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Alcohol and Health

Alcohol: The Most Common Date Rape Drug

Published:
July 6, 2023
·
15 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 6, 2023
·
15 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 6, 2023
·
15 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 6, 2023
·
15 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 6, 2023
·
15 min read

You’re at a bar with friends. Drinks are flowing, the music is pumping, and people are pouring in. You get into a conversation with some strangers, who offer to buy you and your friend a shot. You gladly accept and throw it back. Then they offer to buy you another. You’re already feeling pretty drunk and not thinking clearly, so you do it anyway. Flash forward to the next day: you wake up disoriented, in an unfamiliar place, and can’t remember much of what happened.

Many people don’t realize it, but alcohol is actually the most common date rape drug. Below we’ll dive into the role alcohol plays in sexual assault, what to look out for, and how we can protect ourselves.

Is Alcohol Really the Most Common Date Rape Drug?

It might be hard to believe, but it’s true: alcohol is actually the most common date rape drug. In fact, studies estimate that between 50-77% of sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by either the victim or offender, and many times by both. Similarly, sexual assaults are more likely to occur in settings where alcohol is being consumed — such as at parties or bars.

It’s not known exactly how many sexual assaults are associated with date rape drugs — including alcohol — since the vast majority of rapes are unreported. But research shows that about half of sexual assault victims had been drinking. Some estimates have noted that 11 million women in the United States have been raped while drunk, drugged, or high. And research suggests that the perpetrator is often someone the victim knows.

In many cases, alcohol is additionally linked to sexual assault because the attacker was drinking. Research shows that up to 3 out of 4 attackers had been drinking alcohol when they sexually assaulted someone.

The bottom line? While alcohol doesn’t cause sexual assault, it’s clearly a major contributing factor.

How Is Alcohol Considered a Date Rape Drug?

Date rage drugs are, by definition, any type of drug used to make rape or sexual assault easier. Alcohol is often used in this way. For instance, alcohol is a depressant, slowing down our nervous system and dulling our response time. This can make it harder for us to resist an assault.

When consumed quickly or in large quantities, alcohol can first cause a loss of inhibition and then a loss of consciousness, essentially incapacitating us and making it difficult for us to give consent to sexual activity or refuse an unwanted sexual advance. In extreme cases, alcohol can cause us to blackout, or experience a loss of memory.

There are a couple ways alcohol can facilitate rape or sexual assault:

  • Targeted assault: Some perpetrators might identify a victim and pressure them to drink more than they might normally drink in order to take advantage of them. For instance, a perpetrator sees someone at a party or bar, approaches them, and encourages them to drink to excess.
  • Taking advantage: Some perpetrators may take advantage of someone who has already been drinking, identifying them as an easy target. In this case, the perpetrator didn’t necessarily play a role in encouraging the victim to consume alcohol, but takes advantage of the effect alcohol has on them.
  • Unintentional consequence: Sometimes, sexual assault occurs when the victim and/or the perpetrator have consumed alcohol, but the alcohol was not used intentionally to facilitate a rape.

What About Other Date Rape Drugs?

Other date rape drugs are sometimes used in combination with alcohol. They’re especially dangerous because they can be added without detection: we don’t see, smell, or taste any difference in our drink. Often, the perpetrator will drop a drug in our drink without us seeing and return once symptoms have started to kick in.

These are some of the most common date rate drugs:

  • Rohypnol: Otherwise known as roofies, rohypnol comes as a pill, but it’s usually crushed and slipped into a drink, where it naturally dissolves. As little as 1 milligram can affect us for 8-12 hours.
  • Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB): Commonly called liquid ecstasy, this is a slightly oily, colorless liquid. It can be dissolved easily into other liquids, and only a very small amount is needed to have an effect.
  • Ketamine: Otherwise known as “special K’, this is an anesthetic that is used legally in the United States, often at veterinary clinics. As a readily-available clear liquid, it can be slipped unnoticed into drinks.

Some of these drugs are legally prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, but when taken unknowingly — and combined with alcohol — they leave us vulnerable. Similar to alcohol, GHB in particular slows activity in our central nervous system, making us feel groggy, sleepy, and potentially confused. Combining it with alcohol can be life-threatening.

