real life

This is what it feels like to be "roofied".

Growing up on the Gold Coast, I was told incessantly about the dangers of having a drug slipped into a drink. My mother and father knew the terminology; “getting roofied” – in reference to the drug Rohypnol, also called the “date-rape” drug. They knew what it meant. It was associated with bad men drugging you and sexual assault and waking up hurt in strange, dangerous places.

They thought they knew how to prevent it. Or how to be careful, at least. They taught me to never leave a drink unattended. Never to accept an open drink from a stranger. Never to take an open drink onto the dance floor. To keep my index finger over the opening a bottle while walking through a crowd.

They didn’t know what it felt like though.

“When I try to bring the night back, this is where it stops, halfway through the second gin and tonic,” journalist Jordan Kisner wrote for The Cut. “I remember that my friend was teasing me and I was laughing, and that the crowd was close around us, many of them tall men, which made it feel like we were in a warm clearing amidst trees. I remember feeling safe, and then I remember nothing.”

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I have never been “roofied”, at least to my knowledge. And that’s the problem – I can’t be sure. The list of symptoms that appear at the top of a Google search “symptoms of being roofied” are vague, and difficult to distinguish from the symptoms of having too much to drink.

For example:

  • Drunk Feeling.
  • Trouble talking.
  • Trouble standing.
  • Inability to move.
  • Feeling of being paralysed.
  • Loss of muscle control.
  • Confusion.
  • Nausea.

Personal accounts, like Kisner’s, are more educational.

“Twelve hours after being drugged, I woke up shaking in John’s bed, fully clothed, and on top of the covers,” Kisner wrote. “My knowledge of the interim is pieced together mostly from what he told me. Apparently, I’d grown radiantly happy and then quickly, dramatically incapacitated. I’d stopped talking, and then walking. I ran into walls.”

“He took me back to his apartment to put me to bed, but I managed to lock myself in his bathroom for 30 minutes and either wouldn’t or couldn’t respond to his attempts to coax me out,” she continued. “When I finally emerged, he suggested I sit down, and I sat. He told me I should drink water, and I wordlessly accepted the cup. This was what unnerved him the most in the retelling: how pliable I had been. ‘You would do things, but you weren’t there,’ he said.”

Perhaps the most startling aspect of Kisner’s account was the fact she wasn’t a victim to any violence.

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Obviously, this is a good thing.

But it begs a question around the motivations of the person doing the drugging. Why? 

Kisner asked around. She found many people had experienced the same thing. Drugged. No memory. But no danger.

“Dave was drugged while hanging out in a gay bar with some friends; Zelda was drugged when she went out with co-workers in Soho; Kate was drugged at a club in midtown; Trenton at a club in the Meatpacking District,” her article reads. “Each was incapacitated in the moment, violently ill afterward, and otherwise physically unharmed. No one ever reported to the police.”

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Rophypnol is just one way of getting “roofied”. In Australia, ketamine (sometimes called Special K) and gamma-hydroxybutyrate, (liquid ecstasy) are also commonly used.

When slipped into an open drink, all these drugs result in similar symptoms – memory loss, lethargy, a drugged/drunk-like state. All are also lethal in large doses.

Yes, the dangers of date-rape are still very real. Remember the three women in California in May this year, who spotted a man slipping something suspicious into what-looked-like his date’s drink while she was in the bathroom? One of them followed her into the bathroom and told her what she saw. They told the restaurant management, who reviewed the cctv footage. The woman’s glass was also taken by police as evidence.

That man was later charged with the intent to commit rape and drugging with the intent to commit rape.

But, the dangers of being drug-abused, without violence or sexual assault, are also real.

“I had no idea who it could possibly have been [who drugged me],” one woman, who was drugged in a bar and came to after a four-hour blackout, told Kisner. “I was 99 percent sure I hadn’t been assaulted, and I really just wanted to forget about the whole experience by that stage. I was emotionally and physically exhausted, and went into hibernation for a while.”

Clearly, despite my parents’ advice, being drugged is not always about bad men and dangerous places.

For this reason, it’s never been more necessary to know the dangers. That they could come from anywhere. You need to know the ways to keep safe. No matter where you are. But, most importantly, you need to know what it feels like.

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