Rohypnol and the like are cheap and easy to find

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 August, 2006, 12:00am

Rohypnol is just one of many cheap and accessible drugs that date rapists in Hong Kong are using against unsuspecting victims, according to social workers and medical professionals.

The drugs - from cough syrup to tranquilisers - are easily bought online and from unethical pharmacies, sex shops, dodgy doctors.

Ma Mei-kwan, who works with youths at risk, said tranquilisers such as zopiclone were bought by teenage boys at pharmacies for HK$2 to HK$3 each.

'They call them white melon seeds and they make girls fall asleep. The date rape liquid GHB [gamma hydroxybutyrate] is available at sex shops for HK$60 a bottle. It's tasteless and colourless, and makes the girls lose their memory of the situation,' said the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups officer.

'Nobody really pays HK$100 for Rohypnol any more. Some boys just pour cough syrup into cokes - which can mask the flavour - to soften girls up. Four out of 10 girls I meet have been forced to have sex with guys they met less than two weeks earlier, after getting drunk or drugged.'

Pharmacist William Chui Chun-ming said date rape drugs were usually tasteless and colourless.

He said that most were tranquilisers and sleeping pills - with the exception of GHB, which is a general anaesthetic - that depress the central nervous and respiratory systems, and may lead to memory loss, coma and even death.

'These drugs require prescriptions but are readily available without because outdated legislation allows pharmacies to operate without a pharmacist one-third of the time. Owners are just businessmen who will sell anything to make money,' he said. 'Young people now go to pharmacies in Mongkok, Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui and Yuen Long to buy drugs they want after the pharmacist leaves at 5pm. They buy cough syrup by the litre.'

Another pharmacist said general practitioners were responsible for most of the drugs sold. Last year general practitioners sold 12,000 Rohypnol pills worth HK$1.4 million, while pharmacies sold 2,000 pills for HK$180,000 and public hospitals sold 5,000 for HK$430,000. It is not available at private hospitals.

About 55,000 zopiclone pills were sold for HK$5.2 million by general practitioners, while community pharmacies sold 14,000 for HK$1.7 million. Private hospitals sold 1,800 pills for HK$75,000, while public hospitals sold 1,800 for HK$550,000.

Hong Kong Medical Association president Choi Kin blamed pharmacies and internet vendors for the easy accessibility of date-rape drugs.

'We got rid of all those dirty doctors. If you think they still exist, show me the evidence. Pharmacies are the ones selling all the drugs illegally.'