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Incident in Quebec draws attention to date-rape drugs in Canada

Traces of GHB, a drug commonly associated with date rape, were detected in the system of a teenage girl who was found naked at a Halloween party in Quebec, and the incident has sparked concerns about the use of such drugs across Canada. Ketamine and rohypnol are two other drugs often linked to date rape.

Veterinarians use ketamine as an anesthetic for animals, but rohypnol and GHB are classified as illegal substances under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The human body processes these drugs quite quickly. GHB cannot be traced in the urine after a period of 12 hours, and rohypnol can be untraceable in the blood and urine after 72 hours.

While there has been increased attention focused on date-rape drugs, a 2009 study found that there were very few instances of alleged sexual assault that involved drugs typically associated with date rape. According to the lead author of the Candadian Medical Journal study, there was "only one case of GHB, no rohypnol, a couple of cases of ketamine."

Prosecutors also have a difficult time charging defendants with drug-facilitated sexual assault. To convict someone of this crime, the prosecution must prove that the defendant knowingly provided a drug with the intention of incapacitating another person and committing a sexual act without that person's consent.

However, a defendant could face a charge of drug-facilitated sexual assault if police found that the defendant was also in possession of ketamine, rohypnol or GHB. Individuals charged with sexual assault should speak with a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.

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