Sexual predators use a variety of drugs to sedate victims

(Photo Illustration by Lisle Alderton)

“I always wondered why they were called ‘roofies’, cause you’re more likely to end up on the floor than the roof. They should call them ‘floories’,” Doug said.
    “Or rapies,” Alan added.
    This infamous quote from movie, “The Hangover” may have helped the two characters find their friend and groom-to-be, but roofies are, in reality, anything but laughable.

Roofies are derived from the drug Rohypnol. It, if used for its correct purpose, treats severe sleeping disorders and has been allowed by the Drug Enforcement Administration since 1995. Some rapists and sexual assaulters, however, put Rohypnol into drinks to hinder victims from fighting back.  When Rohypnol is used in a rape, it is called a “roofie.”

Bill Arck, director of alcohol and other drug education service, said drug manufactures are taking steps to make it more difficult to use the drug improperly.

“Makers of Rohypnol changed the formula so when mixed with CMS depressants (alcohol), clear drinks turn blue, beer turns green and dark drinks turn murky,” he said. “They also have the tablet dissolving slowly.”

Now possible victims may be more apt to notice the difference before they take a drink. If they do take a drink though, they could know immediately something is wrong.

Arck said the effects of roofies are generally significant enough that a person would know they were not alcohol-related, especially if the person was sober and not on any other prescription or recreational drugs at the time.

The drug can sedate a person in 20 minutes, the effects usually last eight and 12 hours, but depending on what is in a person’s system already (i.e. food, alcohol), it may last even longer.

GHB (street names: Liquid E, Liquid X and Woman’s Viagra)

GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid) is a clear liquid that can easily be confused with water at first glance, especially if it is stored in a water bottle or similar receptacle. The body naturally produces small amounts of the chemical to help metabolism, but ingesting any more than that leads to effects similar to being high on ecstasy (hence its nickname “Liquid E”).

A Sept. 18, 2005, Kansas City Star article about GHB said the drug is utilized more and more frequently in bars. Since 1995, there have been 198 GHB-related fatalities, most in the U.S., according to findings from a GHB research project headed by Deborah Zvosec, a Minnesota-based researcher.

“It’s still a big issue, and law enforcement and hospitals are way behind,” said Trinka Porrata, a retired Los Angeles police officer who heads Project GHB, a group that tries to raise awareness about drugs.

Ketamine (Special K, Ket or Vitamin K)

Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride) has the same effects on the body as Rohypnol.

Ketamine is approved for commercial use as a veterinary product in cats and monkeys for short-duration surgery or immobilization. It is also used in human medicine as an anesthetic for children for whom vomiting is not an issue. Ketamine was used for battlefield injuries in the Vietnam War and other wars for rapid induction. It has been used for repeated procedures like radiation therapy and changing of burn dressings in which analgesia (pain reduction) is desired but deep anesthesia is not required. This drug lasts only 30 to 60 minutes.


Even less obvious drugs like Benadryl are playing a role in rapes and sexual assaults.

“It is not easily detected,” Herrera said. “They just overdose their victims on that instead of roofies.”

Benadryl, an antihistamine with drying and sedative effects is used to help with allergies.  It is also used to treat allergic reactions to blood transfusions, to prevent and treat motion sickness and, with other drugs, to treat anaphylactic shock (severe allergic reaction) and Parkinson’s disease. Since the side effects ultimately result in a lifeless body, some rapists and sexual assaulters prefer the drug to eliminate victims’ resistance.

Signs of Ingestion

According to the K-State Women’s Center, the physical effects of Rohypnol can be similar to being highly intoxicated, for example, the victim could have nausea, vision problems, slurred speech, dizziness and, if taken under the right conditions, convulsions or blackouts. 

The effects of Ketamine and GHB are similar and can also include aggressive behavior or breathing problems. In extreme cases, a person can go into a coma or even die.

Mental effects include dreamlike feelings, confusion, hallucinations, lost sense of time and identity, of distorted perception of
sight and sound, feeling out of control, out-of-body experiences, coma, numbness, and partial or complete amnesia.

Since most victims do not know the symptoms of being drugged, many believe it is hard to tell the difference between them and being drunk. Therefore, the instances go unnoticed. By the time people report rapes or assaults; the roofies are out of their system and are not detected.

Tammy Herrera, registered nurse and sexual assault nurse examiner at Mercy Regional Health Center, said, “It is hard to say the difference between being drugged and being drunk,” Herrera said, “We do not test for drugs because usually they are out of the system too fast. We take a blood sample from the victim and send it to KBA [Kansas Bioscience Authority] with the sexual assault kit. Sometimes they come back positive.”