A Guide to Date Rape Drugs

In about 55% of date rape cases for women, and 75% for men, alcohol or drugs had been involved prior to the incident. In many cases, people may not even realize that they have been drugged. By the time they regain consciousness, past events may be an utter blur. Education and vigilance can help people to stay aware of date rape drugs and to avoid them.

An Introduction to Date Rape Drugs

In many incidences of date rape, the victim was initially subdued with certain drugs. In their weakened or unconscious state, they are then helpless to fight off the rapist. Date rape can take the form of several different actions including penetration, touching, sex, or even attempted rape. Since the victim is drugged, they may not be able to speak, move, or later remember what exactly happened. Another term for date rape that involves drugs is drug-facilitated sexual assault. In some cases it might also involve robbery or other forms of physical assault. The following drugs are the three main ones.

  • Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) – This drug comes in pill-form and can be dissolved in a drink. Older versions were colorless, but newer ones transform into blue when dropped in liquid.
  • GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid) – GHB comes as a white powder, a pill, or also a colorless, odorless liquid.
  • Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride) – Ketamine comes in the form of a white powder.

Physical Effects of These Drugs

Date rape drugs usually start working quite fast. The duration of the effects depend on how much of the drug is administered and if it was used with other substances. In general, alcohol increases the strength of the drugs, and can increase the side effects. Since GHB can be made at home, other substances can be mixed into it.

  • Rohypnol – Rohyppnol’s side effects include sleepiness or unconsciousness, confusion, forgetfulness, lack of muscle control and motor abilities, lowered blood pressure, feelings of nausea, drunkenness, or dizziness, and difficulty with talking and vision. 
  • GHB – GHB causes much of the same symptoms as Rohypnol, as well as vomiting, tremors, sweating, seizures, lowered heart rate, the feeling of being in a dreamy state, and in severe cases coma or death can follow.
  • Ketamine – In addition to impaired motor control, sensory distortion, and general confusion, ketamine also causes vomiting, convulsions, a dream like state, hallucinations, or out of body experiences, numbness, speech slurring, and aggressive behavior.

Are Date Rape Drugs Legal?

In the United States, some date rape drugs are legal for legitimate purposes. However, if they are consumed without the recommendation of a physician, they could have negative effects. In 1996, the Drug Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act was passed by Congress. According to it, anyone who gives these drugs to another person who is unaware of it, or does so in order to commit assault, can be imprisoned for as much as twenty years.

  • Rohypnol is legal in many parts of the world as an anesthetic and a sleep medication, but it is illegal in the U.S.
  • GHB is currently legal in the U.S. as a medication for narcolepsy.
  • Ketamine is also legal in the U.S. as an anesthetic, most often used with animals.

Does Alcohol Also Count?

Although most people don’t realize it, alcohol is most often cited in cases of date rape. It is considered a date rape drug. Assailants typically use alcohol to impair their victim’s judgment and motor ability. Quite often it is also used to dispense another drug in a seemingly unnoticeable manner. Assault victims are not considered at fault even if they had been drinking.

  • Alcohol impairs people’s ability to think clearly and recognize risky situations.
  • When impaired by alcohol, a victim is not as able to fight off or escape from a physical or sexual assault.
  • Severe drinking can cause unconsciousness or temporary loss of memory.

How Can I Stay Safe?

It is entirely possible to stay safe while still having fun at parties or at a club. Go with a group of friends and stay together. Everyone should keep an eye out for each other and plan to go home together at the end of the night. Ask one person to be the group’s designated driver. These additional tips will help to keep everyone safe.

  • Only accept drinks directly from the bartender or from your trusted friends.
  • Containers should be opened by you.
  • Don’t leave your drink lying around unattended. Take it with you, even to the bathroom, or ask a trusted friend to hold it for you.
  • Never share drinks, especially with strangers.
  • Avoid public drinks, such as punch bowls.
  • If a drink tastes strange, smells odd, or has unexplained fizz or foam in it, don’t drink it.
  • Stay close to your sober designated driver if you feel that you’ve had too much to drink.
  • If there is any possibility that you have been drugged or even raped, do not urinate, clean your body, or remove clothing until you have gone to a hospital or police station.
  • Do a urine test as soon as you regain consciousness, since the drugs can leave the body in a matter of hours.
  • Phone a crisis center for more information or advice. You can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline toll-free at 800-799-SAFE or also at 800-787-3224.
  • Even though you might feel afraid, embarrassed, or shocked, get professional help as soon as possible.

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