Was Natalee Holloway Drugged?

Convulsions may have been a symptom of date rape drug intoxication.

ByABC News
February 15, 2008, 7:19 AM

Feb. 15, 2008 — -- Medical experts tell ABC News that the description Joran van der Sloot gave of convulsions apparently experienced by Natalee Holloway on the night she disappeared could be consistent with the date rape drug GHB, and not simply alcohol intoxication.

The question has resurfaced after a Dutch undercover documentary aired last week on ABC News in which Van der Sloot, the prime suspect, describes in harrowing detail how Holloway went into convulsions during an amorous encounter on an Aruban beach the night she disappeared.

Doctors and pharmacologists who spoke to ABC said that it's in general unlikely that alcohol poisoning alone could have caused the otherwise healthy Alabama teen to convulse the way Van der Sloot described it to a man who he believed was a friend but who was actually working undercover for a Dutch investigative journalist.

Click here to see Van der Sloot describe the convulsions

The documentary rapidly revived the dormant case. Aruba's chief prosecutor hailed the work of Dutch journalist Peter R. De Vries, calling the information uncovered "valuable" and "important to the investigation."

Prosecutor Hans Mos said he believes the undercover tapes will be legally admissible in an Aruban court, but a judge late Thursday denied prosecutors' appeal for an arrest warrant, a bid that had been previously denied by a lower court judge, Joe Tacopina, Van der Sloot's lawyer told ABC News.

That means that unless prosecutors develop new information they have claimed to be receiving dozens of e-mail tips since the documentary aired last week it will be difficult if not impossible to bring charges against Van der Sloot.

The court ruled that Van der Sloot's admissions on the tape are inconsistent with other evidence and not sufficient to detain him. He has been arrested and released twice since Holloway's May 2005 disappearance.

Aruban prosecutors could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday's court decision.

Van der Sloot has denied the claims he made on hours of undercover video over the course of several days last month, reportedly telling prosecutors in an interview last week that he made up the allegations because he was high on marijuana. He has also said he was trying to impress Patrick Van der Eem, 34, who was actually working undercover for a Dutch investigative reporter.

Van der Sloot's attorneys have vigorously denied claims from the documentary maker and Aruban authorities that Van der Sloot's damning admissions on the tape are legal proof that he is, in fact, responsible for Holloway's disappearance.

On the tape he said Holloway went into convulsions and then became limp. Fearing she was dead, he claimed on the tapes that he called an unknown accomplice who came and took the body out to sea, where it was dumped overboard about 2 kilometers off the Aruban coastline.

Searches by boats equipped with sonar detection have failed to turn up any evidence of a body off the coast. A private, nonprofit Texas search and rescue team has been scouring the waters off the Aruban coast for the last two months, according to Holloway's father, Dave.

"If you gave me a choice based on [Van der Sloot's description of the convulsions], alcohol would be lowest on the list and GHB the highest," said Paul Doering, distinguished service professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Florida's College of Pharmacy.