When one goes clubbing in Nairobi they have different motives. Some go to meet new pals, others to have fun while others go hunting for the weak.
A new chemical is being used to drug unsuspecting victims, raising concern over increasing cases of getting drugged in drinking joints. Doctors in Mombasa say halothane, a gaseous formulation, is the newest narcotic used to spike victims targeted for assault, rape or robbery.
A medical doctor has said once halothane gas is sprayed near the nostrils, the victim blacks out. Experts say the sweet smelling and colourless halothane gas is medically used as a general anesthetic, but can lead to liver damage due to prolonged and uncontrolled use or exposure.
In Coast, even medical doctors have also fallen victim to drugs induced in food or spray. “The most common drugs used in our setting to spike drinks are alcohol, GHB that is a brain depressant that knocks out consciousness, rohypnol famously known as the date-rape pill which lowers one’s brain activity, valium or diazepam is also commonly used,” said Mwachi.
Mwachi also noted that cases of drugging are on the rise, but most of them are undocumented due to the stigma associated with the surrounding situation like when one was on a date or had gone out drinking at night. “Spiking in buses during travels is also common. Three years ago, a doctor was spiked while on his way to Nairobi,” he recalled. He also warned that all the drugs were fatal and may depress the breathing centres in the brains leading to a silent death.
Sidney Mulama, a doctor at a health facility in Kakamega town, says men are increasingly being drugged with morphine, popularly known as mchele.
If you suspect that your drink was spiked, how long does the drug stay in your bloodstream or body? And where can one get it checked?
— Mthembu. Qhudeni. Mvelase (@Zukolate) October 7, 2018
He has handled four extreme cases in the recent past, where men were drugged with morphine while drinking in bars in Kakamega.
Mulama said he received the four victims when they were totally unconscious. “When they are totally unconscious, it gives medics hard time to determine promptly what the patient is suffering from unless given a lead by those who bring them to the hospital,” he explained.
He said doctors may be forced to conduct as many tests as possible to establish what the patient is suffering from, unless they are told where the victim was and what they were doing. Mulama noted that the men are usually drugged by prostitutes, who then steal from them when they are unconscious.
Date Rape Drugs- “Help! I Think My Drink Has Been Spiked!”
Sadly, this act still happens in our society. Study reveals that 70% of cases reported are committed by someone who knows the victim. Date rape can also be called Acquaintance rape.
— My Mobile Doc #FixNaijaHealthCare (@MyMobileDoc) October 24, 2018
He pointed out that the women sometimes work hand in hand with bar attendants and taxi drivers. He said morphine is usually in powder form and is poured into a drink or even mixed with food. According to him, the signs exhibited by a victim of morphine resembles those of a patient with acute meningitis. “At times, it is hard to know whether the patient has consumed morphine or has acute meningitis because the signs are almost similar,” said Mulama.
An Asot Test is conducted on blood sample to help the doctor establish whether the morphine is high or low. If it is extremely high, they normally neutralise it by injecting the patient with an isotonic solution called normal saline and riboflavin.
Mulama noted that morphine when taken in low dosage is a strong painkiller but in high concentration it becomes harmful to the body. According to Mulama, it affects the normal functioning of the body and causes change of hormonal cycle, a situation he says lasts for about six hours before the casualty regains his or her normal conscious.
He said morphine can only kill when consumed in large quantity. According to a Dr Hassan, most common drugs used to spike drinks are used on patients with psychiatric conditions and convulsive disorders like epilepsy.
The drugs can only be prescribed by a doctor and are not sold over the counter. Coast Province General Hospital Deputy Chief Administrator Victor Njom said there are at least eight drugs under the family of benzodiazepine that are used for spiking drinks.
He identified diazepam and rohypnol as some of the most common drugs used, adding that they cause sedation and unconsciousness when mixed with alcohol. Dr Njom said a victim of drugging can remain unconscious from a few minutes to up to five hours, a period which allows the perpetrators to carry out their mission.
He said the immediate symptoms of drugging include drowsiness due to depressed breathing system. The drugs also slow down heart rate and cause hallucinations. Dr Njom said the drugs are particularly dangerous when mixed with alcohol, because they combine to have a powerful anaesthetic effect on the victim.
He says drugging is rarely fatal but cases of comma have been reported. A doctor at Nyeri County Referral Hospital said the drug commonly used for spiking drinks is rohypnol popularly known as ruffies. “The drug is a sedative, and mild anti-depressant and is usually a controlled substance and can only be issued by prescription. However, it can be used to incapacitate a patient and it causes short-term memory loss,” he said.
He said the number of reported cases were few because most victims were not willing to report the incidents because once they wake up they assume, they are well.
“The best course of treatment is fluids and also medication to counter the effect of rohypnol in the body,” he explained. Dr Nicholas Sang, a medical practitioner in Eldoret and Iten, pointed out that valium, propofol and diazepam were the drugs commonly used to spike drinks.
There effects include extreme drowsiness, slowed breathing and loss of consciousness. According to Sang, these drugs are classified as prescription drugs according to the Dangerous Drugs Act and are not supposed to be sold over the counter because they are supposed to be administered in very small doses by qualified personnel. The doctor said antidote drugs like naloxone is used to reverse the extreme drowsiness, slowed breathing and loss of consciousness.