Raimo pointed out. It's a very good point. The most common so called date rape drug is alcohol itself self. So it's hard. It's kind of hard to to call for a change when the changer calling for is for people to stop plying women or vulnerable honorable people with alcohol and drugs. I do think that there's obviously been a push for more data collection. I think that if more people are tested when they come in for suspected drugging as well as just reporting it. That's that's all that's going to a you know. Give us a better idea of the scale of the problem I wish I wish I had more to say on that. I know that you know I. I see a lot of I see a story every every year or so but some new technology. That's going to help women test and see if they're drink. Rank has been has been drugged and it's unfortunate that that kind of technology is going forward and is being is being created every year but we still don't have of an idea of what's going on but at the same time hopefully the more. Hopefully the more stories like this that that are public the more people will be aware of it. I know why right once again Angela. Who is spokesman for this article? said that this actually almost happened to her a second time but another man at the bar saw someone tried to spike her drink and warned winter. That's what we want to see right like we want. We want people to be more vigilant. We want people to notice when this is happening. Believe someone when they believe it's happened to them and hopefully just move forward. If Angela says that in almost twenty years time she feels more comfortable sharing this. I hope that in twenty years. We've he's moved forward just as much if not more hope so too thanks. Rosa Rosa Sabah is a reporter or at the Calgary Bureau of the Toronto Star and this was the big story. And if you'd like more you can head to the big story PODCAST DOT CA. You can talk to us on twitter at the the big story F. P. N.. You can find US wherever you get your podcasts apple. Google stitcher spotify doesn't matter if you want more from frequency and to frequency PODCAST NETWORK DOT COM. Tom Is the lead producer of the big story. Ryan Clark and Stephanie Phillips or our Associate Producers Anna Lisa Nielsen is our digital editor. I'm Jordan Heath Rawlings. Thanks for listening. Have a great weekend. We'll talk Monday

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