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Tuesday, March 31, 1998 Published at 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK


Date rape drug outlawed
image: [ Rohypnol: Said to be involved in a number of rapes ]
Rohypnol: Said to be involved in a number of rapes

Unauthorised possession of a drug said to have been used in date rape cases is to be outlawed.

Concerns grew about Rohypnol after a number of women claimed their drinks were spiked with the drug before they were raped.

The BBC's Sean Curran reports (0'37')
The Home Office has said anyone breaking the new law will face up to two years in jail, an unlimited fine or both.

From May 1 possession of the drug without a prescription will be an offence.

Rohypnol, which is colourless and tasteless when dissolved, was introduced for short-term sleep disorders.

It is ten times more powerful than Valium and is already illegal in the United States.

One of its side effects is short-term memory loss, making it harder for rape victims to press charges.

Under the new law, licenses will also be required for companies importing or exporting the drug and pharmacies and warehouses will have to store it more securely.

Home Office minister George Howarth said: "This action, together with tighter statutory controls, should help reduce its potential for misuse."

The Home Office added there was little solid evidence for claims about the use of Rohypnol in rape cases.

Forensic scientists in England and Wales found no trace of the drug in tests relating to 18 rape cases last year.

The manufacturer Hoffman-LaRoche has also reformulated the drug to make it more difficult to spike drinks with it.

In future the tablet will release a bright blue colour as it dissolves and make darker coloured drinks appear murky.

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