Meet Katherine Abughazaleh. Kat is 23 years old and resides in the Washington, DC, area. Recently Kat, after realizing that her drink had been spiked, shared her story on Twitter in a viral thread that has since been read and shared hundreds of thousands of times.
In her thread, Kat shared some of the symptoms she experienced in the hours after she unknowingly consumed a spiked drink, including "horrible brain fog, difficulty articulating thoughts, and a massive headache."
BuzzFeed spoke to Kat to learn more about her experience having her drink spiked and her decision to share this story publicly. "When I woke up, I didn't even really accept that this had happened for two days," she told BuzzFeed. "And that was after talking to a doctor and googling incessantly. If I had known the symptoms, I would have gone to the hospital right when I woke up. We always tell people how to protect your drinks or how people spiked drinks, but we never tell them what happens after it happens, you know?"
Kat's thread received thousands of comments from people who had experienced the same thing, or knew someone who had.
There were also responses thanking Kat for sharing her experience honestly.
In order to find out more about drink spiking, BuzzFeed spoke to Dr. Ralph Riviello, who is the chair of emergency medicine at UT Health, San Antonio, and a past medical director of several sexual assault treatment programs. BuzzFeed also spoke to Pamela Donovan, author of the book Drink Spiking and Predatory Drugging: A Modern History.
Riviello and Donovan offered BuzzFeed some general information about drink spiking, which we've outlined below.
1. First and most important: If this happens to you, it is not your fault. In her initial thread, Kat opened up about the fact that one of her first reactions was to blame herself, to feel as if it was her fault "for not being careful." Kat told BuzzFeed, "I mean, I'm a part-time bartender. And I had no idea what actually happens when someone spikes your drink." As Riviello noted, the idea that it was somehow her fault could not be further from the truth. "My big pet peeve around drug-facilitated assault [or drink spiking] is that we don't put enough emphasis on the perpetrator. And we rely on the survivor to protect themselves," he said.
2. Unfortunately, when it comes to identifying the symptoms to be on the lookout for...well, that can be difficult, because it ultimately depends on what sort of drug was used.
3. Next, said Riviello, a lot of people have a misconception about the types of drugs that are most often used in these situations. In reality, the drug is not always a "roofie," or something like Rohypnol. "People forget that alcohol can be used as a date rape drug, and that it's very common."
4. Despite a lot of work done by organizations and experts around the world, it's difficult to have a firm sense of how often drink spiking actually happens because of a lack of testing and widely available information.
5. As for preventing drink spiking, well, that's a tough one too. Riviello said, "I think we're stuck with women protecting themselves as much as possible." But, he added, that should not be mistaken for the idea that women are somehow responsible if their drink is spiked or if they experience drug-assisted sexual assault.
Kat said of women, "We are trained to question ourselves. I did everything I could in my mind to bend all of these pretzels to be like, it was my fault somehow, or I'm just blowing this out of proportion — and, until my doctor was saying that's not normal, without even really considering the possibility of what happened. So women are definitely not trained for this. And we're blamed for so many things that happen to us, even if [we're] not at fault."
She concluded, "Symptoms are just as important as the preventative measures. I mean, I could have died. [Knowing them] can save someone from that or anything else happening ... whether you're looking out for them in someone else or in yourself."