What Symptoms Do These Date Rape Drugs Cause?

Most date rape drugs take effect within 15-30 minutes, and symptoms usually last for several hours. Symptoms range from mild to dangerous:

  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Loss of balance or dizziness
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Visual problems (blurred vision)Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

These drugs also tend to cause blackouts, or anterograde amnesia, which means it’s hard to remember what happened while on the drug.

How Can We Tell If Our Drink Has Been Spiked?

It’s usually impossible to tell if our drink has been spiked with a drug. Some versions of roofies turn liquids blue when dissolved, which might help us spot whether a drink has been tampered with. Unfortunately, generic versions of the pill don’t have this feature. Similarly, GHDB sometimes tastes a bit salty, but it’s typically difficult to taste any differences.

How severely we’re affected can depend on many factors, such as the substance or mix of substances used, the dose, our size and weight, and how much alcohol we’ve already consumed.

It’s worth noting that date rape drugs can make us feel drunk even if we haven’t had any alcohol. We might also feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are much stronger than usual or more than we expect based on how much we drank. For instance, if we’ve only had one drink, but feel like we’ve had 3 or 4, that’s usually a sign our drink has been spiked.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Date Rape Drugs?

The simplest way to protect ourselves from date rape drugs is to not drink alcohol. By not drinking, we’re reducing our chance of becoming incapacitated or getting our drink spiked with another substance.

However, if we do choose to drink, it’s wise to drink in moderation, practice mindful drinking, or consume alcohol slowly. Here are some tips to protect yourself:

  • Don’t take drinks from other people
  • Open your drink yourself, or watch it being opened
  • Watch your drink being poured or mixed at a bar or party, and carry it yourself
  • If you need to go to the bathroom, take your drink with you; if you can’t, leave it with a trusted friend
  • Don’t drink anything that tastes or smells funky
  • If you’ve left your drink unattended, pour it out
  • If you feel very drunk after only having a small amount of alcohol (or none at all), seek help right away

Helping Someone Whose Drink Has Been Spiked

If we think a friend has had their drink spiked, here are a few ways to help:

  • Tell a bar manager, bouncer or staff
  • Stay with them and don’t leave them alone
  • Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates
  • Don’t let them go home alone
  • Don’t let them leave with someone you don’t know or trust
  • Don’t let them drink more alcohol

What To Do If We Are the Victim of a Date Rape or Sexual Assault

If we suspect we have been a victim of date rape or sexual assault, it’s important to get medical attention right away. Drugs that people use for sexual assault usually leave the body within 12-72 hours, leaving no trace. Medical professionals will likely conduct a forensic exam including a blood or urine sample.

If we wake up to signs that someone may have drugged us, we should also seek emergency medical care. A hospital can use a rape kit to test for signs of sexual assault. If the police catch a perpetrator, they can use this kit to prove their guilt. It’s important to preserve evidence by not showering or bathing until after the exam is complete.

Reporting suspected drink spiking to a venue and the police is one way to help ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else.

The Bottom Line

We might not recognize it as such, but alcohol is the most common date rape drug, often used by someone trying to initiate sexual activity or commit sexual assault. Similar to other date rape drugs — such as roofies, liquid ecstasy, and special K — alcohol lowers our inhibitions, focus, and mobility, making us more vulnerable to attack.

We can protect ourselves from this risk by not drinking, cutting back on our alcohol consumption, or practicing mindful drinking whenever we do drink. If you’re looking to change your drinking habits, or curious about how cutting back or eliminating alcohol from your life can boost your well-being, Reframe can help.

You’re at a bar with friends. Drinks are flowing, the music is pumping, and people are pouring in. You get into a conversation with some strangers, who offer to buy you and your friend a shot. You gladly accept and throw it back. Then they offer to buy you another. You’re already feeling pretty drunk and not thinking clearly, so you do it anyway. Flash forward to the next day: you wake up disoriented, in an unfamiliar place, and can’t remember much of what happened.

