Protect yourself from date rape drugs

Date and campus rape has become more prevalent. College women have had to learn to be more wary and protect themselves.

Recently, a new danger has been added into the mix: colorless, tasteless, odorless drugs — GHB and Rohypnol. These "date rape drugs" have shown up at campus parties and clubs and have been used to sedate co-eds as a prelude to sexual assault. Dropped into alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, the drugs are so effective that they render women physically weak and impair their memory.

GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid, G, liquid ecstasy, GHB) is a central nervous system depressant that relaxes or sedates the body. The drug comes in clear liquid, white powder, or tablet or capsule form.

Rohypnol (roofies, rophies, roach, rope, and the forget-me pill) is the trade name for flunitrazepam, a drug in the same family as Valium, Halcion, and Xanax. The drug, which is used abroad as a sedative, a pre-surgery anesthetic, and an aid to sleep, is not approved for use in the United States.

The sedative-hypnotic effects of GHB and Rohypnol include muscle relaxation and amnesia. If used in sexual assault, the victim may not remember the assault, the assailant, or what took place. To detect whether the drug has been used, the victim must provide urine samples for testing within 72 hours.

What are the telltale signs of drug-induced intoxication? A more intense response to alcohol, memory lapse or loss of time, and/or feelings that you have had sex but can't remember the incident.

How can you keep yourself safe?

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Learn more about these drugs and date/campus rape by contacting your campus rape crisis center. Be sure you know the people you socialize with and keep an eye on whatever you are drinking. Enjoy yourself, but play it safe.

Dr. Leshner is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a component of the National Institutes of Health. More information about the health effects of drug abuse and addiction is available on the Institute's websites at http://www.drugabuse.gov and http://www.clubdrugs.org.

How to avoid date rape drugs:

  • Do not take drinks from a stranger.
  • Do not leave your drink unattended.
  • Don't drink from open containers like a punch bowl.
  • Drink from tamper-proof bottles or cans, and open them yourself.
  • Be wary of drinks that taste salty or soda that is flat; these can be signs of drugs.
  • Be suspicious of eyedroppers, mouthwash bottles and bubble solution — they are often used as GHB containers.

If you think you may have been drugged:

  • Call 911. The sooner a victim can get medical help, the better the chance of living.
  • Ask for a urine test, suggests Porrata. Police and hospitals often use blood tests to identify drugs, but GHB is only in the blood for four hours. It can be identified in urine for longer.
  • If an unconscious victim is vomiting, turn the individual on either side to avoid choking or suffocation.

Remember, both having in your possession and using date rape drugs on others are national felonies under the Hillory J. Farias Date-Rape Prevention Drug Act of 1999.

From ABC news online