Date-Rape Drugs

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on June 03, 2024
8 min read

Rape is when someone has sex, or does sexual acts with you, without your consent. Date rape means that you were raped by someone you know. Both rape and date rape are crimes.

Anti-sexual violence organizations such as Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), advise not using the term "date rape." That's because some people hear it and mistakenly think the crime that happened was less serious. It can feel clearer to name exactly what happened and by whom — for instance, "I was sexually assaulted by my date."

Some experts call date rape "drug-facilitated sexual assault."

How does date rape happen?

About 8 out of 10 times, a rape victim knows their attacker. Alcohol or drugs often play a part. If you're given them without your knowledge, you may not be able to say no or protect yourself.

For instance:

  • Someone could give you more alcohol than you realize.
  • You could be lied to about the type or dose of drugs you're taking.
  • Your drink or food could be spiked with a drug.

It's also possible that you could be injected with a drug.

Where can it happen?

Date rape can happen anywhere. It's especially common on college campuses.

When you hear the term "date-rape drug," you might think of roofies, a nickname for a tranquilizer called Rohypnol. But a date-rape drug can be any substance, legal or illegal, that's used to take advantage and sexually assault another person. After taking it, you might become confused, have trouble defending yourself, and not be able to remember what happened later.

"Date rape" doesn’t always happen on a date. An attacker could be someone you just met or someone you’ve known for a while.

What does it mean to be 'roofied'?

"Being roofied" means that you were raped or sexually assaulted after being given a substance that made it hard for you to say no or protect yourself.

An attacker can use several kinds of drugs to overpower you or cause you to forget an incident. The most common date-rape drugs include:

Roofies

Rohypnol (flunitrazepam). This is a strong benzodiazepine (a class of tranquilizers) also known as Mexican Valium, circles, roofies, la rocha, roche, R2, rope, or the forget-me pill. It’s not legally for sale in the U.S. In other countries, doctors sometimes use it as anesthesia before surgery.

If you've been roofied, you might instantly feel very drunk and sleepy. You could feel sick to your stomach, dizzy, and have trouble standing or walking.

Spiked drinks

Many attackers use drugs along with alcohol. It can boost the medicine’s effects. But alcohol by itself can also keep you from defending yourself, knowing what’s happening to you, or remembering it later. A spiked drink used to be called a Mickey Finn. It's believed to be named after a Chicago bartender. In 1903, Finn was accused of slipping drugs into his customers' drinks so he could rob them.

Other date-rape drugs

Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB). This is a depressant that has many nicknames: easy lay, Georgia home boy, liquid X, liquid ecstasy, liquid E, grievous bodily harm, Gib, G-riffic, scoop, soap, salty water, organic Quaalude, or fantasy. Doctors sometimes prescribe it to treat a sleep disorder called narcolepsy.

Ketamine. This is a type of psychedelic drug that makes you feel detached from reality. Its nicknames include Special K, vitamin K, and cat Valium. Doctors and veterinarians use it as anesthesia. It's sometimes used for treatment-resistant depression in closely supervised settings.

Less common types of date-rape drugs

Chloral hydrate. Once the most commonly used drug to sedate kids at the dentist, chloral hydrate can cause harmful side effects. It can also be used to spike a drink.

Club drugs. Drugs you might take at a party can be used as date-rape drugs. They include:

  • Ecstasy (MD, Molly, MDMA)
  • Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL)
  • LSD

Prescription medication. Legal drugs that are prescribed to help ease anxiety or as sleep aids are sometimes also slipped into drinks. These include:

  • Ambien
  • Klonopin
  • Valium
  • Xanax

Date rape drugs don't all look, smell, or taste the same, which can make it hard to keep an eye out for them. For instance:

Rohypnol used to come as a white tablet that didn’t have a smell or taste. Drug companies now make it as a light green pill with a blue core. If someone puts it in a clear drink, the liquid turns blue. But some generic pills may not have the blue dye.

GHB is usually a liquid that doesn't have a smell or a taste. But it can also be a white powder or pill. It may have a mildly salty taste.

Ketamine is a clear liquid or an off-white powder. You can’t smell or taste it.

How you're affected and how long the effects last depend on the type of date-rape drug you're given. 

Signs you've been roofied

Rohypnol short-circuits your central nervous system. It can relax you to the point that you lose control of your muscles. You might find it hard to walk or stand. You may also lose consciousness (pass out) and not have a clear memory later of what happened. Roofies usually start affecting you within 30 minutes and peak about 2 hours later. As little as 1 milligram can stay in your system for 8-12 hours.

