Everything You Need to Know about Date Rape Drugs


Date rape is rape committed by someone with whom the survivor had previously been on a date with, talked to at a party, or otherwise been seeing. It is a type of acquaintance rape that happens between two people, at least one of whom anticipates romantic contact in the future. Date rape does not have to be committed with the help of drugs or alcohol, but it often is, particularly in bars or nightclubs or on college campuses.

A group of students drinking and socializing

Nobody wants to believe that it could happen to them, but it can happen to anyone. Aside from alcohol, which is the most common mind-altering substance that is used to accomplish date rape, there are three different drugs that are considered date rape drugs: rohypnol (commonly known as roofies), GHB (also called liquid ecstasy), and ketamine.

Rohypnol

Rohypnol is commonly used to treat insomnia in countries outside the United States, but it is illegal to produce and sell in the United States; it is often smuggled in from Mexico. Generally speaking, Rohypnol is a muscle relaxant with side effects that include sleepiness, changes to reaction time, impaired judgement, confusion, loss of motor function, and memory loss. Rohypnol affects the person who has taken it very fast, within 15 to 30 minutes of ingestion, and the effects can last up to eight hours.

Brand name Rohypnol pills are green and oval-shaped. When dissolved in clear and light-colored liquids, the drug has been redesigned to turn the water blue. However, not all people purchasing Rohypnol have access to brand name drugs, and the off-brand options may not be the same shape or color or include the dye. Rohypnol has no scent or flavor, but if your drink does turn blue while you are out with friends or at a party, stop drinking it immediately.

GHBGHB is one of several date rape drugs, including Rohypnol and Ketamine

Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) naturally occurs in the human body in very small amounts. Synthetic GHB mimics the effects of natural GHB at a higher intensity: euphoria, sleepiness, confusion, memory loss, and hallucinations. It may also cause nausea and vomiting. In high doses, GHB can cause unconsciousness, vomiting, coma, and death. GHB can affect the person who has been drugged within 15 minutes of ingestion, and the effects can last up to six hours.

GHB is not legal in the United States, and it is created illegally in labs throughout and outside of the country. Since it is being synthesized by different “cooks,” there is no control on the dosage that is being sold. GHB often comes in the form of a liquid but may also be a white powder. It may taste salty, but once dissolved, the drug is both colorless and odorless.

Ketamine

Ketamine was initially developed for use as an anesthetic during surgery but is now used as an animal tranquilizer. Ketamine is extremely fast acting; often people who’ve been drugged with ketamine experience side effects within minutes of ingestion. These may include hallucinations, increased heart rate, unresponsiveness, nausea, and amnesia. The hallucinogenic effects of ketamine may wear off after only an hour, but impaired judgement and memory may persist for up to 24 hours. Ketamine comes in two forms: a white or off-white powder and a liquid.

How to Avoid Being Drugged

A bartender making drinks; the best way to avoid date rape and roofies is to keep an eye on your drink at all times.

  • Avoid “jungle juice” or punch bowls at parties. Every guest has access to them and could easily slip drugs inside unnoticed.
  • Pour your own drinks. If you’re making it, you know what’s in it.
  • Watch the bartender make your drink. If a person offers to buy you a drink while you’re out, it is okay to accept, but you should order the drink from the bartender yourself and watch it being made. Don’t let the person you’re with, especially if you don’t know him or her very well, get a hand on your drink.
  • Don’t leave your drinks unattended. If you do leave to go to the bathroom, for instance, and forget your drink, dump it and make yourself a new one.
  • There’s safety in numbers. If you’re out with friends, stick with them. Criminals are less likely to drug you if you’re always surrounded by friends. Don’t give anyone the opportunity by going off on your own.
  • If your drink has changed color or looks cloudy, don’t drink it. It may be hard to tell if you’re out on the town or in a dimly lit room, but if you’re suspicious at all, it’s better to be safe. Dump it out and get a new drink.
  • Drink responsibly. Though everyone’s body is different, people generally metabolize about one alcoholic beverage each hour. To stay in control, drink slowly and have a glass of water after each alcoholic beverage. Eat a large meal before a night of drinking and do not mix drugs and alcohol.
  • If you think you’ve been drugged, immediately seek assistance. Call 9-1-1, get to a public place, and stay with a bartender or friend until help arrives. You may feel confused, dizzy, or excessively drunk despite having had only limited amounts of alcohol or none at all. The symptoms of these types of drugs come on quickly, so time is of the essence. You may not have more than a few minutes to find help.
  • If you think a friend has been drugged, call 9-1-1 and do not leave his or her side. Under no circumstances should you leave someone that you suspect has been drugged. He or she is in an incredibly vulnerable state and cannot make decisions.

What to Do if You Think You’ve Been a Victim of Date Rape

An ambulance rushing down the street

If you wake up after a night out and are in an unfamiliar location, have little to no recollection of the night, notice that your clothes don’t seem to be on properly, or feel as if you’ve been sexually active, you should immediately get medical care.

  • Call 9-1-1 and explain the situation or have a friend drive you to the emergency room.
  • Do not shower, wash your face, change your clothes, or brush your teeth. Right now, your body is the only evidence you have. If you bathe, you are removing any traces of an attacker.
  • Ask for a drug test at the hospital. You may be subjected to either a blood or urine test. Do not go to the bathroom until you get to the hospital to increase your chances of drugs being found in your system. GHB leaves the body anywhere from a few hours to two days after taking it. Ketamine and Rohypnol are present for longer, between two and four days. However, the length that a drug stays in your system also depends on your metabolism, the quality of the drug, and the dosage you were administered. Drug tests can also only detect certain drugs at certain levels. The faster you get to the hospital for a drug test, the more likely you are to test positive.
  • If you need to talk to someone, but don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline. You will be connected to a trained professional who can provide you with immediate emotional support and connect you to support centers in your geographic area.

College is a time to go to parties and learn about yourself, but these experiences should never come at the expense of your safety. So, go out with your five best friends and enjoy the evening, but watch what you drink and have each other’s backs.


About Megan Clendenon

Megan C. is obsessed with Cincinnati-style chili, Louisville basketball, and Scandinavian crime fiction. She has lived in six different states and held 12 different jobs since beginning her undergraduate degree at Carleton College in 2008. The wanderlust abated somewhat in recent years, as Megan settled in Texas from 2013 to 2016 to finish a master’s degree in geosciences, write a thesis on the future horrors that stem from climate change, and get married. During her free time, you will find Megan sitting on the couch, cheering for her Louisville Cardinals, planning future adventures abroad, and snuggling with her dog, Tiger. She currently lives outside of Washington D.C.

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