Rape and Alcohol Study

Study Links Alcohol to Rape Victims

By RICHARD COLE Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Alcohol was by far the most common drug found in
a study of urine samples taken from 578 rape victims who said they had
been drugged before the attack, a forensic scientist said Friday.

In 40 percent of the samples, no drugs were found, while only five
samples showed the presence of the so-called date rape drug Rohypnol,
said Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly.

“From what we are seeing now, it does not seem that any one drug is
responsible,” said ElSohly, who runs a large private lab and teaches
pharmaceutics at the University of Mississippi.

ElSohly presented his study Friday at the annual meeting of the
American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

Only five samples (less than .01 percent) showed the presence of
Rohypnol, and four of those also showed the presence of other drugs,
including alcohol, cocaine and opiates, ElSohly said.

Hoffman-LaRoche Inc., the maker of Rohypnol, nicknamed “roofies” on
the street, paid for the testing, ElSohly said. The drug is used legally
in many countries as a sleep aid.

The samples were provided by police departments, rape crisis centers
and emergency rooms, he said.

Alcohol was present in 208 cases (36 percent), marijuana in 93 (17
percent), tranquilizers in 49 (8 percent) and cocaine in 40 (7

In 234 cases, ElSohly found no trace of any drugs.

In 1996, a series of prosecutions and congressional hearings led to a
federal law outlawing Rohypnol, scientifically called flunitrazepam, and
mandating an additional 20-year sentence for anyone caught using the drug
to commit rape.

ElSohly’s findings came as no surprise to people working in rape
crisis centers, said Catherine Dougherty, a registered nurse and
qualified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner who works with rape victims in
Monmouth County, N.J.

“A lot of my colleagues who suspected the use of date rape drugs have
sent out samples, and I don’t know any who have gotten positive hits,”
she said.

Ms. Dougherty said rape victims may have been influenced by media
coverage of Rohypnol. “They’ve really plastered headlines around that
make women a little bit frightened.”

Denise Snyder, director of the DC Rape Crisis Center in Washington,
said that despite the finding, she supported the outlawing of

And despite the testing, she said there was a clear trend beginning
about three years ago in which rape victims reported blackouts and memory
loss that could not be explained by alcohol or other common drugs.

“Putting substances in beverages has now become an effective way to
sexually assault someone,” Ms. Snyder said.

AP-NY-02-13-98 2040EST<

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