Date rape' drugs pose real danger

by Jennifer Thomas | 5/23/01 5:00am

Easy lay. Special K. Roofies.

Just a few tablets of one these sedative muscle relaxants or "date rape drugs" -- more properly referred to as gamma hydroxybutrate, ketamine and rohypnol, respectively -- can cause a victim to pass out in a matter of minutes, vulnerable to non-consensual violations of sexual predators.

According to Margaret Smith, coordinator of Alcohol and other Drug Programs, roofies are 10 times stronger than valium and, when combined with alcohol, may prove lethal.

Think these don't exist at Dartmouth? Think again.

"I think it's a problem on any campus and in any social environment," Giavanna Munafo, director of the Women's Resource Center, said.

"[In the past five years], there have been a couple of cases that we believe to have involved one or more of those kinds of drugs" on campus, she added.

Indeed, three students were hospitalized last June for the consumption of GHB, one of which became comatose.

And, according Smith, the actual number of cases is likely to be higher due to both under-reporting by students and the confidentiality of medical records.

One female student who preferred to remain anonymous revealed to The Dartmouth that, despite nave assumptions that the College's small size and rural location make it a safe community, she believed she had been slipped a date rape drug on campus.

On a weekend night, the student and her friends went to a party at a fraternity. She said she had not been drinking prior to her arrival.

During the course of the party, she picked up a beer from a line of full cups on the bar and drank it while socializing with a large group of friends.

The next thing she remembered was waking up the following morning.

"Everything was kind of a little fuzzy that morning. I just felt really out of it," she recalled.

Upon awakening, her concerned roommates explained that friends had taken her home early the previous evening, and that they had been shaking her and screaming at her all night, although she had had remained unresponsive.

She continued to feel "woozy" throughout the morning, and had a conversation with her Undergraduate Advisor that she could not later recall.

Although the student said she has no way of proving that she had actually been slipped rophynol, her symptoms are notably similar to those induced by the drug, including temporary loss of consciousness and memory.

"I had two or three drinks and it blacked me out for eight hours," she explained.

Deeply angered by the incident, the student hoped she could use her own misfortune to educate others.

"I told every girl that I knew," she said.

Although the student said she never returned to the fraternity where she believed she was drugged, she is highly reticent to generalize the incident as representative of the behavior of the Greek system as a whole.

"Strangely, it doesn't really affect how I feel on campus or in fraternities in general," she said.

However, she qualified the statement by adding that she is now more careful to strictly monitor her beverage consumption in vulnerable situations.

"I'm careful to watch my beers being poured," she said.

Both Smith and Munafo echoed the student's sentiment, advising those who wish to guard against being drugged should attempt to protect themselves by watching their drinks closely when in public.

"I think every person should be aware of what they drink, where it came from, and have it in their control," Munafo explained.

Despite the fact that traces of roofies are often difficult to detect when dissolved, there are a few warning signs. Although usually odorless, they may produce a bitter taste when combined with alcohol. And although generally colorless, they may turn a light-colored drink slightly blue or form small chunky amalgams within the liquid.

Smith added that if students become concerned that either themselves or a friend have been drugged, they should seek medical attention immediately, as the consumption of such drugs has been known to induce comas and poisoning deaths.

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