Look after your friends

By Sarah RaparoliLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

The administration of knockout drops is not a new phenomenon, but corresponding incidents repeatedly call for caution. Recent reports about so-called needle spiking have reinforced this. Two victims report on their experiences, an expert advises not to rush into a panic.

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It can happen very quickly. Once the glass is out of sight and suddenly the last few hours of the evening are gone. This was also the case for Catharina (name changed by the editors), who, as she says, would always pay attention ‒ until that one moment a few weeks ago. "I was at a bar in the capital city with my friends. Like we often do on Friday nights. There were never any problems", says the 17-year-old. She was sitting with her friends at a high table on the terrace and "because the table was higher than the others, I thought that nothing would happen if I didn't have my drink in sight all the time". After a few sips of her third drink, she felt nauseous as she explains. "I immediately called my father because I started to panic. I thought to myself, 'You're not getting home like this'." That phone call, she says, was the last thing the young girl remembers. "I suddenly had a complete blackout. What I'm telling you after this call I don't remember myself, but that's what my friends told me." She pauses for a moment. "Supposedly I also called my mother, who was on holiday at the time." She looks at the latter, who is sitting next to her during the conversation.

She vomited a lot and just fell asleep on the sidewalk. "I guess I just couldn't take it anymore." Her friends took her home, put her in the shower and put a bucket by her bed. "The next day I felt very sick and dizzy all day. Not that dizzy feeling after a night of drinking, but … I can't really explain it. It was different. The headache was also different." At that point, she says, the suspicion intensified that something might have been put into her glass. A few days later, she made an appointment with her GP. "After listening to my symptoms, it was clear to him that my drink had most probably been spiked. He explained a lot and said that unfortunately it was too late for a blood analysis."

Hair analyses at the LNS

Michel Yegles, head of the department of forensic toxicology at the LNS, explains that the detectability of knockout drops depends on the substance. "In this case, we often talk about GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate, ed.), where the detectability in blood is about five hours and in urine ten hours." GHB, also called liquid ecstasy, can be a colourless powder or an odourless liquid that produces psychoactive effects in small doses ‒ like alcohol intoxication. One becomes euphoric, relaxed and inhibitions diminish. In high doses, it can lead to dizziness, unconsciousness and drowsiness, as described by Catharina. The effect starts ten to 20 minutes after ingestion and can last for several hours.

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