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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

After ‘alarming increase’ in Boston-area roofie reports, Massachusetts looks to give out drink spiking test kits

After police departments reported an “alarming increase” in date rape drug incidents across the region, Massachusetts legislators are looking to give out drink spiking test kits to bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.

Law enforcement in the Boston-area has been sounding the alarm about numerous people reporting they were roofied at local bars. Police have warned people to use the buddy system, cover their drinks, and don’t leave their drinks unattended.

“Yet reports of these incidents persist, over and over again,” State Sen. Paul Feeney said from the State House during the budget debate.

“We’ve seen an alarming increase in drink spiking incidents at bars, nightclubs, concert venues and even house parties across the Commonwealth,” said Feeney, a Democrat from Foxboro.

He proposed a drink spiking prevention and awareness amendment called “Drink Spiking Tests Bulk Purchase Program and Awareness Campaign,” and the amendment passed the Senate this week.

The Senate amendment authorizes the bulk purchase of drink spiking test kits — which would be distributed to bars, restaurants, and nightlife establishments across the state.

“Get them out to venues, get them out to people that are going out to bars and restaurants, get them out to law enforcement, and hopefully make a difference,” Feeney said.

“We need to invest, and make sure that the resources are there for patrons, for venues and for our constituents,” he said, “For servers and for anybody that’s in this space where peoples’ lives are in jeopardy.”

The Senate amendment allocates $300,000 to the Department of Public Health’s Division of Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention and Services to recommend prevention strategies to address drink spiking incidents.

DPH would be required to issue a report on its findings about drink spiking prevention by the end of the year.

Also, this amendment requires DPH to launch a public awareness campaign about the prevalence and danger of involuntary drink spiking.

During the Senate debate, Feeney emphasized that so many of these drink spiking incidents go unreported. He cited a viral TikTok post from a Mansfield resident, who talked about struggling to find care after she was allegedly roofied. Hospital workers wouldn’t test her for date rape drugs because she wasn’t sexually assaulted or raped.

When the victim isn’t tested for date rape drugs, then no report is made to law enforcement, Feeney said.

“Whoever did it and got away with it that night is probably going to be back the next night going after somebody else, or the next weekend, or the next weekend, or at another restaurant, another venue,” the senator said.

Police have been warning patrons about the dangerousness of scentless, colorless and tasteless drugs such as Rohypnol, also known as roofies, being placed in the drinks of unsuspecting victims.

Other drugs commonly used in a similar fashion are GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) or Ketamine. Police urge patrons to be vigilant and watch their beverage at all times.

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