A multifactorial critical appraisal of substances found in drug facilitated sexual assault cases

Forensic Sci Int. 2018 Nov:292:50-60. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2018.08.034. Epub 2018 Sep 3.


Drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) is a sexual act in which the victim is unable to give or rescind consent due to intoxication with alcohol and/or drugs that have been self-administered (opportunistic DFSA) or covertly administered by the perpetrator (predatory DFSA). The drugs that are most commonly associated with DFSA are flunitrazepam and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB). They cause sedation and amnesia, are readily dissolved in beverages and are rapidly eliminated from the system. However, drugs such as amphetamine and cocaine, which are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, have also been encountered in DFSA cases. This paper critically evaluates trend data from cohort studies, identifying drugs that have been detected in DFSA cases and reports on the differences in drugs used between opportunistic and predatory DFSA. This is the first time that a critical multifactorial review of drugs used in DFSA has been conducted. The pharmacology of each identified group of drugs is presented, showing why these compounds are of interest and used in the perpetration of DFSA. Furthermore, the pharmacology and mechanisms of action are described to explain how the drugs cause their effects. It is also apparent from this study that if meaningful data is to be exchanged between law enforcement agencies then it is necessary to agree on protocols for the collection of evidence and the drugs for which analysis should be performed and indeed on the analytical methods used.

Keywords: DFSA; Drugs and pharmaceutical compounds; Sedatives.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Barbiturates / administration & dosage
  • Barbiturates / adverse effects
  • Benzodiazepines / administration & dosage
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects
  • Cannabis / adverse effects
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage
  • Cocaine / adverse effects
  • Crime Victims*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • Half-Life
  • Histamine Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Histamine Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Sodium Oxybate / administration & dosage
  • Sodium Oxybate / adverse effects
  • Substance Abuse Detection*
  • Substance-Related Disorders*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Barbiturates
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Histamine Antagonists
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Sodium Oxybate
  • Cocaine