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Breaking the silence of the date rape drug

by admin December 7, 2010

Breaking the silence of the date rape drug

by admin December 7, 2010

There’s something about the primal quality of the sound made by someone in real, raw pain. It’s a bit like that of a child who has no way of understanding the source or time constraints of the pain it feels, and whose cry resonates with undertones of confusion and frustration. It was that cry that kept me frantic and glued to my friend’s side as she crouched on the sidewalk with her head resting on the bumper of a stranger’s car. About an hour beforehand, she had come barging into the bathroom to let me know that things were not okay. Something was wrong. We had been at this party hosted by UQAM for less than an hour and had had a drink each. Something wasn’t matching up.

Symptoms escalated. She wasn’t coherent, couldn’t walk, stand or even sit up and was refusing to pull her head out of the plastic bag we had given her in case she felt sick. Fear was setting in. Hours later, as I stood in her living room with the first rays of sun making their way across the apartment walls and listened to her whimper in the adjoining room, I reflected on my own experience. This was not the first time I had been in this situation, but last time it was me who had been unconscious and waking up with no memory of the night before.

My father had been the one to pick me up three years before, drugged by a stranger and unconscious on the bathroom floor of an isolated restaurant in downtown Ottawa. He was also the first to hear the panic in my voice as my friend’s condition escalated. Well-trained by the call he had received from my friends when they had found me, my father calmly tried to soothe me and make sense of the situation.

Were her reactions the same as mine? I had no way of knowing, as I have no recollection of the evening I was drugged. I can picture the friends I had been dancing with that night and vividly recall the sound of Madonna blaring from the bar’s mediocre speakers. But then the screen goes blank.

My own experience was of no use as I grappled with feelings of helplessness and my own inability to stop my friend’s pain. Should I be calling for help? Was she going to be okay? How could I have let this happen to her? We should have been more responsible.

Thankfully, we had been responsible. She was safe, just as I had been.

Months later, I realize that this is one of the reasons why there has not been enough dialogue on this topic. Many of those who have been drugged were smart and responsible enough to develop strategies that prevented the extreme from happening. Therefore, we quickly dismiss the abuse “that could have been worse,” keep our heads down and try to forget it ever happened.

That same night, at least two other attendees reported having been drugged after I posted an inquisitive message on the event page. And as we crouched on the sidewalk for nearly an hour waiting for our ride, both security and party-goers attested to having seen quite a few girls leave in a similar state at the beginning of the evening.

Dissecting the drug

What is the biggest challenge in fighting the dangers of what has come to be commonly known as the “rape drug,” “date rape,” or “roofies?” Pharmaceutical intern Christian Bordeleau said it is the complete lack of a standard recipe or ingredient combination.

“The other thing people really need to know is that there is really no antidote or way to get it out of your system, if not naturally with time,” he explained.

If bought on the streets or from an unknown dealer, a rape drug is usually a mishmash of ingredients. It can contain gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), methylenedioxymethamphetamines (MDMA), speed and other miscellaneous fillers that reduce purity and concentration while increasing profit – including the common household cleaner Comet.

As a member of the amphetamines family, MDMA has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system. This results in arousal of the senses, possible hallucinations and a substantial lowering of inhibitions, along with feelings of empathy and well-being. As for ecstasy, it combines the reactions listed for MDMA with the wakefulness, energy, loss of appetite and intense focus of speed. But in most cases of drugging or recreational misuse, GHB shows up as the main perpetrator.

GHB is actually produced naturally by the body in tiny doses, although its biological utility has yet to be determined. Through the years it has been used for many purposes including as a general anesthetic and as a way to augment muscular mass.

The physical effects of the synthetic GHB now seen on the streets are highly dependent on the doses given and the user’s metabolism. Taking between one to two grams can lead to reduced anxiety, lowered inhibitions, a feeling of drowsiness, trouble co-ordinating movements and slight sedation resulting in a muted sense of pain and body awareness.

When a strong dose of two to four grams is consumed, you can enter a hypnotic state that creates a disconnect between your physical understanding of your environment and your capacity to consciously process that information. It is at this point that you could, for example, physically understand being led to another location without being able to process the fact that the location is unknown and the person at your side is a complete stranger.

Ultimately, if you take over four grams you face the possibility of general anesthesia similar to a coma state. Add alcohol to the mix and it is the equivalent of doubling or tripling every drink you consume. The body starts eliminating the drug from its system after four to six hours, but alcohol consumption significantly stretches out the process. The average dose sold on the streets is about 2.5 grams and costs approximately $15.

