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Staying Safe from Predators When Drinking

Michael Leach CCMA By Michael Leach | Last Updated: 5 December 2023

There are significant risks associated with date rape drugs. An individual could use any licit or illicit drug to alter someone’s consciousness in a way that makes self-defense or decision-making difficult. For example, drink spiking occurs to perpetrate a sexual assault. Unfortunately, drug-facilitated sexual assaults are common. Yet, there are practical alcohol safety tips and general tips to avoid being a victim. Additionally, knowing the most common date rape drugs and their side effects aids in preventing or stopping sexual violence.

  • What You'll Learn

Tips to Stay Safe when Drinking

Logo to represent alcohol

Alcohol is the number one date rape drug out of all the drugs.

Logo to represent keeping track

Keep track of your drinks when socializing.

Logo to represent binge drinking

Do not binge drink or exceed one drink per hour; know your limits.

Logo to represent not leaving a drink unattended

Never leave a drink unattended.

Logo to represent communicating

Communicate plans with friends or family.

Logo to represent setting boundaries

When on dates, set boundaries.

Logo to represent trusting your instincts

Trust your instincts.

Logo to represent seeking medical help if needed

Seek immediate medical emergency help if you suspect you or someone you know has been drugged.

What Are The Dangers?

Drugs such as ketamine, GHB, Rohypnol, benzodiazepines, and even alcohol make sexual assault easier by accomplishing the following:

  • The individual becomes more compliant and less able to say no.
  • The person is weakened, so they cannot resist and fight back.
  • The individual becomes wholly or partially unconscious.
  • Inhibitions are weakened, and the person would likely consent to sexual activity that they would typically decline.

Many of these drugs are known as date rape drugs. However, any substance that changes a person’s state of mind could be used for this purpose. Alcohol, for example, accounts for nearly 31% of all drug-facilitated sexual assault cases. Alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions making them less aware of their surroundings.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault

There are steps that individuals can take to avoid being a victim of a drug-facilitated sexual assault. In addition, preventing date rape also takes a group effort with friends, family members, or acquaintances watching out for one another.

 

How to Stay Safe

Generally, if a drink has been spiked, it can be visible, taste, or smell different, but not always. Some of the most common safety advice includes watching your drink and never leaving it alone, always being aware of your surroundings, and avoiding meeting strangers.

Additionally, it can be hard to distinguish the effects of a drug from those of alcohol—this can be especially challenging after consuming large quantities of alcohol.

Someone who is accustomed to the effects of alcohol should consider what they typically feel after drinking or when they become intoxicated.

Medical testing is the only way to know for sure if a drink was spiked.

Some of the drink safety tips include the following:

  • Keep the drink in your hand at all times.
  • If at all possible, drink from a bottle rather than a glass and hold your thumb over the opening.
  • Do not leave the drink unattended at any time.

Drinks do not have to be alcoholic to be spiked, but it is the most common.

Alcohol safety tips include knowing where the drink is coming from or watching the person making it. Overall, this is applied to alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Environmental safety tips include some of the following:

  • Be aware of the surroundings and keep an eye on a friend’s drink.
  • Do not share drinks or consume leftover drinks.
  • Avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Never accept a drink from someone you do not know or trust.
  • When going on a first date, tell a friend or relative where you will be.
  • Do not give too much information to someone you first meet.
  • Go home if you feel confused or inebriated.

Information on Sexual Assault

51% of rape among women occurs by an intimate partner.

51% of rape among women occurs by an intimate partner.

40% of rape among women occurs by an acquaintance.

40% of rape among women occurs by an acquaintance.

52% of rape among men occurs by an acquaintance.

52% of rape among men occurs by an acquaintance.

15% of rape among men occurs by a stranger.

15% of rape among men occurs by a stranger.

Identify the Signs & Symptoms of Date Rape Drugs

Stopping and preventing date rape begins with staying safe and recognizing drugged drink signs and the symptoms of these drugs.

There are specific date rape drug symptoms that others can look for, including the person who was drugged.

Moreover, recognizing drugged drinks is challenging as these substances dissolve quickly. Yet, there are some nuances to look for in a drink.

The average person whose drink has been spiked will likely act as though they are intoxicated.

Common Signs of Date Rape Drugs

Some of the common symptoms of date rape drugs include the following:

  • Euphoria and feelings of power and togetherness.
  • Detachment, dissociation, and disorientation.
  • Audio and visual hallucinations.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Blacking out and memory gaps.
  • Impaired motor controls and cognition.

Specific Date Rape Drug Symptoms

Specific date rape drugs, such as GHB, Ketamine, and Rohypnol, have similar effects on the victim, but there are some slight differences.

GHB—The drug is a colorless and tasteless liquid. GHB mimics extreme inebriation and causes drowsiness, vertigo, reduced heart rate, nausea, memory gaps, and blacking out. The individual wakes up with little to no memory of what happened.

Ketamine—The drug is generally found as a crystal or a powder that is dissolved in a drink. Ketamine causes hallucinations, aggression, agitation, shaking, tremors, loss of coordination, difficulty breathing, and passing out. Large doses of ketamine cause temporary paralysis.

