Date Rape Drugs
                                                                                    By D. P. Lyle, MD

            The major “date rape drugs” are Rohypnol (flunitrazepam), Ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), and Ketamine (Ketamine Hydrochloride).
            Ecstasy, GHB, and Ketamine are commonly found at Raves--all night dance parties that attract huge crowds of teens and young adults. The Rave Culture has its own music, dress, and drug use patterns. According to many Ravers, these drugs seem to enhance the rave experience. This is especially true if the drug is taken with alcohol.
            Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine are commonly used in “Date” or “Acquaintance” rapes. They cause sedation, a degree of compliance, poor judgment, and amnesia for events that occur while under their influence. It is this that makes them “effective” in date rape situations. A small amount of GHB or Rohypnol can be slipped into the victim’s drink in a bar or at a party. She may appear no different, but may leave with her assailant because judgment is impaired and euphoria is enhanced. Only later will she realize that something happened, but her memory of events may be spotty or absent.
            With any of these drugs, users may act, talk, and appear normal to those around them. Or they might seem happy, excited, pleasantly sedated, or intoxicated. Or the victim may become "drunk" quickly, develop slurred speech, and, of course, must be "put to bed." Or driven home. Or robbed. Or murdered. Either way, they don't put up much of a fight. The reaction varies from person to person.

            Let’s look closer at these drugs:

            Rohypnol (Street Names: Roofies, Roaches, Rope, Mexican Valium) is a benzodiazepine sedative in the same family as Valium and was developed to treat insomnia. Currently, the drug is neither manufactured nor approved for use in the US, but is available in Mexico and many other countries. It is manufactured as white one and two milligram tablets that can be crushed and dissolved in any liquid. Going rate on the street is about $5 a tablet. It takes action 20 to 30 minutes after ingestion, peaks in about two hours, and its effects may persist for 8 to 12 hours.
            Roofies typically cause sedation, confusion, euphoria, loss of identity, dizziness, blurred vision, slowed psychomotor performance, and amnesia. The victim has poor judgment, a feeling of sedated euphoria, and poor, if any, memory of events. Victims may suddenly “wake up” or “reenter reality” hours later with vague or no memory of what has happened. Rarely, Rohypnol can cause anger and aggressive behavior.

            Ecstasy (Street Names: E, X, XTC, MDMA, Love, Adam) was originally patented in 1914 as an appetite suppressant but was never marketed. It is made in underground labs and distributed in pill or capsule form. It has amphetamine (speed-like) as well as hallucinogenic effects. The user has enhanced sensations and feelings of empathy, a mood lift, increased energy, and occasionally profound spiritual experiences or an equally profound and irrational fear reaction. It may cause increased blood pressure, teeth grinding (bruxia), sweating, nausea, anxiety, or panic attacks. Rare cases of death from malignant hyperthermia (sudden and marked elevation of body temperature to 106, 108, or above, which basically “fries” the brain) have been reported.

            Now the confusing part. Both MDMA and GHB are sometimes referred to by the slang term Ecstasy, though they are actually very different compounds. The street purchaser doesn’t always know which he is getting. Even if he receives the drug from a “friend,” who is to say where the friend obtained it. Likely from a friend of a friend. The bottom line is that it was probably cooked up in a garage by someone of unknown expertise, marginal experience, questionable drug habits, and a chemistry book.

            GHB (Street Names: G, XTC, E, Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid E, Easy Lay, Goop, Scoop, Georgia Homeboy) was developed over 30 years ago and was sold as a “natural” food supplement and muscle builder. It comes as a white powder that easily dissolves in water, alcohol, and other liquids. Currently, it is often found as “Liquid E,” a colorless, odorless liquid that is sold in small vials and bottles for $5 to $10.
            The effects of GHB appear quickly, five to 20 minutes after ingestion, and typically last for two to three hours. It causes loss of inhibitions, euphoria, drowsiness, and, when combined with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and many other drugs, increases the effects of these drugs. Many kids use it to enhance the effect of alcohol for a “cheap drunk.” Users report that GHB makes them feel happy, sensual, and talkative. They may experience giddiness, drowsiness, amnesia, an increased sense of well-being, enhanced sensuality, and sometimes hallucinations.

            Ketamine (Street Names: K, Special K, Kit-Kat, Purple, Bump) is a rapid acting intravenous or intramuscular, therefore injectable, anesthetic agent, which causes sedation and amnesia. It was a common surgical anesthetic agent in the 1970’s but fell from favor in part due to its unpredictable hallucinogenic and psychiatric side effects. It is still occasionally used medically in burn victims since it tends to “dissociate” the patient from the pain, making the intense discomfort of burns more bearable. It is popular in Veterinary as an animal sedative, leading to another popular street name, Cat Valium. In fact, the Ketamine that appears on the street is often stolen from animal hospitals and clinics. Sometimes at gunpoint.
            A newcomer on the drug scene, Ketamine comes as a liquid, which when injected acts as a general anesthetic. It is often heated in a microwave or on a stovetop to evaporate the liquid, leaving behind a white powder residue. Some users employ the heater in their cars to accomplish the same result. The powder can be added to a liguid, compacted into pills, or snorted, which is the preferred and most common method of usage. It is rapidly absorbed through the GI tract after ingestion or if “snorted” through the membranes of the nose. Special K goes for $10 to $20 a dose. When “snorted,” it takes effect almost immediately and is fairly short in its duration of action. Forty-five minutes to an hour or two.
            Many of its effects are similar to Ecstasy, but it also possesses “dissociative” effects, which means the person “dissociates” from reality in some fashion. Often the user experiences hallucinations, loss of time sense, and loss of self-identity. One common form is a “depersonalization syndrome” where the person is part of the activities while at the same time is off to the side or hovering overhead watching the activity, including his/her own actions. This reaction is common with PCP (Phencyclidine, Angel Dust), which was popular in the 1970’s and 80’s.
            Users call these effects “going into a K Hole.” I would suspect a K Hole is similar to Alice’s Rabbit Hole, where time, space, and perceptions become distorted.
            Since Ketamine is a sedative and general anesthetic, its potential for serious and lethal effects is real. If too much is taken, the victim may lose consciousness, stop breathing, and suffer brain damage or die.

            Using these drugs is a proverbial “crap-shoot.” The quality and purity are variable even with the pharmaceutically manufactured Rohypnol and Ketamine since they are often “stepped-on” or mixed with other drugs by the time they reach the street. Thus, the user neither knows what drugs nor exactly what amounts he is ingesting. And since reactions vary widely from person to person and are unpredictable, it takes a huge leap of faith to use these dangerous chemicals. Unfortunately, many young people are willing to perform just such experimentation on themselves.