Safety in Numbers: The Reality of Date Rape Drugs

Last week, I did something that I do often: I went to see a DJ perform. I go to concerts several times a month, sometimes with groups and sometimes only with my boyfriend, but always with someone. The music was loud, the energy was high and I was ready for a good night. We had seats in the VIP section upstairs, but I felt bored being away from the crowd. My friend and I went downstairs to buy t-shirts and check out the floor. I bought myself a drink, my second of the night, and held on to it as my friend and I began to elbow our way towards the middle of the crowd. That’s about where my recollection ends. The next thing I remember is waking up in my boyfriend’s room at 6 a.m., still dressed in what I was wearing the night before and feeling like I was going to throw up. The room spun, and I weakly (and unsuccessfully) tried to pull off the plastic wristbands that had accumulated on my arms as I made my way to his bathroom. I had no recollection of what happened and I felt completely exhausted and hungover, even though I only remembered having two drinks. My boyfriend followed me into the bathroom with an anxious expression, asking me several times if I was okay. I was so confused. What had happened? From what he told me, I had abruptly gone from happily enjoying the concert to passing out across several chairs. When I had walked back up to our seats, I had sat down – and then immediately lay down – in our little private section. He tried to prop me back up; I fell down again. He asked me if I was all right; I closed my eyes and tried to go to sleep. He was worried and confused, and eventually managed to get me to walk out and towards the car, where I snapped at him and fell asleep again. He said it was like I had lost control of my body, and he could not understand why. He thought I might have been drugged. I Googled a phrase that most women carry around in the back of their heads: “signs that you’ve been ‘roofied.’” The typical spam sites came up, but on the more reputable sites (mostly university sites), I found a few answers:

1.    Feeling more drunk than you should have after only a few drinks 2.    Loss of memory 3.    Feeling more confused/hungover than usual after waking up 4.    Physical signs of having sex, but no recollection of it

The first three signs fit. My recovery time also fit descriptions I read from other people (men and women) who wrote about their experiences. For the next two days I was completely out of it, sitting at my desk at work with stomach cramps, nausea, exhaustion and dizziness. It felt like the flu. For two days after that, I didn’t leave my apartment – I slept and watched movies, feeling too heavy to move. I’ve since recovered, but the emotional effects haven’t gone away. “Date rape drugs” are something you begin hearing about in sex-ed classes in middle school. You're told to be careful – watch your drink, don’t accept drinks from strangers, buy another one if you feel suspicious, etc. But in reality, how careful can you be when it’s tasteless and odorless and can happen so easily? And the alcohol part didn’t matter in this case – there was a risk even if I had just ordered Cokes all night. I don’t want to be paranoid, but I can’t help it. I feel vulnerable. I’ve been replaying scenarios in my head for days. What if I had passed out before I found my boyfriend? I have little doubt that any bouncer or security guard would ignore someone escorting a seemingly-inebriated girl out of a club – “at least someone’s taking care of her.” My imagination has run a little wild and carried this scenario further – it’s not that impossible to think that I could have been abducted or raped. What if whoever had laced my drink had managed to get me somewhere else in the club, or even carry me out? While it could have been worse, my experience wasn’t great, and I see it more as a reality check than anything else. I was extremely lucky that this only resulted in a few days of feeling sick and a worried boyfriend. I want to do something to prevent this from happening again. But I can tell that I’m giving in to victim-blaming. Sticking with my friends, not accepting drinks from strangers, not drinking too much and drinking from bottles versus cups (advice I read here) all make sense to me as precautionary tactics, but there is also an onus on club owners.  Security personnel and bartenders/waitresses, I hope, should be trained to recognize the signs of being drugged, since it does happen. However, there is also the reality that I am just guessing. If something had indeed happened to me, I would have had no way of proving I’d been drugged, and no way to defend myself from the accusation that I was just drunk or had consented. From my searching online, I see a number of articles like this one from Salon about the “myth” of roofies:

Researchers from the University of Kent have found that young female students often "mistakenly linked sickness, blackouts and dizziness to poisoning by a stranger – when it was likely to be caused by excessive alcohol consumption." Their paper, culled from interviews and surveys in both the U.K. and the U.S., suggests that the use of so-called date-rape drugs is little more than an urban legend – despite the fact that young women "mistakenly think it is a more important factor in sexual assault than being drunk, taking drugs or walking alone at night.”

Before this episode, I admittedly hadn’t taken the threat of these drugs too seriously. (Who, by the way, thinks it’s somehow safe to be extremely drunk in public or walk alone at night? Maybe it’s just because I’ve always lived in cities, but that’s not behavior I’d exactly recommend. ) In the end, though, the possibility that I was drugged is not the point. It’s about remembering to stay in control and to use the buddy system. They started teaching us that in kindergarten for a reason. For more resources on these drugs and their effects, visit:

Women’sHealth.gov

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Kids Health (information for children/teens)

Web MD

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