Officials urge women to watch out

Date-rape drugs being used in Steamboat Springs

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— In the past two years, five women in Steamboat Springs have reported they were sexually assaulted after being subdued by a date-rape drug.

The assaults haven't reached an epidemic level, but neither are they going way. That's why officials are working to improve awareness about the date-rape drugs rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyrate and ketamine.

"Over the past two years, we have begun to talk to some victims firsthand," said Diane Moore, director of Advocates Against Battery and Abuse. "We have had five known cases. That may not sound high, but we are hearing about these instances more often.

"It is so easy in our community to think we don't have the big city problems. But we do. These drugs are here, and women are being assaulted."

None of the reported cases led to charges being filed, said Steamboat Springs Detective Robert DelValle. That's because of the nature of the drugs secret and subtle.

"These drugs are hard to detect and prosecute," Moore said.

Rohypnol, GHB and ketamine are different types of substances but they all have similar effects when slipped into a person's drink.

Rohypnol, which is illegal to possess, is usually a white pill. But it also comes as a dark green oval with a blue middle. It is prescribed for sleep disorders and also used as preanesthetic medication.

The drug causes disorientation, drowsiness, confusion, memory impairment and loss of consciousness.

GHB is not illegal to possess and is used in solvents and cleaners. The clear liquid is an anesthetic that originated in Europe.

GHB can cause droopy eyes, extreme drowsiness and confusion.

Ketamine also is an anesthetic, commonly used for small animals. The clear liquid can cause impulsive behavior, hallucinations and memory loss.

To fight the presence of the drugs here, officials are raising awareness and offering preventive measures women can take to ensure they don't become a victim.

"We can't hang out at the bars and parties where these drugs are being dispensed," DelValle said. "But we can warn people."

Recently, Moore distributed yellow laminated fliers to every bar and restaurant in the valley. The flier offers preventive tips and telephone numbers a victim can call. Moore also has given presentations throughout the community on date-rape drugs, including to high school students.

Moore has advice for women to take precautions when they are at bars and parties.

"Women should be aware of where their drinks are coming from. They should also not leave their drinks unattended," she said. "Women should also not take a drink from someone they don't know."

DelValle also advises women to go with a friend to a bar or party and watch out for each other.

"Women have to make sure they are watching where their drinks are coming from and who is handling them," he said.

Because all of the drugs can cause memory loss, it is critical for a person or friends to report to authorities behavior that is suspicious, Moore said.

"A lot of the women I have talked to said they felt really weird," Moore said.

Each of the drugs can be flushed out of the body in a matter of days and even hours.

"They are pretty tough to catch," Moore said. "A person has to notify authorities pretty quick."

The drugs can be detected either through blood or urine tests. Ketamine can be detected in urine 30 to 46 hours after it has been ingested. Rohypnol can be detected in urine for a 72-hour period and GHB can be detected in an 8- to 12-hour period.

"There is a bit of a window of opportunity if a victim acts in a timely fashion," DelValle said.

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