Drink Spiking: One in 13 College Students Possibly Drugged, Survey Shows

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
May 25, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2018

More than one in 13 college students said somebody spiked their drink or that they suspected so, according to a sizable survey at three campuses.

Moreover, one in 15 said such an incident happened to them during past semester.

A research article on the survey sheds light on a phenomenon that has been described both as being on the rise and as an urban legend in scientific literature, the authors say.

They say the problem is more than an urban legend—83 participants reported they drugged somebody or knew somebody who did.

The survey gathered responses from over 6,000 participants aged 18-24. Over 80 percent were white, and almost two-thirds female. It was conducted at the University of South Carolina, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Cincinnati in 2012 and 2013.

Among those who believed to be victims of drugging:

  • more than two thirds reported they blacked out;
  • about a third got physically ill;
  • more than one in 20 was forced to sex (23 women and 2 men);
  • about one in seven enjoyed it.

When asked why they thought they were drugged, top answer for men was to “have fun” or “be funny,” while for women it was “sex” or “sexual assault.”

“The guy who [drugged me] was an exchange student at a house party some friends took me to,” a female survey participant said.

“Afterward, they took me to another friend’s house to ‘recover’ since I was not in shape to go back to the dorm. They put me in his bed to sleep it off and I later woke up without any clothes. They told me that both incidents were my fault, leading me to stop talking to them.”

A male survey respondent said: “I have drank many times before, but it has never had this kind of effect, especially since I did not drink an excessive amount . . . the guys who may have been responsible made comments about giving me a ‘present’ while we were taking shots.”

The study authors acknowledged they had no way of telling if the people who said they were drugged actually were. Sometimes people may have misjudged how much they drank or didn’t realize the effects of combining alcohol with prescription drugs.

One of the participants described the experience:

“It does not feel that you are drugged at first and then you start to realize certain things that you are doing are not something that you would do. The scariest thing about it is that you have no control over your body, but you have to be the one that has to identify that you have been drugged.”

The article on the survey was published in the journal Psychology of Violence of the American Psychological Association.

10 Tips on How to Avoid Having Your Drink Spiked

  1. Don’t accept drinks from other people.
  2. Open containers yourself.
  3. Keep your drink with you at all times, even when you go to the bathroom.
  4. Don’t share drinks.
  5. