California now requires bars and nightclubs to offer drug testing for drinks

NBC News

A new law in California will require bars and nightclubs to offer drug testing devices in an effort to protect patrons from drinks laced with “date rape drugs.”

The law, Assembly Bill 1013, went into effect Monday.

It will require 2,400 establishments with Type 48 licenses from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which authorizes the sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits, to offer the testing devices for free or at a price “not to exceed a reasonable amount based on wholesale cost,” the department added in a statement.

It will also require venues to have signs posted with the message: “Don’t get carried away! Drink drug testing kits available here. Ask a member of staff for more details.”

Venues will be responsible for providing kits in the form of test strips, stickers, straws or other devices that “can detect the presence of controlled substances in beverages” such as flunitrazepam, ketamine and gamma hydroxybutyric acid.

All of them are considered “date rape drugs” that predators can put in a person’s drink, and their effects are made worse by alcohol, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Rohypnol, the brand name for flunitrazepam, produces “sedative-hypnotic, anxiolytic and muscle relaxant effects,” according to the DEA. It has not been approved for medical use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but is prescribed outside the country to treat insomnia. It can be dissolved in liquid and is misused “to physically and psychologically incapacitate victims of sexual assault,” the DEA added.

Ketamine is a general anesthetic that “makes people feel detached from their bodies and surroundings” and is used as a date rape drug to render victims unable to move or defend themselves, according to a DEA report. It can also cause amnesia so victims have no memory of the events that occurred.

Gamma hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB, is another name for the generic drug sodium oxybate. While it exists under the brand name Xyrem and is FDA-approved as a prescription drug to improve daytime sleepiness, it has been misused for euphoric and calming effects, the DEA added.

GHB abuse became popular among young people in nightclubs in the 1990s and also “gained notoriety as a date rape drug,” according to the DEA. GHB use can cause drowsiness, confusion, and memory impairment, and can produce visual hallucinations and excited, aggressive behavior. However, at high doses, GHB overdose can lead to unconsciousness, seizures, slow heart rate, coma, and death.

Failure to comply with California’s new law could lead to license holders facing “administrative actions affecting their licenses,” the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said.