Search the Site

The Spiked-Drink Myth

Drinking alcohol puts people at high risk for all kinds of misfortunes. Exposure to date-rape drugs, however, doesn’t seem to be one of them.
In a study published in the British Journal of Criminology, more than half of the 200 university students surveyed said they knew someone whose drink had been spiked. But judging from evidence in police and medical records, these numbers are probably highly inflated. For instance, one Australian study of 97 men and women who’d been admitted to an emergency room and claimed their drinks had been spiked found only 9 “plausible” cases. Forensic evidence supported none of those claims; for the most part, the complainants were simply drunk.
Alcohol can be dangerous enough without bringing date-rape drugs into the picture. Drinking is commonly implicated in sexual assault. At least 50 percent of rapes on college campuses are associated with drinking, among both perpetrators and victims. Still, too often, fear of a spiked drink outstrips fear of one drink too many.
“Young women appear to be displacing their anxieties about the consequences of consuming what is in the bottle on to rumors of what could be put there by someone else,” said Dr. Adam Burgess, one of the authors of the British study, in an interview with the Telegraph.
Why the displacement? Guarding against drink-spiking can be a proxy for discussions of problem drinking. Or, as Bruce Schneier wrote in a blog post about the study: the drink-spiking myth serves as a way for “parents and friends to warn young women of excessive drinking without criticizing their personal choices.”