Mizzou offers free kits to students to test for date-rape drug

Saturday, March 9, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The University of Missouri-Columbia has launched a program enabling students to find out if someone has spiked their drink with a date-rape drug.

The university's Predatory Drugs Task Force has begun making free test kits available on campus, including at a 24-hour store, residence halls and some sorority houses, The Kansas City Star reported Friday.

University officials believe the program is the first of its kind in the country.

Students taking a kit are asked to provide details about the suspected drugging on a form that university officials will use to determine patterns.

The kits also contain a cup for urine samples, which students turn in anonymously at the student health center. Toxicologists at the university's hospital test the sample for odorless, colorless drugs like Rohypnol or GHB. The student calls for the results in about a week, using a number to maintain confidentiality.

Even though the tests cannot be used in court, the kits will be beneficial, said Columbia police officer Terri Marki, who serves on the Predatory Drugs Task Force.

Students who use the kits are encouraged to call police or visit the emergency room to determine if a rape has occurred and if charges are warranted.

"A lot of times, the people who are victimized are underage. They're scared to call us to report it, because they think they'll be arrested" for underage drinking, Marki said. "If they know they can do this anonymously, I think they will be more willing to tell people, even if they are not willing to prosecute."

'A great idea'

Jim Rothenberger, a University of Minnesota professor who heads the American College Health Association's task force on alcohol and other drugs, said he was not aware of similar programs at other colleges.

"I think it is a great idea," he said. But he said the university should publicize the fact that test results could not be used in court, so confused students don't use the program as an alternative to calling police.

Experts believe date-rape drug attacks are under-reported because victims typically black out and awaken unable to remember anything after ingesting a drug.

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