Date Rape Drugs: XTC, Rohypnol, Ketamine
Most students forget that alcohol is the number one date rape drug on college campuses. Approximately 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape (Hingson et al., 2005). Although it is important to protect yourself against other date rape drugs, alcohol is by far the most widely used.
Ecstasy / XTC
What is Ecstasy?
MDMA, with street alias, Ecstasy, is a designer drug usually found at raves. MDMA is an amphetamine derivative and it is considered to be a strong stimulant. Its chemical structure is similar to two other synthetic drugs, methamphetamine and MDA. It is generally sold in the pill/tablet form for about $20 to $30 a pill.
What are the effects of Ecstasy?
MDMA stimulates the release of the serotonin from brain neurons, producing a high that lasts from several minutes to an hour. The drug’s rewarding effects vary with the individual taking it, the dose and purity, and the environment in which it is taken. MDMA can produce stimulant effects such as an enhanced sense of pleasure and self-confidence and increased energy. Its psychedelic effects include feelings of peacefulness, acceptance, and empathy. Users claim they experience feelings of closeness with others and a desire to touch them.
With regular and frequent use, tolerance builds to the effects of the drug, while dangerous results increase with continued use. The drug effects are unpredictable among different individuals even if given the same dosage.
Users experience confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety, and paranoia-during and sometimes weeks after use (even psychotic episodes have been reported), muscle tension, involuntary teeth-clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movements, faintness, and chills or sweating; increases in heart rate and blood pressure (a special risk for people with circulatory or heart disease).
MDMA appears to cause degeneration of neurons containing the neurotransmitter dopamine; the underlying cause of the motor disturbances seen in Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms of this disease begin with lack of coordination and tremors and can eventually result in a form of paralysis.
Recent research findings also link MDMA use to long-term (possibly permanent) damage to those parts of the brain critical to thought and memory. It is thought that the drug causes long-term damage to the neurons that use the chemical, Serotonin, to communicate with other neurons.
Also, there is evidence that people who develop a rash that looks like acne after using MDMA may be risking severe side effects, including liver damage if they continue to use the drug.
According to the Government and Drug Agencies, MDMA has become a nationwide problem as well as a serious health threat. It is known to be lethal. Combining MDMA with alcohol or depressants can increase the possibility of negative effects including sedation, dehydration, exhaustion, overheating, and heart failure. Combining MDMA with Rohypnol can lead to heart failure, coma, and death. Even in healthy young individuals, combined use of these drugs has caused coma and death.
What is Rohypnol?
The Rohypnol pill looks like aspirin. Rohypnol is usually sold in its original bubble packaging just as most prescription drugs are. This unfortunately assists in creating the misperception that this “medicine” is safe or legal. Generic and illegally manufactured versions exist. Cost ranges from $0.50 to $5 a pill.
Why “Date Rape Drug”?
Like alcohol, the drug is considered a date rape drug of choice; attackers slip the drug into victims’ drinks to promote disinhibition. The drug is given to unwary victims (male or female) without their consent. The victim is physically incapacitated and has impaired judgment. This makes victims more vulnerable to assault and rape. Because of the memory loss and confusion under the influence of this drug, rape cases are difficult to prosecute. Recently, screening for Rohypnol has improved.
Rohypnol is an odorless, colorless, tasteless drug. If you or someone you trust did not open the container, do not eat or drink its contents. Never leave an open drink unattended and avoid punch bowls which may be spiked. If you experience any of the symptoms associated with Rohypnol, have someone take you to the health center or hospital immediately.
If a student at University of Notre Dame requests screening for Rohypnol, the lab in the University Health Services will send samples to Roche laboratories. Samples need to be collected within 24 hours of suspected intake. The test has a 14 day turnaround. The test will cost $50. They will conduct the tests between the hours of 8AM-5PM. After hours, students must go to St. Joseph Hospital, Emergency Services.
