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CPs Issue Bulletin Amid Reports Of 'Date Rape Drug' on Campus

By David D. Hsu
Editor in Chief

On Tuesday the Campus Police issued a special advisory bulletin on Rohypnol, also known as the "date rape drug," after receiving a report that it may have been used at MIT.

Rohypnol - which also goes by "roofie," "rope," "circles," "rib," "roaches," "R2," "party poppers," and "the forget pill" - is a depressant 10 times stronger than Valium. It dissolves almost instantly in liquid and reduces the inhibitions of those who ingest it. The drug can also cause memory loss for periods from eight to 24 hours.

The drug is almost impossible to detect. "You can't taste it, can't smell it, can't even tell it's there," said Chief of Pediatrics and Student Health Services Mark A. Goldstein.

The bulletin said that the Campus Police have received reports that date rape drugs may have been used at MIT parties in drinks reserved for female guests.

So far, MIT is aware of only one incident where Rohypnol may have been used, said Associate Dean for Residence and Campus Activities Margaret A. Jablonski.

In that incident, a student from another college became intoxicated and may have been under the influence of the drug, Jablonski said.

However, because the student could not identify the place or remember any details, no disciplinary action was taken, said Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin.

The Campus Police also said that the drug GHB (gamma-hydrocybuterate) was used on campus. A student admitted to possessing and ingesting GHB, which produces effects similar to those of Rohypnol, Glavin said. The student who ingested it suffered a medical problem, she said.

The Medical Department, through an outside laboratory, can test for the presence of Rohypnol, Goldstein said. It can be detected in the bloodstream up to four hours after ingestion and in urine up to 48 hours after ingestion.

Bulletin to increase awareness

The Campus Police bulletin was circulated to living groups and graduate resident tutors, Jablonski said.

The bulletin was designed to increase awareness of this class of drugs and to alert students that those drugs may be present on campus, Glavin said. Those affected by Rohypnol and similar drugs sometimes think that their symptoms result from too much drinking, Glavin said. The bulletin should alert them that there may be other causes.

With the increased publicity, the Campus Police is expecting more reports on the use of Rohypnol. "It is normal any time a new situation surfaces that there is a flurry of reporting," Glavin said. Even so, "I'd rather have people make reports rather than not be aware of it."

In addition to the Campus Police bulletin, MIT has incorporated information on Rohypnol into Medlinks training, Jablonski said. The Medlinks hold seminars and are available as points of contact on issues regarding drugs, alcohol, and sexual activity.

Still, "the largest preventative measure is not to accept any type of beverage in an open container," Jablonski said.

While available in Latin America and Europe, the drug, manufactured by Hoffman-La Roche Inc., is illegal in the United States. In March, the Customs Service made importing the drug a crime, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

If someone was found possessing or using Rohypnol, "we would definitely take it very seriously," Jablonski said.

Other colleges report possible use

Although university police are aware of Rohypnol, most have received few complaints about its use, according to The Chronicle.

Harvard University has not had any incidents involving Rohypnol in recent years, said Andy Green, managing editor of The Harvard Crimson.

Other colleges, though, have had reports of Rohypnol use. "It has been used, and it's a problem," Goldstein said.

The Chronicle cited incidents at the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Florida, and the University of Maryland at College Park which may have been Rohypnol-related.

At least 10 students at Pennsylvania State University were suspected of having been slipped the drug, The Daily Collegian reported. The University of Iowa has had three suspected cases of Rohypnol use and the University of Minnesota two.