Spiked Drink Victim?
What to Do Now
At fraternity parties, raves, nightclubs and bars, mind-altering drugs are being slipped into drinks and served to unsuspecting victims. Although alcoholic beverages are most likely to be spiked, limiting yourself to soda or other non-alcoholic beverages won’t necessarily protect you. Some of these drugs are tasteless and colorless and can be blended easily into any liquid. The most commonly used drugs cause inhibition, sedation and memory loss, making them the perfect tools to facilitate a crime. What would motivate someone to spike another person’s drink, putting that person at risk of a potentially fatal reaction or overdose? There are a lot of possible motives, ranging from serious crimes like rape and robbery to practical jokes or pranks. A stranger might add sedatives to your drink in order to render you unconscious and assault you. On other hand, a friend might spike your drink with a hallucinogenic substance in order to help you “loosen up” and “have a good time.”
By the time you become aware that your drink has been altered, you may already be feeling the effects of the drug. Because there’s no way to be certain whether your drink or a friend’s drink has been spiked, it’s important to educate yourself and practice caution in all situations.
Drugs to Watch Out For
There are many substances used to spike drinks. Because drink spiking has often been associated with unwanted sexual contact and rape, these drugs are known in popular culture as “date rape drugs.” The most common date rape drug among college students, according to the University of Notre Dame’s Office of Alcohol and Drug Education, is alcohol itself. The number of college students who were victims of alcohol-related sexual assaults was close to 100,000, according to 2005 statistics. Even if your drink isn’t spiked, consuming too much alcohol puts you at risk of violence, rape and theft. Although date rape drugs fall into many different categories, the most common drugs are sedatives and hallucinogens. Sedatives like Rohypnol and ketamine depress the central nervous system, slowing down vital functions like breathing, heartbeat and metabolism. In the early stages of intoxication, you may feel happy and calm, or even euphoric. As your inhibitions are lowered, you become more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors like unprotected sex. In the later stages, your breathing and heart rate can become dangerously slow. You may become confused, sleepy and unconscious. In the event of an overdose, you could become comatose and die. Hallucinogenic drugs alter the way you perceive reality. These drugs can cause visual or auditory hallucinations, or create a confusion of the senses called “synesthesia” in which you see odors or taste colors. Hallucinogenic drugs like Ecstasy can also create feelings of warmth and intimacy with others, increasing the risk of unwanted sexual contact.
3 Most Frequently Used Date Rape Drugs
Many date rape drugs have legitimate uses and are relatively easy to obtain. They may be prescribed for anxiety disorders or used as anesthetics during surgery. The Office on Women’s Health has identified three drugs that are most frequently used to facilitate sexual assault:
- Rohypnol (flunitrazepam). Rohypnol belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which are used legally to relieve the symptoms of anxiety, to promote sleep or to prevent muscle spasms. This powerful sedative has not been approved for medical use in the United States, but it is legal in Mexico, South America, Asia and Europe. Tasteless and odorless, Rohypnol can easily be blended with alcohol, carbonated drinks or other beverages. On the streets, Rohypnol is also known as roofies, roaches, Mexican Valium, trip-and-fall, forget pill and mind erasers. Rohypnol usually takes effect within 30 minutes, causing drowsiness, confusion, loss of motor coordination, visual disturbances, dizziness, amnesia and eventually unconsciousness.
- GHB (gamma hydroxybutiric acid). At one time, GHB was used to treat anxiety and the complications of childbirth. Today, because GHB is produced in underground laboratories, it’s difficult to judge the potency or purity of any given batch of this drug. Also known as grievous bodily harm, bedtime scoop, easy lay, gook and cherry meth, GHB is a potent synthetic sedative that can cause drowsiness, memory loss, difficulty breathing, nausea, seizures, vomiting and unconsciousness. Although GHB has a salty taste, it isn’t always easy to detect that taste in a beverage because a very small amount can produce a powerful effect. It may take only 15 minutes for you to notice the effects of GHB, which can last for several hours.
- Ketamine. This anesthetic is used legally in the United States, mostly in veterinary practices. Popular nicknames for this drug include Cat Valium, black hole, special K, psychedelic heroin and bump. A small dose of ketamine can cause hallucinations, disorientation, loss of motor coordination, difficulty breathing, a sense of dissociation from your body, memory loss, high blood pressure, seizures and vomiting. Ketamine has a terribly bitter taste, but because it acts so fast, you may not have time to react once you’ve tasted this drug in a beverage. Ketamine can leave you unconscious very quickly or cause a loss of muscle function combined with a dream-like awareness of what’s happening to you. Because it also causes amnesia, you may not remember an assault the next day.
Rohypnol, GHB and ketamine aren’t the only drugs used in spiking. Ecstasy, or MDMA, is a hallucinogenic sedative that is often blended into beverages at underground clubs, parties or raves. Legal benzodiazepines like Xanax or Klonopin have also been used to spike drinks and facilitate crimes. Hallucinogenic drugs like LSD and PCP may be slipped into alcoholic drinks or sodas. In some cases, drugs are combined to create a more powerful effect. Rohypnol can be combined with Ecstasy in a practice known as “synthetic speedballing.” Cocaine, heroin and marijuana can be blended with hallucinogenic drugs to intensify sedation or counterbalance the effects of a sedative drug.
Symptoms of Being Drugged
You’re out having fun with friends. The drinks are flowing, the music’s loud, and you’re surrounded by crowds of attractive people. People keep handing you drinks, and you lose track of how many you’ve had. How do you know whether you’re under influence of a date rape drug or “just a little buzzed”? It’s not always easy to tell, especially if you’re already under the influence of alcohol.
Here are a few warning signs to look out for:
- You feel unusually drowsy.
- Your vision gets blurry.
- You feel nauseated and sick.
- Your heart begins to race.
- You feel extremely thirsty.
- You feel like you’re in a dream state.
- You feel like you’re outside your own body.
- Your mood suddenly changes (for example, you become very depressed, angry or aggressive).
- You lose your coordination.
- You feel numb.
Many of the symptoms of ingesting a spiked drink are similar to the effects of alcohol intoxication. To reduce your risk of a crime, an adverse reaction or an overdose, use the buddy system. Whenever you go to a place where alcohol will be consumed, have a designated driver or a sober friend keep an eye on your drinking patterns and monitor your whereabouts throughout the night. Never go to a new club or a party without letting someone know where you’ll be.
Helping a Friend in Trouble
Recognizing the signs of drug intoxication in a friend could literally make the difference between life and death. The more carefully you monitor your own drink consumption, the better prepared you’ll be to react to drink spiking if it occurs. Look for these red flags:
- Sudden, extreme drowsiness
- Slurred speech
- Loss of orientation to person, place or time
- Clumsy, uncoordinated movements
- Nausea, retching or vomiting
- Reports of visual or auditory hallucinations
- Cool, clammy skin or hot, flushed skin
- A rapid pulse
- Sweating without excessive activity
- Slow or shallow breathing
Some of these symptoms can be signs of alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that is just as dangerous as ingesting unknown drugs. If you notice that someone you’re with is behaving strangely at a place where drinks are being served, don’t wait to take action or assume that he or she can “sleep it off.” Take the beverage away from your friend and seek medical attention immediately.
What to Do if You’ve Been Drugged
If you think you’ve ingested all or part of a spiked drink, make it known to others immediately. Call 911 or get a friend to take you to the emergency room as soon as possible. Never let a stranger take you from a party or club to get help; if you can’t leave with someone you know and trust, wait for emergency medical personnel. While you’re waiting for help, don’t accept any more beverages, even water.
Even if you haven’t had any alcohol and you don’t feel any unusual side effects, do not try to drive yourself to a safe place. You may not feel the full effects of a drug until you’re already behind the wheel.
What to Do if You’ve Been the Victim of a Crime
Amnesia is a common side effect of many date rape drugs, which means that you may not remember being assaulted or robbed while you were under the influence. In some cases, you may not even be sure whether you were drugged. Memories of an assault may eventually come back to you, but you may not recall anything until hours after the drug has been eliminated from your system.
The signs of a crime may be very obvious or very subtle:
- You wake up in a strange place.
- You have bruises, scratches or unusual pain.
- You notice semen, blood or hair on your body.
- You smell unusual odors on your skin or clothes.
- Your clothes are in disarray, as if someone else put them on.
- Money or valuable personal belongings are missing.
- You don’t remember entire blocks of time.
- You feel hungover even if you didn’t have any alcohol.
- You remember feeling extremely drunk, even though you didn’t have that much to drink.
- You just feel that something isn’t right.
If you think you may have been the victim of an assault, go to an emergency room or urgent care center immediately. You may have an overwhelming need to take a shower, urinate, rinse your mouth or change your clothes, but doing these things can damage the evidence of a rape. If you were drugged within the past 12 hours, your urine may still have traces of the substance. Try to leave your body and clothing intact, so they can be tested by medical personnel. Have a friend or family member go with you to provide emotional support. Individual counseling and peer support groups can help you recover from the aftermath of a crime.
If you’ve been robbed or injured, call the police to report the crime. Victims of drink spiking often feel embarrassed, guilty or ashamed when they’ve been assaulted or robbed. They may feel that their own behavior caused the crime or that they were somehow responsible for being drugged. It’s important to remember that you are not at fault and that by reporting the incident you may prevent others from being victimized by the same perpetrator.
How to Avoid Being a Victim
Drink spiking as a way to facilitate sexual assault may be more common than we think. The National Institute of Justice Journal reports that while statistics show that over 430,000 sexual assaults take place in the US every year, it’s impossible to tell how many of these cases involve a victim who was drugged without their knowledge. Many victims don’t recall or report the crime until days, weeks or months after it occurs. Some are too ashamed or embarrassed to report the crime at all. Still others may not want to report a rape because they know the perpetrator on a personal basis. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), close to 75 percent of rapists and sexual offenders are friends, family members or partners of the victim. The most important thing you can do to avoid being drugged against your will is to limit your consumption of alcohol as much as possible. When you’re already under the influence, you’re much more likely to become the victim of drink spiking. Here are a few other important measures you can take to protect yourself and your friends:
- Nominate a designated driver to stay sober throughout the night.
- When you’re out, don’t accept drinks from strangers.
- Avoid taking recreational drugs or using prescription medications for non-medical purposes, even if they’re offered by people you know.
- Only accept a drink that comes in a closed beverage container.
- Avoid communal drinks served in bowls or other containers.
- Never leave your drink unattended while you’re at a party, concert or nightclub.
- If your drink has a bitter, salty or strange taste, stop drinking immediately.
- If you’re going to a club, bar or party, try to avoid taking valuable personal belongings, credit cards or large amounts of cash. If you do take valuables with you, try to keep them out of sight of others.
Drink spiking can cause severe emotional and physical trauma. It can also increase your risk of depression, isolation and suicidal behavior. At Futures, we want you to be safe and healthy, whether or not you have a substance abuse problem. We’re here to answer your questions about drug abuse and rehab and to give you the answers you need to lead a balanced, sober life.