Chances are that you have heard of the term date rape drug at least once. Whether it was on the news or in a movie scene, we can all agree it is ugly and deplorable. This is the basis for which Dubawa has decided to share its two cents on the subject. For the purpose of simplicity we shall be denoting date rape drug(s) with the acronym DRD.
Benzodiazepines (BZDs), are a group of commonly used psychoactive drugs consisting of diazepam (valium), lorazepam and flunitrazepam (Rohypnol). DRD emerges when BZDs are combined with other substances such as alcohol, cannabis, marijuana, cocaine, and opioids. BDZs act to enhance the action of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which works to cause sedation, induce sleep, calm anxiety, and relaxes the muscles. BZDs are generally used in treating a host of mental and health disorders not limited to anxiety, insomnia, convulsions and seizures. More importantly, it has a sedative function which is used in medical procedures. These and more are perhaps the reasons that have led to its abuse.
BZDs have become the most widely used means to initiate drug facilitated sexual assault as reported by the journals, Pediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). It is only second to alcohol as being used as a means to facilitate sexual assault.
Now is it true that date rape drugs are on the rise in Nigeria?
On Wednesday, 15th of May 2019, a post appeared on “Nairaland,” Nigeria’s popular forum, warning ladies to be careful with their acts… This is predicated on an “alleged” new trend that uses Rohypnol as a date rape drug. Dubawa‘s research revealed that this hoax dates as far back as 1999. This took place in the UK where hundreds of women received the message by email. Since then, it has evolved and circulated the web with Brazilian, Spanish, Swedish and Norwegian versions present. The original text reads in part:
“A woman at a nightclub called _______ on Saturday night was taken by 5 men, who according to hospital and police reports, gang raped her before dumping her. Unable to remember the events of the evening, tests later confirmed the repeat rapes along with traces of Rohypnol in her blood and Progesterex, essentially a small sterilization pill. The drug is now being used by rapists at parties to rape AND sterilize their victims… Guys, please inform all your female friends and relatives.“
In this version, mention of Progesterex is omitted perhaps out of the knowledge that it is not a drug in existence. It is interesting to note that in 2006, this message made its way into the UK House of Parliament… when the MP Lynne Featherstone asked that “rape incidences related to progesterex” be catalogued, a fellow member retorted that the drug does not exist.
Would Rohypnol make you infertile?
Disregarding the fictional progesterex, rohypnol and other BZDs, have not been known to cause irreversible infertility. But they do of course have an effect on pregnancy and are contraindicated in pregnant women. Babies born to pregnant women who took rohypnol or other BZDs have not been without their share of issues. Some of which include hypotonia (reduced movement), respiratory and feeding problems, and to an extent cleft lip and palate, etc.
What do date rape drugs look like?
Most drugs come in the form of tablets, liquid or powder form. Also, according to the EMCDDA they are very soluble in water (or drink) leaving no colour behind. The EMCDDA goes ahead to note that “once flunitrazepam began to be implicated in cases of sexual assault through ‘drink spiking’, the manufacturer (Roche Pharmaceuticals) modified the product by adding a blue dye that fizzes when it comes into contact with liquids”. However, the dye is not present in flunitrazepam from illicit sources (ACMD 2007).
How do date drugs affect the body?
The effects of these drugs include:
- Slurred speech
- Muscle paralysis or uncoordinated movement.
- Induces sleep
- Confusion or mental disorientation
- Irregular heartbeat
- Breathing problems
- Passing out
- Short term memory or memory gaps
How can you be Safe?
It might be difficult to discern what other people’s intentions are in a social gathering; with reports referring to cases of date rape occurring with familiar persons. However, the following should be noted:
- Be aware of drinks in punch-bowls or other containers that can be easily “spiked” (when alcohol or another drug is added to a drink without permission).
- Don’t accept drinks from other people. If someone offers to get you a drink from a bar or at a party, go with the person to order your drink. Watch your drink as it is poured and carry it yourself.
- Open your drink yourself. Keep control of it at all times.
- Don’t drink anything that smells or looks strange. Stop drinking any drink that tastes strange. Some date rape drugs may taste salty or bitter, but most are tasteless and odorless.
- Don’t drink more than you want to just because someone else wants you to.
- Don’t drink more than you want to so that someone else will like you or be impressed.
- Get help right away if you feel drunk and haven’t had any alcohol or if you feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are stronger than usual. Find a friend who can help you get to a safe place.
- Look out for your friends, and ask them to look out for you.
According to ACMD, there is no reason to believe that flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) has unique properties as a weapon in drug facilitated sexual assault. Nonetheless, all BDZs, non-BDZs and other drugs (alcohol, cocaine, GBH, GBL) have disinhibitory properties. This is of course dependent on the pharmacological properties (zaleplon, zopiclone, zolpidem) present. It is therefore advised for one to always take note of their social surroundings.