HONG KONG—Vendors in China say they routinely ship out sedatives believed to be associated with “date rape” in the West, with some openly claiming that the drugs can aid would-be rapists.
“I have three kinds of drug here—[for] sedation, an unconscious dream state, and date rape,” said one vendor in the southeastern province of Fujian when contacted by a reporter posing as a potential customer.
“The rape one is 980 [yuan],” he said.
“There are 20 doses. It can be taken directly in a drink. After the person is knocked unconscious, they also get sexually aroused.”
The vendor was the contact person named on a Web site offering the sedative Flunitrazepam, which gained notoriety in Western countries as a “date rape” drug under the brand-name Rohypnol. It’s also known in China as FM2.
The medication, sometimes prescribed for severe insomnia, also induces amnesia, so a victim would have no memory of an assault.
It has never been approved for use in the United States and is often used in suicides.
Another vendor, identified by his surname Liu, said his company had representatives in cities across China who could meet customers wishing to buy the sedatives, which were originally developed as sleeping pills, face-to-face.
“FM2 comes in capsule form. It’s 500 yuan,” Liu said.
“Made in Guangzhou. There are side-effects with this.”
He said “better results” were to be had from a lesser-known drug, GHB.
Both drugs are prescription medication, but not illegal to possess, sell or buy in China.
“If you want a good result it’s best to use G water [GHB] from Hong Kong. There are no side-effects. It’s an aphrodisiac,” he said.
“It won’t matter if the police come, because there won’t be any traces in the body after 5-6 hours. Do you want a sample? I can send you one.”
Another vendor of sleep-aid GHB also referred to its use in rape attempts.
“If you are using this to commit rape, the police won’t be able to pin it on you because there won’t be any proof that you administered sedatives,” the seller said.
“It is an aphrodisiac and a sedative at the same time. And it lasts about three hours. After six hours, the drug won’t show up in blood tests,” he added.
“We send it all over China. We can send it overseas as well, although the postage is expensive,” he said, adding that the company offered a free dispatch service for small orders.
Alcohol also a risk
GHB, a clear liquid, affects the release of dopamine in the brain, usually causing effects ranging from relaxation to sleep at low doses.
However, toxicologists warn that it can be extremely dangerous at higher doses, or if mixed with alcohol.
While Rohypnol and GHB made headlines during the 1990s as “date rape drugs,” scientists frequently warn that alcohol puts people at far greater risk of sexual assault than pharmaceutical products.
Information published on the U.S.-based clinical information site ClinLabNavigator highlighted the dangers of both drugs, but was cautious about assuming a connection to rape.
It cited a 1999 study of 1,179 blood samples from alleged victims of sexual assault in the United States, of whom 63 percent had alcohol in their blood, 30 percent had marijuana, and only three percent had GHB or Flunitrazepam.
Some forum posts associated with vending sites appeared to describe experiences with “date rape” drugs.
“Yesterday I raped the neighbor’s young wife using drugs,” read one such forum post.
“She still doesn’t know about it. Remember, playboys, to put the woman’s clothes back on when you’ve finished playing with her.”
A 2005 survey of attitudes to sexuality among urban Chinese youth found that “concern about the prevalence of sexual coercion in China is increasing,” with some Chinese women submitting unwillingly to the sexual desires of their husband or other primary sexual partner.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.