A handshake, prayer, drink and you are cleaned out
- Police say drugging was rampant in 2009 but nothing has really changed: That friendly man you are seated next to at the bar counter could be having something up his sleeve — a drug that reduces you to a zombie after which you will obediently give him your ATM card and PIN. Or take him to your home
Two months ago, college student Mary was in a club when she suddenly felt drowsy. Suspecting that she had been drugged by her male companion, she rushed out and boarded a taxi, where she lapsed in a near-coma.
Mary is one of the many victims of a crime that is perpetrated daily in bars, restaurants, public service vehicles, brothels… name it.
The taxi driver, not aware that her drink had been spiked and believing she was just drunk, stopped the car and raped his passenger before taking her to the Nairobi Women’s Hospital.
She was half-aware of the assault. Tests later showed that her drink had been spiked with rohypnol.
When Emmanuel closes his eyes, he can still see the faces of the two women and smell their perfume. Their wicked smiles have refused to go away. He recalls bits and pieces of what happened and his slavish compliance to whatever the women told him.
“I was a zombie,” he remarks.
These are the tales of people who have been drugged, then sexually abused or robbed of money and valuables. We have used only their first names to protect their identity.
The preferred way of the criminals is to spike drinks, that is illegal introducing a drug into the drink of a person without their knowledge with the intention of harming them. Other ways may involve body contact and inhalation.
“Several substances are used to drug people. A number of them are medically admissible drugs, especially those used in surgical theatres or to treat psychiatric cases,” says the chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya, Dr Paul Mwaniki.
According to Dr Mwaniki, taken in large doses, drugs used in the treatment of psychiatric cases such as insomnia cause abnormally prolonged sleep.
“If you are not used to the medication, even one tablet can put you to sleep for more than 24 hours,” he says.
One popular pharmaceutical drug among crooks is benzodiazepine, a tranquilliser that is usually prescribed for stress and which causes memory lapses, confusion, and drowsiness.
Ketamine, a horse tranquilliser whose kick causes partial or total loss of memory and hallucinations, is also common, as is GHB, also known as liquid ecstasy.
The prescription drug rohypnol is also frequently used to spike drinks, according to the police. Rohypnol, which is sold over the counter, is a common date rape drug and is banned in the United States and a number of European countries.
There is also scopolamine, a drug that was used by the CIA during interrogations in the 1960s to induce captives to give out vital secrets. Scopolamine can be absorbed through the skin, so be wary of shaking hands with strangers.
The drugs can also be contained in cigarettes, drinking glasses, or perfume. Crooks often use perfume because few people think twice about test-spraying themselves.
“What you find being used in bars are drugs like valium, domicum, and lexitonil. Ketamine is an injection so it is not so popular. Scopolamine is also rarely used,” Dr Mwaniki says.
Initially, according to police, drugging was associated with seedy pubs in Nairobi but the trend has now moved to the upmarket areas like Westlands, Kilimani, and Hurlingham. It has also become common at entertainment spots along Thika road.
In January, a Kenya Polytechnic student was charged with drugging a patron at a club before stealing his phone and Sh1,000. In December 2010, media reports indicated that there had been three deaths related to drugging in clubs in Hurlingham.
In another incident, a patron was found unconscious at an entertainment spot along Thika Road.
“Spiking drinks is common during weekends,” Dr Frank Njenga, the head of the National Agency for the Campaign Against Drugs (NACADA) says.
In 2008, Anne Munyao greeted strangers as she walked along a street in Nairobi. They later ordered her to go to her bank and withdraw Sh112,000. Her doctors said they suspected that the crooks had used scopolamine on her, which is known to cause docility and confusion.
“Two women were arrested. The case was mentioned early last year, but for the second time one of them failed to turn up. I am almost giving up hope of getting justice,” she told DN2.