Date Rape Drugs

Facilitated Sexual Assault

Date rape drugs are a relatively recent phenomenon and they pose an ugly threat to females in all kinds of social situations including clubs, bars and private parties.

Technically speaking the term date rape drug can be used to refer to any substance which influences someone's ability to resist unwanted sexual advances, including alcohol and marijuana. Let's face it there's nothing new about a predatory male plying his prey with booze in a bid to lure her to bed. What's more sinister about the new generation of date rape drugs is that victims aren't aware they've taken them, and may not even know they've been raped.

The three most common date rape drugs are rohypnol, gamma hydroxyl butyrate (GHB) and ketamine.

They often have no smell or taste and spiking a drink with them is alarmingly easy. When mixed with alcohol the effect of the drugs can be three times as powerful. The victim may only suspect they've taken one of these drugs when they wake up and realise that they've had sex and can't remember a thing about it. The experts call it drug facilitated sexual assault.

Cigarettes soaked in embalming fluid hit the headlines recently as a form of date rape drug. Drug soaked tobacco or marijuana have an instant effect of making the victim temporarily confused.

A look at Rohypnol

Rohypnol is a powerful sedative of the same family as valium but at least 10 times stronger. Somebody who has been given the drug, known on the street as roofies or roaches, will look and act as though they are drunk. They will still be able to function but the chances are they won't remember anything later on. The effect peaks within two hours and can last about eight.

The drug's Swiss manufacturers, Hoffman-LaRoche, have now added a blue dye to rohypnol which fizzes when it comes into contact with liquid. This measure has prompted would-be date rapists to move on to GHB which is proving a more common threat now than rohypnol

GHB

Also known as liquid ecstasy, GHB was originally developed as an anaesthetic for surgery. It's becoming increasingly popular in the club culture because in small doses it can lower inhibitions. In higher doses it can render someone unconscious within five minutes. The effects can last 24 hours.

Ketamine

Ketamine is the new kid on the block. Manufactured mainly as an animal anaesthetic, it causes the human user to feel completely detached from all bodily sensations, although a victim may be vaguely aware that something is happening. Without memory to fall back on some victims are unaware that they have been raped. They may feel very hungover and have a hazy recollection of what has happened. But there may be very clear signs that sex has taken place such as soreness, bruising or traces of semen.

Tracing Date Rape Drugs

Tracing the drugs is very difficult. Usually all signs of them disappear within a couple of days so anyone who suspects they may have been given a date rape drug should get to a police station or hospital quickly and ask for an urgent blood and urine test.

It's difficult to know how widespread date rape is. Victims are less likely to report the crime than other rape victims, often because they have no clear recollection of what has happened to them. In both the USA and the UK major studies are underway to discover the extent of the crime.

The Roofie Foundation, Britain 's only organisation which deals specifically with the issues of drug rape, receives calls from all over the world. In 2003, nearly 1,000 people called its helpline. The majority of callers were in the 30-35 year-old age group and said they had fallen victim to date rape drugs in a pub or club.

See section on "How to protect yourself."

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