Page last updated: June, 2016

More than a myth: Drink spiking happens

A research team led by Suzanne C Swan of the University of South Carolina, sought to determine the prevalence of drink spiking by looking at survey data from 6,064 students at three US universities.

The researchers found that 7.8% of students reported 539 incidents in which they said they had been drugged, and 1.4% said either they had drugged someone, or they knew someone who had drugged another person.

The study found that women were more likely to be the victims of spiking and reported more negative consequences than men. (Men comprised 21% of the victims). Women were also more likely to report sexual assault as a motive while men more often said the purpose was ‘to have fun’. Other, less common reported motives included to calm someone down or make someone go to sleep.

The researchers concede that there were clear limitations to the study. “We have no way of knowing if the drugging victims were actually drugged or not, and many of the victims were not certain either,” the researchers wrote. “It is possible that some respondents drank too much, or drank a more potent kind of alcohol than they were accustomed to.” Additionally, many common drugs, including overthe- counter medications, can interact with alcohol. And victims often don’t remember what happened when they were drugged, the authors noted.

Given their findings, the researchers said interventions should be developed to target those doing the drugging, not just victims. “Because many of those who drug others believe that the behaviour is fun and minimize the risks, interventions could provide information about the dangers of overdosing,” Swan said. “They could also target the issue of consent. Just as people have a fundamental right to consent to sexual activity, they also have the right to know and consent to the substances they ingest.”

Source: Just a Dare or Unaware? Outcomes and Motives of Drugging (‘Drink Spiking’) among Students at Three College Campuses, SC. Swan; Nicole V. Lasky; Bonnie S. Fisher; V. Diane Woodbrown; Janaé E. Bonsu; Andrew T. Schramm; Peter R. Warren; Ann L. Coker; Psychology of Violence, published online May 23, 2016.

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