Many people don’t realize it, but alcohol is actually the most common date rape drug. Below we’ll dive into the role alcohol plays in sexual assault, what to look out for, and how we can protect ourselves.

Is Alcohol Really the Most Common Date Rape Drug?

It might be hard to believe, but it’s true: alcohol is actually the most common date rape drug. In fact, studies estimate that between 50-77% of sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by either the victim or offender, and many times by both. Similarly, sexual assaults are more likely to occur in settings where alcohol is being consumed — such as at parties or bars.

It’s not known exactly how many sexual assaults are associated with date rape drugs — including alcohol — since the vast majority of rapes are unreported. But research shows that about half of sexual assault victims had been drinking. Some estimates have noted that 11 million women in the United States have been raped while drunk, drugged, or high. And research suggests that the perpetrator is often someone the victim knows.

In many cases, alcohol is additionally linked to sexual assault because the attacker was drinking. Research shows that up to 3 out of 4 attackers had been drinking alcohol when they sexually assaulted someone.

The bottom line? While alcohol doesn’t cause sexual assault, it’s clearly a major contributing factor.

How Is Alcohol Considered a Date Rape Drug?

Date rage drugs are, by definition, any type of drug used to make rape or sexual assault easier. Alcohol is often used in this way. For instance, alcohol is a depressant, slowing down our nervous system and dulling our response time. This can make it harder for us to resist an assault.

When consumed quickly or in large quantities, alcohol can first cause a loss of inhibition and then a loss of consciousness, essentially incapacitating us and making it difficult for us to give consent to sexual activity or refuse an unwanted sexual advance. In extreme cases, alcohol can cause us to blackout, or experience a loss of memory.

There are a couple ways alcohol can facilitate rape or sexual assault:

  • Targeted assault: Some perpetrators might identify a victim and pressure them to drink more than they might normally drink in order to take advantage of them. For instance, a perpetrator sees someone at a party or bar, approaches them, and encourages them to drink to excess.
  • Taking advantage: Some perpetrators may take advantage of someone who has already been drinking, identifying them as an easy target. In this case, the perpetrator didn’t necessarily play a role in encouraging the victim to consume alcohol, but takes advantage of the effect alcohol has on them.
  • Unintentional consequence: Sometimes, sexual assault occurs when the victim and/or the perpetrator have consumed alcohol, but the alcohol was not used intentionally to facilitate a rape.

What About Other Date Rape Drugs?

Other date rape drugs are sometimes used in combination with alcohol. They’re especially dangerous because they can be added without detection: we don’t see, smell, or taste any difference in our drink. Often, the perpetrator will drop a drug in our drink without us seeing and return once symptoms have started to kick in.

These are some of the most common date rate drugs:

  • Rohypnol: Otherwise known as roofies, rohypnol comes as a pill, but it’s usually crushed and slipped into a drink, where it naturally dissolves. As little as 1 milligram can affect us for 8-12 hours.
  • Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB): Commonly called liquid ecstasy, this is a slightly oily, colorless liquid. It can be dissolved easily into other liquids, and only a very small amount is needed to have an effect.
  • Ketamine: Otherwise known as “special K’, this is an anesthetic that is used legally in the United States, often at veterinary clinics. As a readily-available clear liquid, it can be slipped unnoticed into drinks.

Some of these drugs are legally prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, but when taken unknowingly — and combined with alcohol — they leave us vulnerable. Similar to alcohol, GHB in particular slows activity in our central nervous system, making us feel groggy, sleepy, and potentially confused. Combining it with alcohol can be life-threatening.

What Symptoms Do These Date Rape Drugs Cause?

Most date rape drugs take effect within 15-30 minutes, and symptoms usually last for several hours. Symptoms range from mild to dangerous:

  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Loss of balance or dizziness
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Visual problems (blurred vision)Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

These drugs also tend to cause blackouts, or anterograde amnesia, which means it’s hard to remember what happened while on the drug.

How Can We Tell If Our Drink Has Been Spiked?

It’s usually impossible to tell if our drink has been spiked with a drug. Some versions of roofies turn liquids blue when dissolved, which might help us spot whether a drink has been tampered with. Unfortunately, generic versions of the pill don’t have this feature. Similarly, GHDB sometimes tastes a bit salty, but it’s typically difficult to taste any differences.

