Since 1996, reports of drug-facilitated assault have been increasing. Drugs may be used to render the victim helpless or unconscious so that the assailant can commit a rape or robbery. The amnestic effects of many of the drugs used often leave little or no recollection of the events, making investigation and prosecution of the suspect more difficult.
High-risk populations include single women or men, traveling or new to an area, without companions. Drug administration may occur in a bar or club when the victim visits the restroom or accepts an opened bottle or drink. In one series of self-reported cases, half the victims reported meeting the assailant in a public place, and more than 70% of the victims knew the assailant (eg, a friend or colleague).
Drugs used. Contrary to the popular belief that specific “date rape drugs” are involved in these crimes, a variety of drugs with amnestic or central nervous system (CNS) depressant effects can be used to facilitate assault, including opioids, anesthetics, benzodiazepines, other sedative-hypnotic drugs, skeletal muscle relaxants, anticholinergics, hallucinogens, clonidine, and of course ethanol (Table I–46).
Table I-46 Examples of Substances Detected in Urine of Drug-Facilitated Assault Victims |Favorite Table|Download (.pdf)
Table I-46 Examples of Substances Detected in Urine of Drug-Facilitated Assault Victims
Usual Duration of Detection in Urinea
2–5 days (single use)
Less than 1 day
Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB)
Less than 1 dayb
Note that many of these drugs are also commonly used to “get high” and may have been self-administered by the victim for this purpose.
Benzodiazepines are often selected for their anterograde amnestic effect, which is related to but distinct from sedation. The strength of the amnestic effects can be predicted to increase with the dose, rapidity of onset, lipophilic character, and slow redistribution from the CNS.
Routes of surreptitious drug administration
Drink: tablet, ice, liquid in eyedropper.
Smoke: applied to a cigarette or joint.
Ingestion: brownie, gelatin, fruit, other food.
Vaginal syringe: drug in contraceptive gel.
Represented as another drug.
Clinical evaluation. If the victims present early after the assault, they may still be under the influence of the drug and may appear inappropriately disinhibited or relaxed for the situation. Unfortunately, victims often present many hours, days, or ...