Date rape drugs are used to assist in sexual assaults. The drugs are often slipped into alcoholic beverages. They are tasteless, odorless, and colorless so the person is not aware that they are being drugged.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), these drugs peaked in popularity in the 1990s and early 2000s. While overall use has declined, abuse of these drugs still remains a problem. The age group that most often uses these drugs intentionally consists of individuals between the ages of 18 and 25, although younger people between the ages of 12 and 17 are also prone to using these drugs.

What Are Date Rape Drugs?

Most of these drugs are very potent, and they make the user confused, disoriented, and unable to recall the specific events that occurred when they were under the influence of the drug. There are several drugs that are commonly used as date rape drugs. Most of these drugs are also considered to be “club drugs” because they are typically used at nightclubs or rave parties. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists the majority of these drugs as controlled substances, and their possession without a prescription is illegal; in some cases, any possession of these drugs at all is illegal.

Rohypnol

GHB

A form of gamma-hydroxybutyrate is marketed under the brand name Xyrem (using gamma-hydroxybutyric acid or sodium oxybate) and used as a treatment for the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy. The preparations using gamma hydroxybutyric acid are classified by the DEA as Schedule III controlled substance; whereas gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. GHB is illegal to obtain or possess in the United States, whereas Xyrem requires a prescription from a physician.

GHB is wrongly portrayed in lay circles as a steroid or aphrodisiac, which is where it gets its reputation and application as a date rape drug, but it is a central nervous system depressant. It is a naturally occurring metabolite of a brain neurotransmitter (gamma amino butyric acid [GABA]). GABA is the most prevalent inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, and it functions to slow down the operations of other neurons in the brain and spinal cord. GHB can also be produced in home labs by individuals who can find instructions and substances online.

GHB comes in several different forms, including a colorless liquid, a white powder, and pill form. It is generally odorless and tasteless but may have a slightly salty taste when mixed in alcoholic drinks. GHB goes by a number of street names that include Georgia home boy, liquid ecstasy, grievous body harm, liquid E, and cherry meth.

GHB is relatively fast-acting, and its effects may be felt in as few as 10-15 minutes after ingesting it. Is also quickly eliminated from the body, and its effects will typically last between three and four hours. The drug is quite potent, so very small amounts of the drug can have serious effects. Because it is so potent, it is easy to experience an overdose from the drug, which can be fatal in some cases.

Typical effects include:

  • Sedation, lethargy, and a dreamlike feeling
  • Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and sweating
  • Significantly decreased rates of breathing or decreased heart rate in some people
  • Problems with vision
  • Anterograde amnesia
  • Loss of consciousness (may include blackout), seizures, tremors, and in serious cases of overdose, comatose states

As a person takes higher doses of GHB, their breathing rate and heart rate become depressed to potentially dangerous levels. Chronic use of GHB may lead to the development of physical dependence on the drug.

GHB is also difficult to detect in normal laboratory tests, as it is a metabolite of a natural occurring substance in the body.

Ketamine

Other Potential Date Rape Drugs

 

Rohypnol, GHB, and ketamine are the three drugs that are most often associated as date rape drugs. These drugs have lost popularity since the early 2000s; however, they still are abused to some extent and may be used as potential date rape drugs. The majority of individuals who take these drugs are under the age of 25, often attend nightclubs or rave parties, and take them in small amounts for their psychoactive effects.

 

Any substance that alters perception and judgment can be conceivably used in a sexual assault. According to sources like NIDA, several other drugs may commonly be used in sexual assaults.

  • MDMA (3, 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), better known as ecstasy, has hallucinogenic and stimulating effects. Taking ecstasy will result in a sense of euphoria, increased social behaviors, a rush of energy, increased body temperature, and a general feeling of wellbeing. The drug also affects memory. Using large amounts of ecstasy in crowded environments that are extremely warm increases the risk of an individual becoming dehydrated or having a heart attack. The DEA lists MDMA as a Schedule I controlled substance, indicating that the drug has no known medicinal uses and a high potential to be abused as well as a significant potential for the development of physical dependence.
  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a hallucinogenic drug that produces powerful hallucinations, intense emotional feelings, euphoria, and loss of judgment. It is typically taken in very small doses in liquid form or as capsules. The effects of LSD are very long-lasting and, in some cases, can produce significant anxiety, depression, and even issues with judgment that can lead to accidents. The initial effects of taking LSD include an increase in heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilated pupils, sweating, dry mouth, loss of appetite, and the experience that colors and sounds are much more intense. Individuals also begin to experience visual and auditory hallucinations and an intensification of their feelings. This makes them much more susceptible to sexual assault.
  • Methamphetamine, known to most as meth or crystal meth, is a highly potent stimulant drug. This drug is often produced in home laboratories using products that can be obtained over the counter in drug stores or even hardware stores. The drug often appears as shards of glass and is typically smoked, ground up and snorted, or injected with water. Meth is not a type of drug that someone would try to slip into one’s drink at a bar. Instead, someone would most likely take the drug voluntarily with other people and then once the drug takes hold, the results of intoxication to the drug could affect the individual’s judgment and reasoning so the person could easily be sexually assaulted.
  • Any discussion of potential drugs associated with sexual abuse should include alcohol, as it is a potential date rape drug. Alcohol has a long history of being used by sexual predators. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and when one is heavily intoxicated, they often become less inhibited, have issues with judgment, experience difficulty with controlling motor coordination, and can be very easily exploited.

Signs of a Potential Date Rape

It is often hard to tell if one has been drugged. Most often victims do not know until several hours after they had been drugged. A couple warning signs may be:

  • Beginning to feel intoxicated despite having very few alcoholic beverages
  • Remembering having a drink or two but not recalling anything after that
  • Waking up and feeling as if one has a hangover but not remembering anything about the night before
  • Waking up and feeling as if one had sex or noticing that one’s clothing seems loose or out of place

Someone who suspects that they may have been the victim of date rape should get medical attention immediately. It is imperative to have laboratory tests, such as urinalysis or blood work, as quickly as possible as these drugs often leave the system very quickly. One should also contact friends and the authorities as soon as possible.

Some tips that can help one avoid becoming a victim of date rape follow:

  • Always attend night clubs, parties, and social gatherings with a friend. Watch out for one another.
  • Do not accept drinks from others, especially strangers.
  • Do not share drinks with others.
  • Do not leave drinks unattended. Take them with you if you leave the area or go to the bathroom.
  • Do not drink from common open containers, such as punch bowls.
  • Open any drink containers personally.
  • If you leave a drink unattended, simply order another one. Do not drink the one that was left.
  • Do not drink anything that tastes or smells odd.
  • If you begin to feel intoxicated even though you have not consumed much alcohol, immediately asked for help from a friend.
  • Stay in control of the situation. Know the warning signs of a potential abusive situation and be prepared to act on them.