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.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
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.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
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