Thursday, August 3rd, 2000
Prevention is best approach to save heartaches
By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital

One of the things that you learn growing up in Brooklyn is something called street sense or street smarts. It basically means that you will frequently find yourself in situations that are potentially hazardous to your health. That might mean being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It might mean doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Good street sense calls for you to recognize those situations and avoid them when possible. For example, when I was a teenager in New York City, I knew better than to take the subway late at night. I also learned that when in a strange neighborhood, you should dress and act like you belonged there.

There are still examples of the need to use good street sense today. For example, recently two fathers got into a fight at their children's hockey game. One father ended up killing the other father in what was a two-way fight. It makes no sense to take a disagreement to a level that would result in this type of result. Backing down is a smart idea. Feeding into an individual with road rage might get you shot. Therefore, it makes no sense to encourage the other individual's violent behavior.

There are other situations where prevention is the best approach. Several medical researchers recently did a review on "Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault ('Date Rape')." They looked at the statistics and at the commonly used drugs. They then created a series of do's and don'ts to help avoid this potential hazard.
What many people do not realize is that the number-one date rape drug is alcohol. It was involved in 38 percent of the cases. The second most common drug was marijuana. It was involved in 18 percent of the cases. The drugs more commonly discussed in the newspapers accounted for an additional 12 percent of the drugs used.

The most common groups affected are older adolescents and young adults. The most common locations for the drugs to be given are bars, nightclubs, rave clubs and social parties. The most common form of administration is in a mixed drink, a soft drink or a fruit punch. Since the drugs often cause the individual to pass out, the events are hard to remember. However, many of the women reported a series of symptoms prior to passing out. These included drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, memory problems, judgment problems, impaired motor skills, weakness and unsteadiness.
The suggestions contained in the article come from a pamphlet published by the Rape Treatment Center, Santa Monica at Los Angeles Medical Center.

The suggestions include:

- Limit alcoholic drinks to a maximum of one or two per hour.
- Do not gulp alcoholic beverages.
- Be wary of opened alcoholic beverages offered by strangers or male acquaintances.
- Let your date be the first one to drink from the punch bowl at a bar, club or rave.
- Avoid group drinking and particularly avoid participating in drinking games.
- Check with local police departments; they are usually a good source of information about the location of bars, clubs and areas where drug-facilitated sexual assault is known to have occurred.
- When at an unfamiliar bar, directly observe your drink being poured by the bartender.
- If your opened beverage tastes, looks or smells strange, do not drink it.
- After returning to your table after dancing, using the restroom, or making a telephone call, obtain a fresh drink.
- If you feel giddy or lightheaded at a bar, club or party, get assistance.
- If you arrived with friends, a prearranged plan should be in place to check on each other visually and verbally before separately departing a bar, club or party.
- If one of your friends appears to be intoxicated, get help (consider calling 911).

Most of these suggestions are common sense. Many women go to parties specifically to drink. They do not always realize that drug-facilitated sexual assault is something that they invite by doing so. Pregnancy is one of the consequences of not paying attention to these rules.

The best way to handle trouble is to avoid it altogether. That is certainly true with date rape. Street smarts should not be learned the hard way.

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