Locals suspect use of date rape drug | AspenTimes.com
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Locals suspect use of date rape drug

ASPEN At least three people in Aspen claim they have experienced amnesia after being slipped what they believe was GHB, the date rape drug, at local establishments.Two women and one man spoke with The Aspen Times about having one or two drinks and then losing consciousness for many hours; one tested positive for GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyric acid. At a high dose, the victim can pass out or die depending on their body weight, according to Steve Ayers, Pitkin County coroner and Aspen Valley Hospitals chief of staff.Aspen police have one open case of sexual assault, and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s office has two open cases already this year, according to the combined records department. No deputies or officers could comment on the cases.One individual who spoke with The Aspen Times was drugged this week at a private party. She is a mother who has lived in Aspen for 17 years, working at the same place for more than a decade. Like others who spoke with the newspaper, she asked to remain anonymous. She said she had one drink, at about 9:30 p.m., and then does not remember anything until 1:30 a.m. “I woke up in a random apartment, half-clothed with the worst physical feeling I’ve ever had,” she said. “It was worse than any hangover I’ve ever felt. It was very wrong.”There was no one in the apartment, so she went home and slept until morning. She woke up feeling terrible, she said. At that point, she called the police and went to the hospital. She later pieced together what had happened with the help of friends and police; the conclusion was that she had not been raped. “It’s insane,” she said. “I don’t go out that often. When you do, you assume you are in a safe environment here, and that’s just not the case.”Another woman, who grew up in the valley, also had an experience with GHB last November, testing positive for the drug at the hospital after 14 hours of amnesia.She said she was at the bar in an Aspen restaurant with a male acquaintance and, when she went to the bathroom, he went to smoke a cigarette. She only remembers finishing a beer around 9:30 p.m. before amnesia set in until roughly 1 p.m. the next day. That morning, she made a confusing call to a friend, prompting a search by police and her friends. “According to other people, I was acting normal,” she said. “I was out, but I don’t remember a thing.”When she went to Aspen Valley Hospital that afternoon, she needed to rehydrate. “You’re in a situation where others are drinking, so it’s hard to figure out essentially what happened,” she said. “The social reaction is, ‘You were out drinking.’ I had people who questioned me every day.” The hospital couldn’t conduct a rape test because she was in the middle of her period.A third individual who talked to the Times did not comment extensively, other than to say he was sharing a drink with two other people at a local bar. After that drink, all three had amnesia during the evening. He, too, is a longtime local. For victims of the drug, arrival at the hospital isn’t necessarily the end of the ordeal. AVH does not have a nurse trained in doing the examination law enforcement requires – a sexual assault nurse examiner, referred to as SANE – so when a possible rape victim comes in, law enforcement and courts recommend the victim go to Glenwood Springs.”Because sexual assault examination needs to be done correctly and the same way every time, they’ve trained these nurses specially,” Ayers said. “At Valley View, they have three of those nurses. On occasion, the police or us will refer an examination to a SANE nurse.”A hospital representative said AVH does not track the number of cases it refers to Glenwood. “They highly recommended that I go down there,” one of the local women said. “I was at AVH for five hours. If I had gone down there I think I would have lost it.”Still, both women commended the people who treated them at AVH. A victim’s fund available through the District Attorney’s office or the police department covers most of the examination costs associated with possible sexual assaults.Beyond alcohol – which both Ayers and Aspen police detectives called the No. 1 date rape drug – the three main drugs seen nationwide are GHB, rohypnol (aka “roofies”) and ketamine (aka “Special K”), although Ayers said he has never seen ketamine used locally as a date rape drug. The DEA website notes GHB is becoming more prevalent because the victim has memory problems and may not realize what happened until eight to 12 hours later. By that time, the drug has usually metabolized and can’t be detected with a test. Along with memory loss, that makes it difficult to prosecute a rape case. The experiences of the local victims, though, have completely changed the way both women approach a night on the town – and the way they view Aspen. “It’s such an extreme violation and chances of that person getting caught for it are slim to none,” one of them said. “It’s definitely a wake-up call for myself and my friends.”Both women said when they do go out, the buddy system is tantamount, and they never leave a drink unattended. The women stressed they are speaking out so that others can be safer. “This happened to me, thank goodness I can stand up and say something,” said one woman. “It happens to people who maybe don’t feel they have the ability to speak out.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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