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Crackdown On 'Date Rape' Drugs

Three years ago, when Candace Pruett was 15, she went out with a 19-year-old male friend and, without telling her parents, accompanied him to a house where she didn't know anyone. Her friend told her it was his apartment, but it was not.

He offered her a soft drink, and 15 minutes after she drank it, she passed out. She has no memories of anything until the next morning, when her mother tracked her down and woke her up, with difficulty. Candace says everything was blurry, and she could neither speak nor understand anything that was said to her.

Later, after she was hospitalized, one of the other young men at the house told police that Candace had been slipped something in her drink, which turned out to be Rohypnol.

Rohypnol is a powerful sedative manufactured and prescribed legally in other countries, but never approved for sale in the U.S. Smuggled into the U.S. and known on the street as "roofies," the illegal pills have been used in date rapes to incapacitate unsuspecting women.

"One of the guys that was there had told the police that he saw that I had sexual relations that night," Candace told CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Jane Robelot, adding that she has no memory of the attack. But hospital tests confirmed the presence of Rohypnol in her system and evidence of sexual activity.

Candace was one of the women who testified Thursday before a congressional subcommittee, which is investigating why the use of so-called "date rape" drugs is on the rise, and what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is doing about it, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan.

Rohypnol used to be easiest to get. Now, it's been supplanted by an easier-to-get substance called GHB, known as liquid ecstasy or "scoop." The recipe for one "date rape" drug is easily found on the Internet. It could be made in a bathtub, and it's odorless, tasteless, and potentially deadly.

Lawmakers say it's time to get tough on Rohypnol and GHB.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., spurred by the death of a 17-year-old high school student, is now trying to make GHB illegal.

About 3,000 cases have been documented of GHB overdoses. Enforcement may be difficult. It moves through the bloodstream so quickly, it's often undetectable when the victim wakes up - or if she wakes up.

"We need to do something to figure out how we can stop the illegal distribution of these drugs and stop these practices," said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

The drugs have surfaced in bars and on college campuses around the country. They are especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol. Memory loss is a common side effect. Many are familiar with the effects on those who have taken the drugs.

"You really don't remember anything," said one victim. "You have to get [someone] else to tell you what you did the night before."

Manufacturer Hoffman-LaRoche responded to concerns about Rohypnol and date rape with an ad campaign to arn people about the drug's use by rapists in bars and nightclubs. But, still, the number of date rape cases involving these drugs continues to rise.

Another woman who testified before Congress Thursday is Jo Ellen Dyer, a toxicology management specialist for the California Poison Control System and an assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of California. This Morning's Robelot asked her how common are situations like Candace's.

"It's so difficult to know how common it is," said Dyer. "It's possible to have this happen and not have someone know they have been assaulted. We hear many reports where people are calling in to put together these pieces and fill in the blanks from what happened."

Dyer explains that Rohypnol's intended use is as an anxiety-relieving and sleep-inducing drug. But its abuse is becoming more widespread.

"I would like to see Congress control the drugs that are used for date rape," says Dyer. "GHB is a very important drug that has been misused in this way. It's also a new upcoming drug of abuse. People don't realize the abuse [and] the addiction potential and the dangerous aspects of that drug. I would like to see it controlled."

In the meantime, Candace Pruett advises other young women to trust their instincts and to be cautious, especially if you know you're somewhere you're not supposed to be, or if you're given a drink by somebody you don't know."