- Bill Cosby has been found guilty of sexual assault.
- Cosby was accused of giving sedative drugs to women he wanted to have sex with.
- Here are the potential drugs he used and the effects they have.
Shortly before Bill Cosby sexually assaulted Andrea Constand, she said, he passed her three blue pills that he called “friends to help you relax.”
On Thursday, Cosby was found guilty in a Pennsylvania court on three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
To strengthen Constand’s case against Cosby, prosecutors in the trial used information that he’d previously admitted about those pills and their role in his sexual encounters, the Associated Press reported.
Cosby said in an earlier deposition that the pills were the allergy medication Benadryl. But prosecutors in his sexual-assault trial suggested there was reason to believe the drugs were something else, The Los Angeles Times reported last June.
In testimony given last year, Cosby acknowledged that decades ago he got seven prescriptions for sedative drugs called quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with.
A toxicologist who testified for the prosecution said both drugs could have sedative effects that would make a user feel foggy-headed or sleepy.
Benadryl versus quaaludes
After Cosby gave Constand the pills at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004, she said, he penetrated her with his fingers against her will.
She felt so limp, according to her deposition, that she could not push him away or tell him to stop.
When Constand called Cosby a year later to ask what the drugs he gave her were, she said he told her he didn’t have the name on hand.
“He said he would write it down on a piece of paper and mail it to us,” Constand said. “He said that he could not see right now the bottle that he wanted to see.”
Regular Benadryl is pink, though the kind marketed for allergies “and sinus” is blue.
In 2005, when Cosby provided police with some of the medication to show that he kept them on hand, the pills he handed over were pink. Montgomery County police officer James Reape, who investigated the case, said on the stand that he “found that to be odd,” according to the LA Times.
Quaaludes, on the other hand, are more powerful sedatives that are now illegal.
By suppressing the central nervous system, quaaludes slow breathing and heart rate, often making users feel relaxed or sedated. The effects are similar to those of modern so-called date-rape drugs like “roofies” or Rohypnol, which that did not exist when most of Cosby’s accusers say he assaulted them. More than 50 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault and related abuses, but most of those women can’t pursue charges because of statute-of-limitations laws. Five additional accusers testified in the recent trial, however.
After quaaludes were produced in labs in India in 1955, doctors in the UK began prescribing them to patients who had trouble sleeping. Quaaludes didn’t hit peak popularity in the US until the 1970s – people at dance clubs who took them called them “disco biscuits.” Ten years later, the drugs were outlawed after they were found to be dangerous and potentially deadly.
On June 9, forensic toxicologist Timothy Rohrig testified for the prosecution that Constand’s symptoms could have been linked to several drugs, including quaaludes and Benadryl, according to The Times.
“Most people think of [Benadryl] as an antihistamine … but one of the actions is it can cause significant sedation,” Rohrig said. Prosecutors then asked if the drugs could be strong enough to be used with criminal intent.
“It has been used in a drug to facilitate sexual assault,” Rohrig said.
In February, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center warned the public about the increasing prevalence of predators using Benadryl to incapacitate their victims, describing a mixture that people had created as a “Benadryl Cocktail.”
While the jury in Cosby’s previous trial ended in a deadlock, the one in this second trial returned the verdict on its second day of deliberations. All three counts are felonies.