Rohypnol—The drug is an intermediate-acting sedative that belongs to the drug class benzodiazepines. Rohypnol is generally found in pill form but can also be used as a powder. The drug causes dizziness, lethargy, loss of muscle control, visual hallucinations, memory lapse, and nausea. The victim will likely black out and have little or no memory of what happened.

Drugged Drink Warning Signs

There are some drugged drink signs to look for, and this includes some of the following:

  • The color of the drink may have changed. The change in the color of a drink is a strong indicator. Some of the drugs turn a drink darker or lighter than it was before. Rohypnol, for example, has been known to turn drinks blue.
  • The drink looks cloudy or murky and does not clear up. This is a strong indicator that a drink has been spiked.
  • The drink produces excessive bubbles beyond what a carbonated beverage should make. This is difficult to notice because of carbonation; however, if there is excessive fizzing in the drink, it may have been spiked.
  • The drink tastes funny. For example, this would likely be a bitter or salty taste in the drink.

Adolescent and Young Adult Date Rape Prevention

Statistically, adolescents and young adults are four times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than women in all other age groups.

During most of these cases, the perpetrator is an acquaintance of the victim.

This is a subset of acquaintance rape involving somebody you know, such as a boyfriend, girlfriend, classmate, friend, or someone you just met, using coercion.

Coercion includes drugs, alcohol, violence, or threats to force unwanted sexual activity. Statistically, 75% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. 

Prevention involves the following:

  • Be clear about limitations, expect respect, and avoid those who do not show respect.
  • Never allow a person to touch you if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Avoid excessive drinking or drugs.
    Whenever possible, prepare your own drinks.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Have a backup plan.

What to Do if You Suspect or Become a Victim of Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault

Successful date rape prevention strategies involve knowing what to do if you or someone you know has been a victim of drug-facilitated sexual assault. Anyone involved should report date rape drugs and any instance they may witness.

When someone’s drink has been spiked, they will generally lose consciousness quickly, so it is critical not to waste time trying to find the person who drugged the drink. However, the first step should always be to call for emergency help and get them to a safe place.

It is also vital to seek emergency medical care, as most drugs used for sexual assault leave the body within 12 to 72 hours.

When the person is brought to an emergency room, the doctor, nurse, or dispatcher should be informed of possible drugging.

In contrast, anyone who wakes up showing signs of being drugged should also seek emergency medical care immediately.

If there are signs of rape or sexual assault, the individual should avoid showering or bathing to preserve evidence. A hospital uses a rape kit to test for signs of sexual assault. In addition, a crisis center should be arranged to help the individual.

Finally, it is essential to report what occurred to local authorities. Police may have received similar reports, so the more information they have, the better chance of catching the responsible individual.

The Effects of Date Rape Drugs on Your Body & Health

Unfortunately, these drugs can impact an individual’s body and health. Overall, drug-facilitated sexual assault risks include damage to an individual’s health.

While being aware of the risks of drinking with drugs in it is essential, understanding the health risks is an excellent preventative tool.

  • Rohypnol, for example, creates a sedative effect, amnesia, and muscle relaxation. Sedation occurs within 15 to 30 minutes and peaks after two hours. The drug is ten times more potent than valium and quickly enters the bloodstream after ingestion.
  • Users experience extreme sedation, dizziness, and loss of bodily control. The long-term effects of continued use include physical and psychological dependence.

Drugs like ketamine and GHB cause unconsciousness, hallucinations, loss of body control, and numbing. An overdose can be fatal. While most people recover from the effects, there can be lingering instances where the drug is still felt days or weeks after it was consumed.

Additional Resources About Sexual Assault and Date Rape Drugs

Helpful Sexual Assault Resources

RAINN logo

RAINN

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the largest anti-sexual violence organization.

nsvrc.org Logo

NSVRC

National Sexual Violence Resource Center is a nonprofit organization providing tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence.

Victim Connect Resource Center Logo

Victim Connect Resource Center

VictimConnect Resource Center (VCRC) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for victims’ rights.

Helpful Articles

Office on Women's Health Logo

Date Rape Drugs

An article from OASH (Office on Women’s Health) about date rape drugs.

CDC logo

Prevention Strategies

An article from the CDC about prevention of sexual violence.

DEA logo

Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault

Information from the DEA on how drugs used for sexual assault.

CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ARTICLE

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Michael Leach is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, who has over 5 years of experience working in the field of addiction. He spent his career working under the board-certified Addictionologist Dr. Rohit Adi. His experience includes working with families during their loved one’s stay in treatment, helping those with substance abuse issues find treatment, and teaching life skills to patients in a recovery atmosphere. Though he has worked in many different areas of rehabilitation, the majority of his time was spent working one on one with patients who were actively withdrawing from drugs. Withdrawal and the fear of going through it is one biggest reason why an addict continues to use and can be the most difficult part of the rehabilitation process. His experience in the withdrawal atmosphere has taught him that regardless of what approach a person takes to get off drugs, there are always mental and emotional obstacles that need to be overcome. He believes having someone there to help a person through these obstacles can make all the difference during the withdrawal process.