Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

'Below Deck' star Adrienne Gang: Is your drink spiked?

It started as a fun girls' night out.

The plan was for six friends to meet for dinner and drinks at a favorite upscale eatery in South Tampa. But three hours later, Adrienne Gang's party was over.

Her night ended with a mug shot, a battery charge and a brief stay in jail. She remembers none of it.

"The next thing I know I am being fingerprinted in the Orient Road Jail," said Gang, 30, a Valrico native and one of the reality show stars of Bravo's Below Deck.

Confused, she wondered how everything unraveled so quickly. She later discovered that she had been drugged with GHB, also known as a prominent "date rape drug."

From the haze of that night came a clear vision: Gang grew determined to help other women avoid her plight. She's using her newfound celebrity to promote a product from Drink Safe Technologies that patrons can use to test whether drinks have been spiked with the drug.

She wonders how that night would have turned out had she had the test strip.

• • •

When Gang was released from jail at 8 a.m. that December morning, she remembers asking a police officer why she had been arrested.

"They told me I should know why I was there."

She recalls a group of men sending three glasses of wine over to the table for her and her friends, but soon after the friends parted ways, things got fuzzy.

Gang said she remembered that the wine was not poured by the bartender but came directly from the three men.

The next thing she knew, she was being pushed into a cab.

"What we were able to piece together is someone who considered themselves a 'Good Samaritan' dragged me out of the bar because I wasn't able to stand upright and speak coherently," she said.

Apparently the stranger paid a cabdriver $30 for a $2 ride to an address Gang did not recognize. "Maybe he thought the cabdriver would dump me there and then he would follow after. I don't know. But the guy lived in Gainesville."

Gang later tracked him down through the name on the credit card he paid the cabdriver with.

"He said he was just doing me a favor."

Gang wondered why the scene didn't stand out more to the waiters or patrons of the restaurant. It was 11:15 on a Tuesday night.

The cabdriver would later testify that she wasn't able to stand upright.

"It was deduced that whoever did this to me realized that they had overdosed me because it happened so quickly and I couldn't stand," Gang said. "Maybe they thought they might have a dead body on their hands so they chucked me into a cab hoping that the cabdriver would have to deal with me.

"I could have easily ended up in a ditch," she added.

A self-described nonviolent person, Gang said she was shocked to later learn that she had knocked the cabdriver's phone out of his hand.

When her boyfriend picked her up from jail that morning, she told him she suspected it was GHB. Clear, colorless and undetectable, the most dominant symptom of GHB dosing is memory loss.

"I felt really strange," she said. "I know what it's like to feel intoxicated. I know what it's like to feel hung over, but I knew something was wrong."

Desperate for answers, Gang went straight to a drug testing facility and paid $550 for a rape panel test.

She would have to wait more than 10 days to find out if she had GHB in her system. On Christmas Eve, the facility revealed the results.

Gang recalls the man from the drug testing clinic telling her that with such elevated levels of GHB still in her system, she was lucky to be alive.

She questioned what she did to deserve this.

She made it her goal to find out everything she could to help get the word out so people could protect themselves from having to go through what she did. She contacted the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, which put her in touch with a company called Drink Safe Technologies.

• • •

On the market for eight years, the test strip can be used to detect GHB or ketamine in a drink by testing a drop of it on a coaster or small card easily carried in a purse or jacket pocket.

"It is a screening device," said Lance Norris, president of Drink Safe Technologies, "an inexpensive way to have a first line of defense if the safety of your drink is compromised."

Although Norris said that sometimes grapefruit juice, wine and some milk-based products can produce a false positive, nonalcoholic beverages can also be tested. The strips and coasters are available at drinksafetech.com for $5 for a package of five cards (with two test areas on each) or $7.50 for 10 cards (20 tests).

Drink coasters are also available, and businesses can print their logos across them. Norris said the military, college sexual assault programs and insurance agents are major clients.

"I feel like if I had known about these strips, I would have made every single one of my girlfriends carry one. Because why would you not? It's an added layer of protection," Gang said.

"The least bad thing was I ended up in the hands of the police. It could have very easily gone in a different direction."

The prosecutor has since dropped the charge against Gang.

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