At some time or another I am sure you’ve received an email from a friend whom you trust giving you a warning about some terrible new trend that appears to be sweeping the community.

Many times these involve drugs -“ ecstasy that contains glass (apparently designed to tear the inside of your stomach wall, thus enabling you to absorb the MDMA quicker), and LSD-soaked tattoos (created to ensnare little children into the world of illicit drugs as early as possible).

Of course, the vast majority of these emails have no basis in truth whatsoever -“ they are what we call urban myths. Unfortunately, because they are often received from friends you know well and trust, they are believed and passed on.

Let’s look at one of these stories and break it down. One that has been doing the rounds for some time now is around Progesterex. There are many versions of this story but the one I received last week tells of a young woman at a Sydney nightclub who was taken by five men who, according to hospital and police reports, gang-raped her before dumping her.

She was unable to remember the events of the evening and tests later confirmed the repeat rapes along with traces of Progesterex in her blood.

According to the email, Progesterex is available to vets to sterilise large animals and will have the same effect if administered to humans. Rumour has it that the Progesterex is being used as a date rape drug as it apparently dissolves in drinks easily and, as the victim doesn’t conceive from the rape, the rapist needn’t worry about having a paternity test identifying him months later.

The message goes on about how this is happening all over the country and that the effect is permanent. The reader is asked to forward this to everyone they know, particularly girls. The urgency is explicit and it is quite obvious after reading the message why this email (and forms of it) has literally swept right across the world.

It is of course a hoax and the only reason for its existence appears to be to frighten young women. Progesterex doesn’t exist. There’s no mention of it anywhere in medical or scientific literature.

According to the site http://urbanlegends.about.com, this myth has been in circulation since November 1999. The site also explains that it displays a number of features common to urban legends and internet hoaxes: it has an urgent, fear-inducing tone; there are no verifiable sources identified; and there is the usual plea to forward the message to everyone one knows.

Legitimate drug warnings are incredibly important, but it’s equally important to separate fact from fiction. The Progesterex scare is baseless, as are so many of the email scares we receive. If you receive this or any other hoax by email, please don’t forward it on before checking out the facts.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?

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