'Date rape' drug shipment seized in Jacksonville

Customs officers find drug in package from Hong Kong

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A shipment of a date rape drug was seized Oct. 9 in Jacksonville by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.

Customs officers said a three-pound package shipped from Hong Kong had a strong chemical smell. The liquid in the package tested positive for the drug called gamma-butyrolactone (GBL).

GBL is a clear, odorless and near-tasteless liquid that has a high potential for overdose and addiction. Once ingested, GBL converts to gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), a notorious date-rape drug that renders victims unconscious and incapable of remembering pas events. The drug takes effect in about 15 minutes and can last for three to four hours.

Three pounds of GBL could equal as many as 1,000 victims, because the drug is very potent, officials said.

"Just a matter of a few drops will have the effect and what it does is it immobilizes the individual and they don't recall what happened," Jacksonville Port Director Douglas Straatsma said.

GBL is illegal to import into the United States without proper permission. Most often the drug is made by people in homes or street labs.

Straatsma said the final destination of the package seized in Jacksonville was a home in Tallahassee.

"We find a lot of this stuff is going to be distributed in and around college areas ,and so we feel this might have been -- we aren't sure but -- destined for the Florida State campus," Straatsma said.

The Women's Center of Jacksonville's rape recovery team had some advice for women after the successful seizure was announced.

"Having someone who stays with you -- a buddy system for that can be helpful as well, so if you start to look or act abnormal that person can get you medical attention if needed," Morgan Moeller said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is investigating the case. CBP is also looking into expanding its program and potentially training K9s to sniff out these types of drugs, because the drugs have been on the rise recently.

Officers said they always double-check packages that contain any chemicals being sent to a residence.

In the last six months, CBP has had about 40 seizures of synthetic narcotics out of courier hubs in Jacksonville.

On a typical day in Fiscal Year 2014, CBP seized 10,327 pounds of drugs while conducting operations nationwide. CBP conducts operations at ports of entry throughout the United States, and regularly screens arriving international passengers and cargo for narcotics, weapons, and other restricted or prohibited products.

Victims of rape can call the Women's Center of Jacksonville's 24-hour rape crisis hotline at 904-721-7273.


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