How severely we’re affected can depend on many factors, such as the substance or mix of substances used, the dose, our size and weight, and how much alcohol we’ve already consumed.

It’s worth noting that date rape drugs can make us feel drunk even if we haven’t had any alcohol. We might also feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are much stronger than usual or more than we expect based on how much we drank. For instance, if we’ve only had one drink, but feel like we’ve had 3 or 4, that’s usually a sign our drink has been spiked.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Date Rape Drugs?

The simplest way to protect ourselves from date rape drugs is to not drink alcohol. By not drinking, we’re reducing our chance of becoming incapacitated or getting our drink spiked with another substance.

However, if we do choose to drink, it’s wise to drink in moderation, practice mindful drinking, or consume alcohol slowly. Here are some tips to protect yourself:

  • Don’t take drinks from other people
  • Open your drink yourself, or watch it being opened
  • Watch your drink being poured or mixed at a bar or party, and carry it yourself
  • If you need to go to the bathroom, take your drink with you; if you can’t, leave it with a trusted friend
  • Don’t drink anything that tastes or smells funky
  • If you’ve left your drink unattended, pour it out
  • If you feel very drunk after only having a small amount of alcohol (or none at all), seek help right away

Helping Someone Whose Drink Has Been Spiked

If we think a friend has had their drink spiked, here are a few ways to help:

  • Tell a bar manager, bouncer or staff
  • Stay with them and don’t leave them alone
  • Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates
  • Don’t let them go home alone
  • Don’t let them leave with someone you don’t know or trust
  • Don’t let them drink more alcohol

What To Do If We Are the Victim of a Date Rape or Sexual Assault

If we suspect we have been a victim of date rape or sexual assault, it’s important to get medical attention right away. Drugs that people use for sexual assault usually leave the body within 12-72 hours, leaving no trace. Medical professionals will likely conduct a forensic exam including a blood or urine sample.

If we wake up to signs that someone may have drugged us, we should also seek emergency medical care. A hospital can use a rape kit to test for signs of sexual assault. If the police catch a perpetrator, they can use this kit to prove their guilt. It’s important to preserve evidence by not showering or bathing until after the exam is complete.

Reporting suspected drink spiking to a venue and the police is one way to help ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else.

The Bottom Line

We might not recognize it as such, but alcohol is the most common date rape drug, often used by someone trying to initiate sexual activity or commit sexual assault. Similar to other date rape drugs — such as roofies, liquid ecstasy, and special K — alcohol lowers our inhibitions, focus, and mobility, making us more vulnerable to attack.

We can protect ourselves from this risk by not drinking, cutting back on our alcohol consumption, or practicing mindful drinking whenever we do drink. If you’re looking to change your drinking habits, or curious about how cutting back or eliminating alcohol from your life can boost your well-being, Reframe can help.

Summary FAQs

1. What is the most common date rape drug?

Alcohol is the most common date rape drug. It lowers our inhibitions and slows down our nervous system, making it difficult to give consent to sexual activity or refuse an unwanted sexual advance.

2. What are some of the other popular date rape drugs?

Rohypnol (roofies), gamma hydroxybutyrate (liquid ecstasy), and Ketamine (special K) are some of the other more common date rape drugs. They’re particularly dangerous because they can be added to our drink without detection.

3. What are the symptoms of date rape drugs?

Symptoms of date rape drugs generally include diziness, confusion, poor coordination, and loss of memory. Our size and weight, along with how much alcohol we’ve already consumed, can influence the severity of symptoms.

4. How can you protect yourself from date rape drugs?

The best way to protect yourself from date rape drugs is to avoid alcohol. If we do choose to drink, we should drink slowly and limit ourselves to one to two drinks. To avoid getting our drink spiked, we should never take a drink from a stranger and never leave our drink unattended.

5. What should we do if we’ve been the victim of a date rape drug?

If we suspect our drink has been spiked or we were the victim or a date rape drug, it’s important to get medical help right away. Call 911, go to the hospital, and tell police officers everything we can remember.

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