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Date Rape Easier Than You Think

Rape-drugsWhile I was in secondary school, it was not uncommon to hear fellas talk about how they seduced girls using Spanish fly.

I suspected that for the most part, this was just talk, and was done to boost their egos. However, the use of chemicals to induce someone to have sex against his or her will is not new, and is increasingly problematic the world over.

Many "sophisticated" women who enjoy the club scene are carrying around the dark secret of waking up in a strange bed with no clothes on, knowing they must have been violated. And in today's world where almost anything goes, some men are carrying similar secrets too. In fact, a United Nations report of February 24, 2010 was asking governments to step up their efforts to limit access to date rape drugs.

Why is this problem getting worse? The reasons are varied, but basically it comes down to the commonality and availability of the substances that are used. No longer is an exotic substance like Spanish fly necessary. In reality, not even Spanish fly is now exotic.


In the first place, the drug most often implicated in date rape is one that is relatively inexpensive, legal universally, widely available, and commercially advertised more than any other drug. Yes, I am talking about alcohol. Most of the victims of date rape wind up that way simply because they were drunk.

Studies in Australia and Britain reveal that only about two percent of women who were date raped actually had their drinks spiked with sedative or other drugs. It was shown that the vast majority had too much alcohol, became intoxicated and lost control of their faculties and/or reason. Some women, wanting to show themselves hip, drank more than they could possibly manage; as a result, as the alcohol went in the clothes came off.

Alcohol is the most socially accepted recreational drug. Very few controls exist over its use, and even where there are age restrictions, these are easily circumvented. It is ironic that in the UN report, alcohol was not one of the featured drugs. However, we should never underestimate its importance in date rape.

So what were the drugs the UN report focussed on - mainly flunitrazepam and Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB).

Flunitrazepam (commonly sold under the name of Rohypnol) pertains to a class of drug called benzodiazepines. A common member of this class is Valium, used to treat conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. Rohypnol is, however, 10 times more potent than Valium.


Rohypnol's sedative effect usually begins 30 to 45 minutes after ingestion. It can incapacitate its victims and prevent them from resisting sexual assault. Its effect lasts on average from four to eight hours, but there are reports of it lasting 12 hours or more. It causes anterograde amnesia, which means that the victim has no recall of the assault. While it can be detected in urine for up to five days after use, it can be detected in hair samples for up to a month after a single dose.

GBH has now superceded Rohypnol as a date rape drug. It has similar effects to alcohol, and although there is some level of control internationally, its use is increasing. Victims may not be aware of it, as it is invisible and odourless when dissolved in water. It has a salty taste, but is indiscernible in liquor, beer, and soft drinks.

As GBH has come under some international control, its close relatives - ketamine and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) - are often used as substitutes. These are used to circumvent the control factor and have proven very effective for their illicit use.

Date rape drugs hold many dangers for their unsuspecting victims. Respiratory depression, coma, death, and many unpredictable possibilities may result from their use. There are several factors that make the effects so unpredictable. These include allergies the victims may have, prescription or other drugs they may be taking, their individual metabolic responses, and combined effects of the date rape drug and alcohol use.

The question now remains - what can be done at the international, state, and personal level to prevent thousands and even millions of women from becoming victims of rape through the use of such drugs?

At the international level, the control mechanisms must be put in place. A serious problem lies in the ease of obtaining these drugs via the internet. There are many online pharmacies where one can obtain a wide range of drugs without prescription. Hence, a way has to be found  to shut down these sites and bring criminal charges against offending individuals.


However, it seems like very little attention is paid to these bogus sites. At times, I type the name of a drug into some popular search engines and before I get a site that gives information about the drug, I get a site that is telling me how I can buy the "prescription" drug without a prescription. We criticize China for blocking certain websites, but in the West, at times it is not realised that with freedom comes responsibility.

Again, we have have to look at the whole question of which drugs should be available with or without prescriptions, and arrive at an international consensus. Many of these drugs are so easily obtained that there is absolutely no difficulty for them to end up in criminal hands. There should be no reason for ketamine or GBL to be available without a prescription anywhere in the world.

At our national level, it is time we start to take health education, especially as it pertains to drug use, seriously. Whether the drug be legal or illegal, prescription or not, we have to disseminate relevant information using the media available. We have to find a way to curb the glorification of alcoholic drinks. We have to limit its advertisement during prime time and enforce laws to prevent underage drinking. Why aren't the police doing breathalyzer testing?

The regulation of nightclubs has to be more stringent. Although in the past this has been met with some resistance, the authorities have to exercise authority. It makes no sense that we all see the problem, cry about it, but do nothing to solve it. May I add here that recently in Barbados, the issue of date rape drug use in nightclubs was being addressed by the hierarchy of the police.

At the individual level, people have to be wise. If you are going out to party, you have to establish your personal parameters. Know who you are going out with. Know your alcohol limits and stick within them. You may have to refuse the drink if you do not know the "kind stranger" offering. And do not ever leave your food or drink unattended or in the hands of someone you do not know. If you intend to drink when you go out, have a designated driver and someone to watch your back.

In the study in Barbados, it was interesting to note that certain bartenders may be aiding unscrupulous individuals in their efforts to seduce their victims. This means you have to check out the reputation of your club of choice and be able to make informed decisions. Remember to respect your body and respect yourself.

Dr. Jerry Simon ( NSA Medical Surgical and Rehab Centre, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 462 0631).

 

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3 Comments In This Article   

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@ Dr. Simon

#3 Wham » 2010-11-07 09:01

I still do not believe that many people realize the dangers of mis- using or abusing alcohol.
Also it is good to see that although the UN article did not address alcohol in a significant way ( I read it earlier this year) that you did.It shows a good level of insight.
I enjoy reading your articles.
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Wham

great article

#2 fnpsr » 2010-11-07 02:03

As usual Dr. Simon, this is another great article. I enjoyed reading it.
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fnpsr

well said

#1 tenman » 2010-11-06 22:52

Dr. Simon as usual a very pertinent article. Reading it brought back memories of a college roommate who boasted of sleeping with over 200 different women. When asked the secret to his success he reminded me that he was a bartender and was therefore able to meet women at what he termed as their most susceptible moment. More than just the use of drugs, I think we need to also examine the definition we put on sex because I fail to understand how someone can be willing to boast about enjoying an act with someone who is not even there.

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tenman

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Dr. Jerry Simon

Dr.Jerry Simon,a general physician, is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and Villa Clara (Cuba) Medical School. He has previously worked in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. Presently he is Medical Director of the NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre and is a certified member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

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