21st birthdays, 21st Century style

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Heather Stanton
  • 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
My 21st birthday is coming up and I plan to celebrate it the traditional way - by going out with some of my close friends to dinner and bar hopping. 

When I talked to my supervisor about requesting leave for the day after my birthday to recuperate, she wanted to know my plans - who I was going with, where I was going to stay and whether I planned to have a wingman with me at all times. I told her two or three of my guy friends were coming with me to a girl-friend's apartment in Las Cruces and we would all be staying there for the night. I already had my designated driver - who is also my wingman, someone underage who wouldn't be tempted to join in the festivities. 

I can understand the concern my supervisor has for me and my safety when 76 percent of all rape victims in the United States know the perpetrator. The number is 82 percent in the military. 

"The most common scenario is the excess use of alcohol to the point the victim is no longer able to give consent," said Ms. Laura Meredith, 49th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. "Over 80 percent of the reported sexual assaults in the military involved excess alcohol." 

Some of these assaults happen when a perpetrator slips a substance, known as a date-rape drug, into the victim's beverage. The most common of this type of drug are gamma hydroxyl butyrate, rophynol and ketamine. 

GHB, also known as jib, serenity, firewater and liquid ecstasy, is a mixture of floor stripper and drain cleaner and is a central nervous system depressant. This drug gives a rapid onset of intoxication and often causes vomiting, involuntary muscle jerking and slow breathing. GHB is hard for the victim to detect because it is odorless and tasteless. It leaves the body fairly quickly and the victim cannot remember what happened. 

Rophynol, also known as roofies, a roche and the forget pill, is a small white pill that easily dissolves in liquid and is also tasteless and odorless. This drug makes the victim have a sleepy, drunk feeling for two to eight hours, blackouts, dizziness and nausea.
Ketamine, also known as special-K, is a powdery substance and is odorless, tasteless and undetectable when put in a beverage. This drug puts victims in a frozen state of mind and causes the victim to have no memory of prior events. 

These drugs and other date-rape drugs, when used, are commonly combined with alcohol. Alcohol is the most common "drug" used with victims of date rape, said Ms. Meredith. When drinking alcohol, keep your drink with you at all times, even when going to the bathroom. 

"The main precaution I would recommend is to not drink to excess where you lose good judgment," Ms. Meredith said. 

Drinking to excess really depends on the person - their tolerance and body weight, said Airman Cass Vaughn, 49th Aeromedical Dental Squadron Public Health. A 200-pound male who drinks heavily every weekend will have a higher tolerance than a 120-pound female who only drinks on occasion. Where one beer can effect the 120-pound female, it wouldn't even phase the 200-pound male. 

Drinking in excess can have many consequences. Not only can you make a fool of yourself by falling all over the place and slurring your words when speaking, but you can really damage yourself. Alcohol poisoning can happen if you drink too much, too quick.
The symptoms of alcohol poisoning are confusion, vomiting, seizures, irregular breathing, pale skin and unconsciousness, said Senior Airman Natalie Lasher, 49th Medical Operations Squadron. 

Many alcohol poisoning incidents lead to the victim being taken to the nearest emergency room to get their stomach pumped. That is definitely not the way I would like to spend my 21st, or any other, birthday. 

I know when I go out for my 21st birthday I will be safe and not let my festivities get out of hand. I will have my wingman by my side the whole night, because, even though I trust my friends with my life, I can't trust the other people around me.