GHB effects

GHB can make you sleepy, forgetful, or weak. It can also cause seizures, slow your heartbeat and breathing, and may even put you into a coma. About 15-30 minutes after it's slipped to you, you'll start feeling the effects. GHB can keep causing symptoms for up to 6 hours.

Ketamine effects

Ketamine might make you hallucinate (see things that aren't really there) or feel woozy. It can also cause an upset stomach, vomiting, high blood pressure, changes in your heart rate, seizures, or a coma. It usually takes effect within 30 minutes and lasts an hour or two, but you could be affected for a day or more.

Alcohol effects

Alcohol usually enters your brain within a few minutes. Like other drugs on this list, it can make it harder for you to speak clearly, control or move your muscles, think as quickly as usual, or make decisions.

Signs your drink has been spiked

Some date-rape drugs are extremely hard to detect, but a few red flags to be aware of include:

  • Extra fizziness or foam in your drink
  • A drink that tastes "off" in some way (for instance, salty or bitter)
  • A drink that looks cloudy (if it's a dark liquid) or blue (if it should be clear)
  • Residue (for instance, from a pill or powder that hasn't fully dissolved)

These signs can be easy to miss, especially if you're in a dark room or drinking a dark-colored beer or soda. But it's important to realize that date rape is never your fault. It's illegal to have sex, or any sexual activity, with someone who can't consent to it.

Every situation is different, but you may have been a victim of date rape if:

  • You feel hungover but didn't drink any alcohol or your hangover seems more intense than it should be
  • Your memory is fuzzy or you feel like you "lost" time
  • Your clothes are on wrong, torn, stained and you can't remember why
  • You wake up naked or dressed in different clothes
  • You feel sore but can't remember having sex
  • You're physically hurt (for instance, bruised, cut, scraped, or in pain)

To help stay safe when you’re out:

  • Go out with a group of people you trust. Check up on each other throughout the night.
  • Try to avoid parties or clubs where you don't feel safe. If you get there and the vibe feels off, trust your gut and leave.
  • Know how much you can safely drink.
  • Avoid drinking from an open container that could be spiked, like a punch bowl or drink that's being passed around. It's safest to drink from a can or bottle that you open yourself.
  • Don’t accept drinks from other people. If someone offers to get you a drink, go with them and watch it being poured.
  • Keep control of your drink at all times. Carry it yourself even if you have to take it to the bathroom.
  • If you accidentally get separated from your drink, play it safe and pour it out.
  • Don’t drink anything that tastes or looks strange.
  • Ask your friends for help if you start to feel "off."

If you see a drink being spiked:

  • Dump it. Don't let the person drink it.
  • Explain what you saw and call attention to the situation. The more people who know what's going on, the better. You want to warn other potential victims.
  • Tell whoever's in charge — for instance, the host of the party or the manager of the club.
  • Confronting the person who spiked the drink can put you in an unsafe situation. Call 911 if you feel threatened.

If you think someone's taken a date-rape drug:

  • Don't let them have anything else to drink or take any other drugs.
  • Tell the staff if you're at a bar, concert, club, or other public space.
  • Stay with the person. It's important that they're not left alone and can get home safely. If you don't know them well, try to locate a friend.
  • Call 911 if you have any concerns about the person's health or safety.

Self-defense

If you're in a position where you need to protect yourself, try to:

  • Focus on getting away, not fighting back.
  • Make a lot of noise. Shouting or screaming can alert others. Or it can startle your attacker long enough to give you a valuable moment to get free.
  • Find someone you trust and tell them what happened. Ask them to stay with you while you call 911.

If you think you've been drugged and sexually assaulted:

  • Call 911 or have someone you trust take you to the ER.
  • Tell the nurse and doctor what happened. They can contact the police if you haven't already.
  • Try not to pee, douche, bathe, wash your hands, change clothes, or even brush your teeth before you go to the hospital. Your doctor will need to collect as much evidence as they can.
  • Ask for a urine (pee) test as soon as possible. There's no specific date-rape drug test to request. But because these drugs don't stay in your body for long, a pee test that's done right away may be able to detect them.
  • No matter how much you drank or what drugs you took, sexual assault is never your fault. It’s common to go through a range of emotions afterward. Talk to someone you trust or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) at any time, day or night.

Date-rape drugs are powerful drugs that prevent you from refusing sex or leaving an unsafe situation. To protect yourself when you go out, stick close to friends and keep an eye on your drink all night. If you think you've been drugged and sexually assaulted, go to an ER as soon as possible to get help.