One trend is termed synthetic speedballing. This involves combining Ecstasy and Rohypnol to induce a stronger effect. To produce a “floating effect,” Rohypnol is also used in combination with marijuana, cocaine, or heroin. College students typically use alcohol in combination with Rohypnol to create an enhanced feeling of drunkenness. High school students use the drug as a “cheap drunk” without the smell of alcohol. In some areas, it is associated with gangs and is known as a club drug. It is also popular in raves. Warning – when used in combination with other drugs including alcohol, Rohypnol presents great risk of overdose. Results are fatal because breathing stops. Combining Rohypnol with MDMA (Ecstasy) can lead to heart failure, coma, and death.
Rohypnol produces sedative effects, amnesia, muscle relaxation, and the slowing of psychomotor performance. Sedation occurs within 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion of a 2-mg tablet, and lasts for approximately 8 hours. Peak effect takes place after approximately 2 hours causing most victims to lose consciousness. Those who ingest the Rohypnol become extremely relaxed, can lose bodily control. They are uninhibited and appear to be very drunk. Greatest physiological risk occurs when Rohypnol is used in with other drugs.
Rohypnol is 10 times more potent than Valium and enters the bloodstream as quickly as 15 minutes after ingestion. A single 2-milligram pill has the same potency as a 6-pack of beer, but the effects differ slightly. Users can experience extreme sedation, dizziness, and loss of bodily control. Rohypnol causes an intoxication where users don’t care about what they do or cannot stop what happens to them. Users have great difficulty remembering what happened while they were under the influence of the drug; it wipes the memory clean.
Continued use can lead to both physical and psychological dependence. Withdrawal symptoms range from headache, muscle pain, and confusion, to hallucinations and convulsions. Seizures may occur.
What is Ketamine?
Ketamine was developed in the 1960’s as an anesthetic for surgeries. Today it is used mostly by veterinarians. Ketamine causes unconsciousness, hallucinations, loss of body control and numbing. Overdose can be fatal. Ketamine is found in a white powder or a liquid and has a horrible, strong bitter flavor. Ketamine works very quickly, so if you tasted it in your drink you would only have a few seconds before losing consciousness.
What is GHB?
GHB is a depressant that is chemically similar to a substance that is found in every cell of the human body. GHB was used in the past to treat childbirth problems and anxiety. It was made illegal in the 90’s as GHB slows the brain and body and is easy to overdose and cause addiction. In small doses it produces mild sedation, slowed heart and breathing rates. In large doses it can cause seizures, coma, or death.
Tips on Staying Safe
Both male and female students at Notre Dame have been victims of date rape drugs. Tips for staying safe:
- Remember that alcohol is the number one date rape drug out of all drugs.
- Keep a clear head when socializing, especially off-campus and in bars by keeping track of your drinks.
- If you choose to drink it is best not to exceed one drink per hour and no more than three drinks per night.
- Never leave your drink unattended or hand it to anyone else. If you have not been watching your drink, get a new one.
- Communicate your plans with your firends and ates. Maintain control of yourself at all times.
- Set your boundaries and make sure they are clear.
- Trust your instincts. If a situation doesn’t feel right, walk away.
- Unless in a bar, make your own drinks. Remember a glass or cup can have multiple drink equivalents.
- If you believe you are a victim of a date rape drug you can be tested by the University Health Center withing 24 hours.
What to do if You Believe You Have Been Raped:
- Tell a friend so that they can support and stay with you through it all.
- Call the police.
- Do not shower, douche, or change your clothes before seeing the doctor.
- Go to the hospital and get checked out. Ask that they run a lab for GHB, Rohypnol, or other substances if you think you have been drugged. Even if you think you don’t want to press charges it is better to get tested. These drugs become undetectable after just a short amount of time.
- Get in touch with an agency on campus for support. Services will be confidential. You can talk with hall staff, Campus Ministry, Gender Relations or the University Counseling Center. You do not have to go it alone.