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Woman raises awareness on drink-tampering after getting drugged at Halifax club

‘Never under estimate anybody’: N.S. woman shares story of suspected drink tampering
A young woman who says she was drugged while she was downtown Halifax celebrating her birthday, is sharing her story to bring awareness to the dangers of drink tampering. Alexa MacLean reports.

After celebrating her 20th birthday with a group of friends, Josée Saulnier found herself laying on her bed, unable to move and in full-body tremors.

Saulnier, a college student, was put in a borderline over-dose state after being unwillingly drugged at The Dome, a club in Halifax, on Jan. 18 and has taken to Facebook to share her story and to let other victims know they are not alone.

“I don’t know how it could have possibly happened but it did,” she said, adding that she didn’t let anybody touch her drink and had it in her hands the whole time.

“It obviously can only take a second. I want everyone to be aware that it doesn’t matter how careful you are it can still happen to you.”

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Saulnier said after she had three mixed drinks and a shot she started to feel strange, and that’s when she and her friends decided to get a cab and go home.

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“That’s when the tremors started, and I’m like there’s something wrong we need to call 911,” said Saulnier. “I was crying.”

She said she couldn’t stand up and felt like her feet were “stuck.”

“[When I was in the ambulance with the paramedic] I needed to hold his hand because my vision also wasn’t there, I couldn’t see straight, I was seeing double.”

Once Saulnier was admitted to the emergency department at the QEII hospital, she said they didn’t ask her to do any testing and told her all they could do is wait for the drug to be out of her system and then she can go home.

READ MORE: Halifax police criticized for not tracking drink-tampering cases

But even after being sent home, Saulnier was still throwing up and struggling to get on her feet.

“We went back to emergency again and the doctor comes saying that I had a really, really bad trip.”

The zone chief of emergency, Dr. Kirk Magee, said in an e-mail statement that the drugs used to spike drinks are generally not tested.

“From the physician perspective, the priority is treating the patient by allowing her/him to detoxify safely, regardless of how they came to be there. They may note on the patient record that it is suspected a patient has been drugged but that would be confidential and it is not recorded in our system that way,” his statement reads.

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Halifax woman unable to move after allegedly being drugged at a Halifax club
Halifax woman unable to move after allegedly being drugged at a Halifax club

In terms of symptoms, Dr. Magee said that “the person’s level intoxication far exceeds what the person has consumed.”

“The scary part was that if something were to happen to me, there’d be no way I’d be able to run away. There’d be no way I could do anything, but I would be aware of what they were doing,” Saulnier said, adding that she has reported what happened to police.

Const. John MacLeod with Halifax Regional Police said drink tampering incidents are thoroughly investigated as any other, but police do not keep track of them.

He explains that a specific national code gets created for sexual assault, homicide or shoplifting so that police can use them to compare statistics across the country, but none for drink tampering.

“In the past, police have looked at creating a code specific to drink tampering and they looked back to see if the number of incidents actually justified that and they found at that time that there wasn’t a significant portion of those incidents occurring to create their own code,” said MacLeod.

He went on to say that it can be very difficult because in some cases they’re not reported until the drug has gone out of their system.

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READ MORE: USB-sized device can tell you if your drink has been spiked

“Very often it can be difficult to track whether or not what was in their system or what was there, to be able to track back to confirm those type of things other than some of the behavior and things that they’re able to report from themselves or from witnesses or other things,” MacLeod said.

Saulnier said she wants to figure out how she can prevent this from happening as often as it does, and that she was lucky nothing bad happened to her.

“I’m not the only one. The hospital was saying that the weekend before me, the same thing, a girl was drugged,” she said. “And the amount of men and women who were contacting me, telling me their story, it’s just not any of our fault.

“There are some gross people out there trying to take away your power.”

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Saulnier went back to Yarmouth, her hometown, a few days ago to stay with her family and recover after experiencing side effects for almost three days.

“I’m very, very, very sore. My muscles, just because they were in full tremor,” she said, adding that emotionally and mentally she’s doing much better.

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“I‘m getting friends and family support and like everybody has been so amazing. The messages that people are reaching out to us is absolutely incredible.”