Health – Drink Spik­ing

De­cem­ber is a time for let­ting our hair down, but sadly, crim­i­nals too are at their busiest. We take a closer look at date rape drugs, and how you can bet­ter pro­tect your­self


*Thembi Mafu wakes up af­ter her Christ­mas party not re­mem­ber­ing a sin­gle de­tail about the night be­fore. “But I only had one drink, how did I get home?” As she pieces to­gether the pre­vi­ous night’s de­tails, her stom­ach drops when she re­calls a male colleague as­sist­ing her into his car. We’re all in a mood to be jolly and will most prob­a­bly be at­tend­ing braais, year-end func­tions or just be out and about with friends. But be­cause it’s the silly sea­son, per­pe­tra­tors will be tak­ing chances. Be sure not to be­come a statis­tic and vic­tim of sex­ual abuse or vi­o­lence. Be vig­i­lant and aware at all times be­cause date rape drugs are a re­al­ity. Here’s ev­ery­thing you need to know about drink spik­ing:


There are cer­tain drugs that are used to spike your drink, with the most com­mon be­ing Ro­hyp­nol — hence the term ‘roofie’. Some­times, per­pe­tra­tors go as far as us­ing eye drops. But Dr Zakhona Ngema, based in Morn­ing­side, highlights that there are other drugs, even al­co­hol it­self, that are used to take ad­van­tage of women. “Those drugs used in date rape in­clude ben­zo­di­azepines.

Th­ese are drugs pre­scribed for anx­i­ety dis­or­ders and in­som­nia. There’s also GHB or liq­uid G, which is a cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem de­pres­sant. Ke­tamine, also known as spe­cial K, is an anaes­thetic,” she ex­plains.

When you’re out, never leave your drinks unat­tended. Bet­ter yet, if some­one of­fers to buy you a drink, make sure you’re there when it’s made or opened. Don’t let him bring the drink to you. Ac­cept­ing an open drink can be a setup. You need to have a ‘hold up’ mo­ment, where you ask your­self the fol­low­ing — why does this taste or look dif­fer­ent? For in­stance, liq­uid G is said to make a drink taste soapy or salty, but you might not be able to tell the dif­fer­ence af­ter a few drinks.


Ex­perts say that one of the signs that your drink has been tam­pered with is sud­denly feel­ing drunk or ‘buzzed’ af­ter sip­ping a small amount of al­co­hol. Self-aware­ness is im­por­tant and will help you know if you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an ab­nor­mal feel­ing of ‘happy’ or ‘tipsy’ as date rape drugs af­fect your cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem.

Date rape drugs slow down your body, Dr Ngema ex­plains. “The drugs used in date rape are what we re­fer to as cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem de­pres­sants, mean­ing that they slow and even shut down your body, as well as the func­tion­ing of the brain and spinal cord if con­sumed in large dosages,” she ex­plains. “The symptoms which re­sult from slowed down brain func­tions are eased mus­cle ten­sion, and then the body feels more and more re­laxed and even­tu­ally weak,” she adds.

In­ves­ti­ga­tion and crime spe­cial­ist Mike Bol­huis agrees that your body will warn you if some­thing feels wrong. “You’ll get drowsy, nau­seous, a quick and ex­treme headache, your vi­sion will be blurry and your senses get im­paired. If this oc­curs, im­me­di­ately tell your friends. If you’re alone, tell a group that’s still sober and con­tact the po­lice, am­bu­lance and man­ager of the es­tab­lish­ment,” he warns.


As­sum­ing that your per­pe­tra­tor could be a to­tal stranger is a mis­take — more often than not, it’s some­one in your friend­ship cir­cle. A study done by Dr Mar­i­anne Tiemensma and Bron­wen Davies in Cape Town shows that 62% of Drug Fa­cil­i­tated Sex­ual As­saults (DFSA) sur­vivors know their at­tack­ers, as th­ese as­saults oc­cur at the homes of both the per­pe­tra­tors and sur­vivors. The study also found that most in­ci­dents took place in the late evening or early morn­ing, with ethanol sug­gested to be the most com­monly in­volved drug, de­spite lim­i­ta­tions in de­tec­tion, due to de­lays in re­port­ing. Bol­huis agrees that most crimes oc­cur be­tween 11 pm and 4 am. Al­ways go out with a close trusted cir­cle of friends or fam­ily mem­ber, and take the fol­low­ing safety pre­cau­tions as out­lined by Bol­huis.

“En­sure that the venue you’re go­ing to is re­spectable, has a clear stance on vi­o­lence and has proper se­cu­rity and CCTV footage. Al­ways steer clear of dodgy es­tab­lish­ments, ex­tra liquor or drugs that you’re un­aware of. Don’t al­low any­one to join your group if you don’t know or trust them, as they might bring trou­ble. Lastly, know the near­est po­lice sta­tion wher­ever you go, let some­one know where you’re go­ing, make sure you have con­tact num­bers on speed dial and don’t drink and drive,” he ad­vises. *Not her real name

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