In deeply concerning news, The O.C. alum Mischa Barton claimed her drinks was spiked when she was out celebrating her 31st birthday on Wednesday, Jan. 25 with friends. According to People, this reportedly led to Barton's recent voluntary hospitalization and she has since been released. A rep for the actor could not be immediately reached by Bustle, but this story will be updated if comment is received. In a statement to People, Barton pointed out this is "a lesson to all young women out there" to "be aware of your surroundings," which sounds like valuable advice. And she's right, this is a good reminder to keep an eye out for warning signs at parties or bars.
Here's Barton's statement to People:
So, how can you tell if your drink has been spiked? Unfortunately, it's not always easy, but there are some indicators. The drug GHB, commonly known as a date rape drug due to its powerful sedative properties, comes in different forms — "a liquid with no odor or color, white powder, and pill," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. When added to a drink, it may give a slightly salty taste, but it may be added to a fruit juice in order to mask this giveaway.
While Barton is right and it's important to keep an eye on your surroundings, it also seems worth stressing that Barton received medical support for the alleged nonconsensual drugging of her drink, and she's now OK because she wasn't afraid to seek help. We can all learn from this: If something doesn't feel right, no matter how small, it's important to say something. Tell a trusted friend, so that if your condition worsens, they've already been alerted.
GHB isn't the only date rape drug commonly used. Other date rape drugs include gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL), tranquilizers, most often benzodiazepines (including valium and Rohypnol), and ketamine. These drugs are "depressants, which work by slowing down your nervous system, dulling your responses and instincts and affecting your memory," according to British health organization Health Exchange. In short, these drugs can make you vulnerable if you've unknowingly consumed them.
These drugs can act quickly, often taking effect between 15-30 minutes after consumption and with effects lasting several hours. So if someone hasn't been drinking very long and they suddenly seem to behaving erratically, this could be an obvious red flag. This said, there aren't any hard or fast rules: The effect of any drug will depend on a person's body shape and size, their age, how much of the spiked drink a person has consumed, and how much alcohol (if any) has already been drunk.
According to the U.K.'s National Health Service, more symptoms for GHB and other date rape drugs include: lowered inhibitions, difficulty concentrating or speaking, loss of balance or finding it hard to move, visual problems (specifically blurred vision), memory loss or blackouts, feeling confused or disorientated, particularly after waking up (if you've been asleep), paranoia, hallucinations, nausea or vomiting, and unconsciousness. These symptoms may still be felt after a full night's sleep.
But if this sounds too complex to look out for on a night out, then just bear in mind that any sudden or unexpected change in your state of mind could be a red flag, even if it seems like a positive change — The Telegraph flags up that "feeling happy, sleepy, or generally disorientated all count" as possible symptoms. If you're unsure, then speak up: Tell someone you trust, whether that's a close friend, a relative, a medical professional, or the police. Time is of the essence, since most date rape drugs are dangerous in combination with alcohol and will combine to create a powerful anesthetic effect. It's important to take it seriously, since in extreme cases, they can lead to a coma or death, according to WomensHealth.gov.
While obviously this is only an issue because there are individuals out there who sickeningly think nonconsensual drugging is OK, are there practical measures you can take in the first place to lessen the chances of this happening? Aside from buying your own drinks and making sure you watch the bartender prepare any beverages yourself, don't accept drinks from strangers and never leave your drink unattended (say, when going to the bathroom). It could even be a good idea to make a plan with your friends at the beginning of the night to keep an eye on each other.
So sure, it's not a topic that's a whole lot of fun to discuss when you're about to embark on a night of partying. But as the alleged drugging of Barton highlights, it's vital to stay alert.