Rape Drugs

What is the date rape drug?
Currently, two drugs are making appearances in the news because of their increasing use in rapes. Both Rohypnol and GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid) have sedative effects that, at large enough doses, can produce amnesia in victims, making things especially convenient for a rapist. Unfortunately, both drugs can be mixed into beverages without detection, which is why their use is often associated with bars and clubs.

Rohypnol, or flunitrazepam, is produced in tablets, and while the drug is illegal in the United States, it is popularly prescribed and readily available in many other countries, including neighboring Mexico. Its street names include roofies, roach, R2, and rope. These tablets dissolve readily into liquids, and are subsequently colorless, odorless, and tasteless. When consumed, Rohypnol can produce a drunk, sleepy feeling at low doses - which is how it is used recreationally - but may also lead to amnesia at higher doses. The drug is especially dangerous because it is undetectable, so its maker, Hoffmann-La Roche has started manufacturing it with a blue dye that will color any liquid into which a tablet is dissolved. However, generic versions of the drug are also available, and it is unclear whether they will be as quick to change their products in a similar fashion in order to deter misuse.

GHB was only recently banned in the United States. Gamma hydroxybutyric acid was once used by bodybuilders as a way to build mass, but has increasingly found favor on the club scene, where it is often taken in combination with the drug Ecstasy. Known as liquid ecstasy, liquid x, scoop, or Grievous Bodily Harm, GHB can be obtained in both liquid and power forms. Although it can be snorted, drunk, or smoked for recreational use, rapists prefer to dissolve it into another liquid, since it is odorless and has only a mildly salty taste that can be easily masked by some beverages. Lower doses of the drug lead to amnesia, but higher ones can induce sleep, anesthesia, comas and death.

Considering an estimated 1 in 4 women in the United States will be raped at some point, and that 75% of those assaults are committed by an acquaintance, it is vitally important for all women to be especially cautious in social situations where the date rape drugs may be easily used. A woman should not accept open beverages, whether they contain alcohol or not, from anyone except bartenders or waiters in clubs, and should get her own drinks at parties. She also should not leave her beverages unattended, since this provides a great opportunity for a drug to be slipped into her drink. Friends should also look out for each other, being especially alert if a woman seems more intoxicated that what would be expected compared to how much alcohol she has consumed.

If a woman believes she has been assaulted, or cannot recollect the events of an evening, she should be examined by health care professionals. If rape is suspected, in addition to the standard testing that is done on a victim, she should also have blood and urine samples monitored for traces of either Rohypnol or GHB. In case her local facility is unable to do proper analysis, Hoffmann-La Roche offers definitive testing for Rohypnol free of charge for medical or rape crisis facilities.

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