Blaming the victim

So who can we point the finger at? The chances of identifying the person who gave the drugs are slim to none given the speed at which it can be slipped in a drink and the fact that it is impossible to taste once combined with juice or alcohol.

So we go looking for the dealers. According to C.J (name withheld due to privacy), a drug dealer familiar with the various components and effects of the rape drug, there is no real way to gauge the reason why a person might be buying the drug.

“Your general knowledge of the person is a good indication,” he said. He admits, though, that there is no way of being certain that they are purchasing for consenting, recreational use.

So why then is the dialogue on this issue so limited, given how extensive its use has become? Whether it is confusion about the drug’s effects, shame, mixed reactions from friends or social stigmas that lead us to believe that the victim was somehow irresponsible, there seem to be many reasons to stay silent.

Gabrielle Turner, 23, was drugged at a small party consisting of only friends and acquaintances. The reaction she got when trying to talk to the friend who had hosted the evening had been flippant, to say the least. “She kind of giggled at my supposed attempts to cover up my low alcohol tolerance,” she said. “And then she asked me who I realistically thought would have done such a thing.” Turner, who was studying interior design at the time, has hardly spoken of that incident in the three years since it happened. After the initial reaction she received, Turner was wary about discussing it.

For Anne-Charlotte Demarle, the reactions she received were quite different. The 22-year-old French student was visiting friends she had made while studying in Montreal when her evening at the UQAM party event went off track. Self-described as a moderate drinker, she had had a single glass of wine before heading out for the celebrations and the equivalent of less then a drink during the five to six hours she apparently spent at the party. The bulk of this information, she said, was related to her by friends, seeing as most of the evening has escaped her mind completely. “I kind of, but hardly, remember looking at my watch around 1 a.m., but according to my friends we left between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.” she said. “I have no recollection whatsoever of the taxi ride home and the next day, when I woke up, I was in the worst pain I have been in in my life.”

Demarle described being extremely ill until well past 6 p.m. the next day. She remembered connecting the dots when she was told that another friend who had attended the party had been in the same state. When she recounted her ordeal to family and friends, her story was met with anger, fear and disgust towards the person who had drugged her. But as Turner’s case shows, not all victims are so lucky to find a sympathetic ear.

In a culture so deeply engrained in excessive consumption, many drugging stories are met with intense skepticism and doubt. With drugging often seen, though rarely used, as the perfect excuse for someone who refuses to accept the fact that they drank irresponsibly, it takes only a few dismissive reactions for a victim to fall into silence.

As I related the events of that evening to people around me, I was astonished to see how many were quick to tell me I was exaggerating, that it was no big deal. My friend was safe, that was all that mattered – let it rest. Another common response was a bombardment of questions about just how much she had had to drink and what kind of crowd we had chosen to spend the evening with. Call me naïve, but this seemed beside the point.

Preventing the abuse

Being drugged is a serious allegation to make, as are claims related to the more extreme results of drugging, such as assault. “To be fair, I get where a lot of people were coming from when they, at first, weren’t sure whether I was being dramatic or telling the truth,” said Turner. “But once someone you know, and whose judgement you trust tells you they are being serious, no more questions should be asked. Friends and family then need to listen and be supportive.”

Fear of judgement should no longer be a key player in this discussion. Education along with communication, it seems to me, are some of the greatest tools in teaching individuals to distinguish the symptoms of alcohol abuse from those of rape drug toxicity.

“I could never thank my friends enough for staying with and by me throughout the whole evening,” said Demarle. Though she acknowledged that it has been said a million times, the recurring and slightly predictable moral of the story is one she said really does apply. “Keep an eye on your drink, the other on your friends and make sure you always leave with every member of the group you arrived with.”

According to C.J, whose male friend slept with a stranger after being drugged, one of the biggest lessons he learnt is to always have someone to call. “Make sure you always have the number of someone who has your back,” he said. “No matter how bad of a situation you are in, or whether it is your fault or not, everyone needs to have that one person that will show up and take care of the situation without asking too many questions right away.” He also advised making sure other people around know who that person is. “My backer has saved me from a lot of dangerous situations.”

