The story of three California women who recently saved a stranger from drinking a spiked drink while on a date has gone viral. The circumstances shocked many, but underscored a painful truth: drink spiking isn’t just something you see in movies. Now, a new study shines a light on just how common it is.
Researchers from the University of South Carolina recently surveyed more than 6,000 students at three universities and found that one in 13 reported being drugged, with most of the incidents happening as recently as this academic year. Just one percent of respondents admitted to drugging others or knowing someone who had drugged someone.
When asked about motive, women were much more likely to believe they had been drugged and that sexual assault was a motive, while men were more likely to attribute their experience to someone wanting to “have fun or be funny.”
“Today, more than one in five women are sexually assaulted on college campuses,” said Ann Adlington, Coordinator of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program for Advocate Health Care’s southern region. “While drug-assisted assault may seem like something that happens in the movies, it’s a very real problem. Unfortunately, if someone comes to the hospital to report an assault, it can be hard to confirm whether they have been drugged because many of the drugs used leave the body rather quickly, and there is often a delay in seeking care.”
While sexual assault was a common outcome of being drugged, others included blacking out, getting sick or throwing up and physical assault. Most of the reported incidents happened in a home, apartment, fraternity house or bar. Among those who knew what they ingested, rohypnol (commonly known as “roofies”) was responsible for almost a third of the incidents. Other common drugs included Xanax, Ecstasy, and Cocaine.
“While sexual assault is a huge concern, it is disturbing how many reported drugging others as an attempt at humor or to liven things up,” said Adlington. “While it may seem like a practical joke to some, the risk of overdose or unexpected reactions with prescription medications are very serious. It should go without saying, but no one should ever force another person to ingest something without their consent, for any reason.”
Adlington says that while it’s unfortunate we have to worry about these things, the best defense is awareness. She offers these tips for staying safe:
- Don’t accept drinks from strangers unless you have seen it safely travel from the bartender to your hands, or only accept drinks from people you know and trust.
- Keep an eye on your drink at all times. If you need to use the restroom, either finish your drink first or give it a trusted friend to hold for you.
- If something tastes a little funny, stop drinking. You can always ask the bartender or server for a fresh drink.