Mass overdose rare, date rape drug common problem

By TIM HAECK
KIRO Radio
Listen to Tim's report

Twelve Central Washington University students are OK after they got sick at a party at a house in Roslyn last Friday.

Investigators don't know or won't say what made all those students sick. It could have been a so-called 'date rape drug' but Harborview and Children's Hospital pediatrician Naomi Sugar says any number of drug and alcohol combinations can knock you out.

"So the symptoms are not unique among all these things, they all can present with amnesia, somebody feeling sick, vomiting, not remembering what happened to them," Sugar said.

Doctor Sugar says five to ten percent of her sexual assault patients are possible victims of a date-rape drug. Their reactions are similar.

"Initially people are just confused and then if they believe something happened to them, if somebody slipped them something they get very angry and also angry at themselves for being in that situation," Sugar said.

For underage drinkers, alcohol is obviously not hard to get. The same is true for date rape drugs, which can include sedatives and medication for sleep disorders such as insomnia and narcolepsy.

"Teenage kids will get them from the medicine cabinet at home and otherwise they're very available as street drugs," Sugar said.

Young drinkers can protect themselves from people who would spike their drink.

"People should have a buddy system and that's not just a designated driver, it's a designated person so that if one person begins feeling funny or is unable to extricate themselves, their friend can help them with that," Sugar said.

Shannon Bailie, head of Health and Wellness at the University of Washington says bringing your own alcohol to a party can actually be a good idea.

"We know it doesn't work to say 'don't drink.' But what we want to make sure students know is to watch themselves and watch their friends and pay attention to what they're drinking and how much they're drinking and where it's coming from," Bailie said.

Bailie was disturbed that nobody called for help when those dozen party-goers got sick at that house in Roslyn.

"Always, always call 911. You won't be punished for underage drinking, that's not going to be the focus, the focus is going to be getting medical attention to the people who need it," Bailie said.

The UW offers brochures to students and letters to parents of incoming freshmen about alcohol and drug abuse. It also provides counseling as well as peer advice to students about safety and prevention regarding sexual assault and relationship violence through its health and wellness office.


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