Sexual assault is the most commonly acknowledged offence associated with drug facilitated crime
Sexual assault is the most commonly acknowledged offence associated with drug facilitated crime. Typical drugs used in drug facilitated crime are likely to have one or more of the following properties: cause sedation, cause amnesia, odorless and tasteless, dissolve readily in a beverage, and rapidly absorbed after oral administration (Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault, 2017, p. 2). The types of substances actually found in casework range from alcohol, Rohypnol, GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid), ketamine and other sedating drugs like ecstasy (Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault, 2017, p. 2). Alcohol remains the most commonly used drug in crimes of sexual assault. It is a legal over the counter depressant drug controlled by the ATF that primarily affects the Central Nervous System, specifically the brain. Rohypnol is a Schedule IV central nervous system depressant that belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. It is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. It is used as a sedative hypnotic and a pre-anesthetic commonly misused as a “date rape” drug to incapacitate a person targeted for sexual assault. When mixed with alcohol or other drugs may lead to respiratory depression, aspiration, and even death (Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault, 2017, p. 2). GHB is a Schedule I that can induce a sense of euphoria and intoxication and is abused for their central nervous system depressant effect. An overdose from GHB may result in respiratory depression, coma, and even death (Eckenrode Powerpoint). Ketamine is a Schedule III hallucinogen that causes the person to feel as if their mind is “separated” from the body. The drug causes a combination of amnesia and hallucinations. Also, it stops the feeling of pain and lowers the heart rate leading to oxygen starvation to the brain and muscles (Eckenrode Powerpoint). Ecstasy is a Schedule I that has hallucinogenic and amphetamine-like effects. It causes increased heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tension, teeth grinding, nausea, increased body temperature, confusion, anxiety, paranoia, decreased inhibitions, and increased self-awareness. Abuse of this drug may result in seizures, muscle breakdown, stroke, kidney failure, CV problems, and brain damage (Eckenrode Powerpoint). An ideal drug or alcohol will cause diminished capacity, which will present the victim as easy causing no memory of the offence, or will decrease their consciousness of the person resulting in them participating in activities which they normally would not. In some situations, the victim cannot recall the event that occurred under the influence of drugs due to the effects they bring (Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault, 2017, p. 5). In these types of cases, timing is critical. It is important to report and get checked out at the earliest opportunity when you think something is wrong. Different types of samples taken for evidence have different time spans on being able to detect the drug. One sample of evidence that can be included is hair.
Collection and Analysis of Hair
Hair can be used as a tool for identifying past drug exposure. Drugs in the bloodstream travel into the blood capillaries at the hair follicle and are incorporated into the newly forming hair shaft where they are stable (Scott, 2009). Head hair grows at an average rate of 1 cm each month. As the hair grows, a history and record of drug use is by using this average hair growth rate. A sample cut from the posterior vertex region of the head, close to the scalp, is preferred as this region of the scalp is associated with least variation in growth rates (Scott, 2009). The amount of hair required for an analysis is a “lock of hair,” or a pencil thickness of hair. It is important to collect a sufficient hair sample in order to carry out routine tests and to allow for a confirmation test by a second laboratory (Scott, 2009). A hair collection kit with clear instructions for collection should be provided while following chain of custody procedures, and wear gloves when handling hair. The collection kit should include: chain of custody form, foil and collection envelope, security seal, evidence bag, transportation envelope, instructions for the collection of a hair sample (Scott, 2009). The color, length, site of collection and any obvious cosmetic treatments should be recorded. The samples must be stored in a dry environment at room temperature. The timing of the hair collection is very important. In cases where early reporting has occurred, an initial sample should be collected immediately and a second sample taken one month later (Scott, 2009). Drugs recently incorporated into hair from the bloodstream will take approximately one week to emerge from the scalp and can then be used for collection. Therefore, the sample taken up to 5 days after the offence will not contain any drug ingested at the time of the offence. The second sample having grown for an additional month will contain the portion of hair which was forming at the time of the offence (Scott, 2009). Because of this, it is recommended that a hair sample should be taken one month after the alleged offence. In cases where reporting occurs more than one month after the alleged offence, the hair sample should be taken as soon as possible. Drugs are relatively stable once incorporated into the hair shaft, however, hair treatments and normal hygienic washing regimes remove some of the incorporated drug (Scott, 2009). Typically, drugs can be detected in hair for up to two months. Head hair is the preferred sample, however, if head hair is not available alternative collection sites should be considered including pubic, underarm and beard hair. Growth rates and other characteristics of hair from these alternate sites differs from head hair. If hair analysis has to be performed, preliminary appropriate washing of the sample is mandatory in order to minimize the risk of surface contamination (Scott, 2009). Hair segmentation is also highly recommended. Segments provide a stronger level of evidence and can assist in establishing a tighter timeframe during which ingestion occurred.