Photo via Flickr user Lindsay Lachance
The prospect of a spiked drink has long been a lurking danger at college parties and bars alike. A single roofied drink, you are warned, could lead to a total blackout and many terrible consequences to follow. But while PSAs and student orientations warn people to watch their drinks, it's hard to gauge just how widespread drink-spiking really is.It turns out that this isn't just a boogeyman: A new study that tries to get a handle on the prevalence of drugged drinks on America's college campuses found that spiked drinks are very real, indeed, and are still a common problem for young people.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina surveyed just over 6,000 students to ask if they've ever been drugged or have drugged someone by putting something in their drink. About 460 people said they had been drugged in a total of 539 instances, while 83 people admitted that they had drugged someone else. Overall, about 8 percent of those surveyed reported that they had been the victim of a spiked drink in the past.The study, published in Psychology of Violence, recognized that it's hard to get truly accurate data when it comes to spiked drinks. Drinking too much could lead someone to believe they were drugged, and even over-the-counter medicine can cause weird reactions when paired with booze.
However, the researchers were able to make some concrete conclusions. The study found that women were more likely to be the victims of spiked drinks, and they also were more likely to say that they were roofied by someone attempting to commit sexual assault. Men, on the other hand, said that the point of spiking a drink was to "have fun," proving that some guys need to find new hobbies.
"Even if a person is drugging someone else simply 'for fun' with no intent of taking advantage of the drugged person, the drugger is still putting a drug in someone else's body without their consent—and this is coercive and controlling behavior," the study's lead author, Suzanne Swan, said.The study comes at a time when spiked drinks have been making major headlines, with many of the women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault alleging that Cosby encouraged them to take qualuudes while drinking in order to cloud their judgment.Until this study, there hadn't been much large-scale research into spiked drinks, though some scientists in Singapore have developed a fluorescent sensor that reveals the presence of the date-rape drug GHB in spiked drinks. But creeps often use other substances, too, so the sensor can only offer so much protection.Until the low-lifes of the world are eradicated, keep a close eye on your gin and tonic. Sometimes, it can be a pretty uncool world out there.