Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Sex & relationships health centre

Symptoms of drink spiking

NHS Choices Medical Reference

NHS Choices Logo

If your drink has been spiked, your symptoms will depend on what drug has been used.

The effect of any drug will depend on your body shape and size, your age, how much of the spiked drink you have consumed, and how much alcohol (if any) you have already drunk.

Any drug could be slipped into your drink without your knowledge. Drugs can come in powder or liquid form, and may not have an unusual taste or smell. See the A-Z of drugs on the  Talk to Frank website for more information about illegal substances and their effects.

Date rape drugs

The most common drugs that are used in drink spiking are often referred to as date rape drugs. This is because they make it harder for you to resist an assault. The most common date rape drugs are:

  • alcohol
  • gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL)
  • tranquilisers, most often benzodiazepines, including valium and rohypnol
  • ketamine

These drugs are depressants, which work by slowing down your nervous system, dulling your responses and instincts and affecting your memory. In moderation, alcohol can help to relax you, and some date rape drugs are legally prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. However, when taken without knowing, these substances leave you vulnerable to danger.

Date rape drugs will affect your behaviour and the messages that you give out to other people. You will not be fully in control of yourself, and someone could take advantage of you.

Date rape drugs can start to take effect within 20 minutes of being taken. The symptoms for the above drugs, including alcohol, are quite similar, and will include some of the following:

  • drowsiness or light-headedness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling confused or disorientated, particularly after waking up (if you have been asleep)
  • difficulty speaking, or slurring your words
  • loss of balance and finding it hard to move
  • lowered inhibitions
  • paranoia (a feeling of fear or distrust of others)
  • amnesia (memory loss) or a "black-out" of events (when you can't remember large sections of your evening)
  • temporary loss of body sensation (feeling like you are floating above your body, or having an "out of body" experience)
  • visual problems, particularly blurred vision 
  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing or touching things that aren't there)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • unconsciousness

All date rape drugs are particularly dangerous when mixed with alcohol because they combine to have a very powerful anaesthetic effect. This causes unconsciousness and, in more extreme cases, it can cause coma or even death.

How long the drugs' effects last will depend on how much has been taken and how much alcohol you have drunk. The symptoms could last three to seven hours (12 hours maximum), but if you pass out it will be hard to know the full effect. You may still feel some of the symptoms of a date rape drug after a night's sleep, such as confusion, amnesia or nausea.

The most common date rape drugs are described below.

Alcohol

Alcohol is the most common date rape drug. It can be added to a soft (non-alcoholic) drink without you knowing, or double measures can be used instead of singles. If you've had a drink already, you may find it harder to tell how much alcohol you're drinking. The effects of alcohol will depend how much you drink.

Large amounts of alcohol can be dangerous, particularly if you pass out and vomit in your sleep. It takes your body one hour to process a unit of alcohol, so the length of the effects will depend on how many units of alcohol you have consumed. See alcohol misuse for an explanation of units of alcohol, with examples.

Gamma-hydroxybutyrate and gamma-butyrolactone

Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) usually comes in the form of a slightly oily colourless liquid, or less often as a powder.

Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) is a more basic form of GHB and another possible date rape drug. It comes in liquid form and is found in some household products. After entering the body, GBL changes into GHB.

Only a very small amount of GHB is needed in order to have an effect, and it can be dissolved easily into other liquids. GHB has an unpleasant taste and a weak odour. But you are unlikely to notice it in very small doses or when it is mixed with a strong-flavoured drink.

Tranquilisers

Tranquilisers come in hundreds of different forms. The most common are called benzodiazepines. You may hear of these as valium, rohypnol, roofies or benzos. They are sometimes legally prescribed to treat anxiety or insomnia. Tranquilisers work by slowing down your body, relieving tension and making you feel very relaxed. They normally come as a tablet.

Ketamine

Ketamine, sometimes called K, is a powerful anaesthetic that is used for both animals and humans. In its legal form it is a liquid. Illegally, it is normally a grainy white powder or a tablet. Ketamine can cause hallucinations (when you see or hear things that are not real) or it can create a feeling of your mind being separate from your body.

Anaesthetic
Anaesthetic is a drug used to either numb a part of the body (local), or to put a patient to sleep (general) during surgery.
Coma
A coma is a sleep like state when someone is unconscious for a long period of time.
Doses
Dose is a measured quantity of a medicine to be taken at any one time, such as a specified amount of medication.
Fatigue
Fatigue is extreme tiredness and lack of energy.
Hallucinations
Hallucinations are a sensory experience in which a person sees, hears, or feels something or someone that isn't really there.
Nausea
Nausea is when you feel like you are going to be sick.
Vomiting
Vomiting is when you bring up the contents of your stomach through your mouth.
Medical Review: November 02, 2011

Popular Slideshows & Tools on Boots WebMD

woman looking at pregnancy test
Early pregnancy symptoms
donut on plate
The truth about sugar addiction
smiling african american woman
Best kept secrets for beautiful hair
couple watching sunset
How much do you know?
hand extinguishing cigarette
13 best tips to stop smoking
assorted spices
Pump up the flavour with spices
bag of crisps
Food cravings that wreck your diet
crossword puzzle
Help for the first hard days
probiotic shakes
Help digestion
polka dot dress on hangar
Lose weight without dieting