For my friend, that person was her boyfriend. For myself, my father. And someday, we might become the person a loved one chooses to turn to. So let us make sure we are up to the task and ready to talk, shall w

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There’s something about the primal quality of the sound made by someone in real, raw pain. It’s a bit like that of a child who has no way of understanding the source or time constraints of the pain it feels, and whose cry resonates with undertones of confusion and frustration. It was that cry that kept me frantic and glued to my friend’s side as she crouched on the sidewalk with her head resting on the bumper of a stranger’s car. About an hour beforehand, she had come barging into the bathroom to let me know that things were not okay. Something was wrong. We had been at this party hosted by UQAM for less than an hour and had had a drink each. Something wasn’t matching up.

Symptoms escalated. She wasn’t coherent, couldn’t walk, stand or even sit up and was refusing to pull her head out of the plastic bag we had given her in case she felt sick. Fear was setting in. Hours later, as I stood in her living room with the first rays of sun making their way across the apartment walls and listened to her whimper in the adjoining room, I reflected on my own experience. This was not the first time I had been in this situation, but last time it was me who had been unconscious and waking up with no memory of the night before.

My father had been the one to pick me up three years before, drugged by a stranger and unconscious on the bathroom floor of an isolated restaurant in downtown Ottawa. He was also the first to hear the panic in my voice as my friend’s condition escalated. Well-trained by the call he had received from my friends when they had found me, my father calmly tried to soothe me and make sense of the situation.

Were her reactions the same as mine? I had no way of knowing, as I have no recollection of the evening I was drugged. I can picture the friends I had been dancing with that night and vividly recall the sound of Madonna blaring from the bar’s mediocre speakers. But then the screen goes blank.

My own experience was of no use as I grappled with feelings of helplessness and my own inability to stop my friend’s pain. Should I be calling for help? Was she going to be okay? How could I have let this happen to her? We should have been more responsible.

Thankfully, we had been responsible. She was safe, just as I had been.

Months later, I realize that this is one of the reasons why there has not been enough dialogue on this topic. Many of those who have been drugged were smart and responsible enough to develop strategies that prevented the extreme from happening. Therefore, we quickly dismiss the abuse “that could have been worse,” keep our heads down and try to forget it ever happened.

That same night, at least two other attendees reported having been drugged after I posted an inquisitive message on the event page. And as we crouched on the sidewalk for nearly an hour waiting for our ride, both security and party-goers attested to having seen quite a few girls leave in a similar state at the beginning of the evening.

Dissecting the drug

What is the biggest challenge in fighting the dangers of what has come to be commonly known as the “rape drug,” “date rape,” or “roofies?” Pharmaceutical intern Christian Bordeleau said it is the complete lack of a standard recipe or ingredient combination.

“The other thing people really need to know is that there is really no antidote or way to get it out of your system, if not naturally with time,” he explained.

If bought on the streets or from an unknown dealer, a rape drug is usually a mishmash of ingredients. It can contain gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), methylenedioxymethamphetamines (MDMA), speed and other miscellaneous fillers that reduce purity and concentration while increasing profit – including the common household cleaner Comet.

As a member of the amphetamines family, MDMA has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system. This results in arousal of the senses, possible hallucinations and a substantial lowering of inhibitions, along with feelings of empathy and well-being. As for ecstasy, it combines the reactions listed for MDMA with the wakefulness, energy, loss of appetite and intense focus of speed. But in most cases of drugging or recreational misuse, GHB shows up as the main perpetrator.

GHB is actually produced naturally by the body in tiny doses, although its biological utility has yet to be determined. Through the years it has been used for many purposes including as a general anesthetic and as a way to augment muscular mass.

The physical effects of the synthetic GHB now seen on the streets are highly dependent on the doses given and the user’s metabolism. Taking between one to two grams can lead to reduced anxiety, lowered inhibitions, a feeling of drowsiness, trouble co-ordinating movements and slight sedation resulting in a muted sense of pain and body awareness.

When a strong dose of two to four grams is consumed, you can enter a hypnotic state that creates a disconnect between your physical understanding of your environment and your capacity to consciously process that information. It is at this point that you could, for example, physically understand being led to another location without being able to process the fact that the location is unknown and the person at your side is a complete stranger.

Ultimately, if you take over four grams you face the possibility of general anesthesia similar to a coma state. Add alcohol to the mix and it is the equivalent of doubling or tripling every drink you consume. The body starts eliminating the drug from its system after four to six hours, but alcohol consumption significantly stretches out the process. The average dose sold on the streets is about 2.5 grams and costs approximately $15.

