RCASA’s Friday Facts: Date Rape Drugs and Their Effects

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on June 24, 2011 at 8:00 am

“Date Rape” Drugs

Rohypnol (pronounced “ro-hip-nol”), Gamma Hydroxybutrate (commonly called GHB), Ketamine, and Gama Butyrolactone (commonly called GBL), are the more common drugs that have been used to commit sexual assaults. Although most of these drugs are illegal in the United States (Ketamine has certain legal uses), cases involving these “date-rape drugs” are becoming more common in both university and off campus settings. Most often, the perpetrator will slip the drug into an unsuspecting person’s drink. When the drug begins to take effect, the victim’s inhibitions will be lowered, and they may appear intoxicated whether or not they are actually drunk. The victim may experience any and/or all of the following symptoms: nausea, dizziness, paralysis or “heaviness” of limbs, tunnel vision or other visual disturbances and respiratory problems. When mixed with alcohol, narcotics, or other depressants, the effects of these drugs are intensified and may cause temporary amnesia, blackouts, coma, or death.

Rohypnol is a hypnotic sedative ten times more powerful than Valium. It previously came in the form of a white, dime-sized pill that quickly dissolves in liquids and has no taste or odor. The drug-maker, Hoffman-LaRoche, has changed the makeup of the drug because it has been used to commit sexual assault. The newer form of Rohypnol now dissolves more slowly and releases a blue dye. It may color light-colored drinks and give a cloudy appearance to darker drinks. It is important to remember that the older, less visible form of Rohypnol may still be in use by some perpetrators. Other names for Rohypnol include Roofies, Roaches, Rope, and the Forget Pill.

Potential Effects:

  • disorientation, dizziness, and/or drowsiness beginning within 15 minutes to 1 hour after ingestion;
  • hot or cold flashes;
  • difficulty speaking;
  • partial paralysis or heaviness in the limbs;
  • partial or complete inability to remember what happened after ingesting the drug;
  • severe “hang over” effects for up to 48 hours after ingestion, which may include headache, nausea, and dizziness.

GHB is a sedative. It is usually homemade and sold on the black market. Like Rohypnol, GHB has made its way into the Rave and club scenes, as well as to college campuses. It is a colorless, odorless substance that comes in many forms including pill, powder, and most commonly, liquid. GHB sometimes has a salty taste. Other names for GHB include Liquid X, Easy Lay, Liquid Ecstasy, and Saltwater.

Potential Effects:

  • behavioral changes similar to those associated with extreme drunkenness beginning 5 to 20 minutes after ingestion;
  • nausea, vomiting;
  • dizziness;
  • memory impairment;
  • loss of consciousness.

Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic used mainly by veterinarians, although it can be used as a human anesthetic in low doses. The powder form of Ketamine can be snorted, mixed into drinks, or smoked; the liquid form can be injected, mixed into drinks, or applied to smoking materials. Other names for Ketamine include Special K, K, and KitKat.

Potential Effects:

  • feelings of dissociation such as feeling separated from your body;
  • hallucinations;
  • inability to feel pain;
  • decreased heart rate and/or heart failure;
  • decreased oxygen to the muscles and brain.

GBL was sold over the counter as a dietary supplement with claims that it builds muscle, enhances sexual performance, and reduces stress. It is often sold in health food stores under names such as Firewater, Regenerize, and Revivarant. GBL comes in both a powder and liquid form, and is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. When GBL is ingested, it breaks down into the drug GHB (see above description) and has the same dangerous effects. Because it breaks down into GHB, GBL is illegal by law. When enough of the drug is ingested, it can cause periods of deep sleep or coma, amnesia, and vomiting.

Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act

In 1996, the “Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act” was enacted. This bill outlaws the use of Rohypnol, GHB, and other “date-rape drugs” and subjects rapists to an additional 20 years in prison if they are convicted of using these drugs to incapacitate their victims. The law also covers possession, manufacture, or distribution of an illegal drug with intent to use it in commission of a violent crime. Simple possession of these drugs with no proven intent to commit assault carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Steps to Reduce Your Risk Of Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault

The perpetrator of sexual assault is solely responsible for committing the assault, victims are not at fault. There are steps that we all can take to reduce our risk of assault.

  • Go out with and stay with friends – perpetrators isolate the victim to make committing a sexual assault easier.
  • Keep your drink with you at all times – setting it down for even a second is enough time for someone to tamper with it.
  • Get your own drinks – even if you know the person who is offering the drinks.
  • Avoid punch bowls – or other drinks that are highly accessible to being tampered with.
  • Avoid taking drinks that have candy or other objects in them – these objects may be used to disguise the appearance or taste of drugs in the drink.
  • Confront rumors or evidence of drugging – perpetrators use silence and secrecy to commit assaults
  • Get help for anyone who seems like they may have been drugged – even if you don’t know them, stay with them.
  • Drink responsibly – intoxication will lessen your awareness of what is going on around you.

 Please call RCASA’s hotline at (540) 371-1666 for further assistance. Someone will be available to talk with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


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