Blaming the victim

So who can we point the finger at? The chances of identifying the person who gave the drugs are slim to none given the speed at which it can be slipped in a drink and the fact that it is impossible to taste once combined with juice or alcohol.

So we go looking for the dealers. According to C.J (name withheld due to privacy), a drug dealer familiar with the various components and effects of the rape drug, there is no real way to gauge the reason why a person might be buying the drug.

“Your general knowledge of the person is a good indication,” he said. He admits, though, that there is no way of being certain that they are purchasing for consenting, recreational use.

So why then is the dialogue on this issue so limited, given how extensive its use has become? Whether it is confusion about the drug’s effects, shame, mixed reactions from friends or social stigmas that lead us to believe that the victim was somehow irresponsible, there seem to be many reasons to stay silent.

Gabrielle Turner, 23, was drugged at a small party consisting of only friends and acquaintances. The reaction she got when trying to talk to the friend who had hosted the evening had been flippant, to say the least. “She kind of giggled at my supposed attempts to cover up my low alcohol tolerance,” she said. “And then she asked me who I realistically thought would have done such a thing.” Turner, who was studying interior design at the time, has hardly spoken of that incident in the three years since it happened. After the initial reaction she received, Turner was wary about discussing it.

For Anne-Charlotte Demarle, the reactions she received were quite different. The 22-year-old French student was visiting friends she had made while studying in Montreal when her evening at the UQAM party event went off track. Self-described as a moderate drinker, she had had a single glass of wine before heading out for the celebrations and the equivalent of less then a drink during the five to six hours she apparently spent at the party. The bulk of this information, she said, was related to her by friends, seeing as most of the evening has escaped her mind completely. “I kind of, but hardly, remember looking at my watch around 1 a.m., but according to my friends we left between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.” she said. “I have no recollection whatsoever of the taxi ride home and the next day, when I woke up, I was in the worst pain I have been in in my life.”

Demarle described being extremely ill until well past 6 p.m. the next day. She remembered connecting the dots when she was told that another friend who had attended the party had been in the same state. When she recounted her ordeal to family and friends, her story was met with anger, fear and disgust towards the person who had drugged her. But as Turner’s case shows, not all victims are so lucky to find a sympathetic ear.

In a culture so deeply engrained in excessive consumption, many drugging stories are met with intense skepticism and doubt. With drugging often seen, though rarely used, as the perfect excuse for someone who refuses to accept the fact that they drank irresponsibly, it takes only a few dismissive reactions for a victim to fall into silence.

As I related the events of that evening to people around me, I was astonished to see how many were quick to tell me I was exaggerating, that it was no big deal. My friend was safe, that was all that mattered – let it rest. Another common response was a bombardment of questions about just how much she had had to drink and what kind of crowd we had chosen to spend the evening with. Call me naïve, but this seemed beside the point.

Preventing the abuse

Being drugged is a serious allegation to make, as are claims related to the more extreme results of drugging, such as assault. “To be fair, I get where a lot of people were coming from when they, at first, weren’t sure whether I was being dramatic or telling the truth,” said Turner. “But once someone you know, and whose judgement you trust tells you they are being serious, no more questions should be asked. Friends and family then need to listen and be supportive.”

Fear of judgement should no longer be a key player in this discussion. Education along with communication, it seems to me, are some of the greatest tools in teaching individuals to distinguish the symptoms of alcohol abuse from those of rape drug toxicity.

“I could never thank my friends enough for staying with and by me throughout the whole evening,” said Demarle. Though she acknowledged that it has been said a million times, the recurring and slightly predictable moral of the story is one she said really does apply. “Keep an eye on your drink, the other on your friends and make sure you always leave with every member of the group you arrived with.”

According to C.J, whose male friend slept with a stranger after being drugged, one of the biggest lessons he learnt is to always have someone to call. “Make sure you always have the number of someone who has your back,” he said. “No matter how bad of a situation you are in, or whether it is your fault or not, everyone needs to have that one person that will show up and take care of the situation without asking too many questions right away.” He also advised making sure other people around know who that person is. “My backer has saved me from a lot of dangerous situations.”

For my friend, that person was her boyfriend. For myself, my father. And someday, we might become the person a loved one chooses to turn to. So let us make sure we are up to the task and ready to talk, shall w

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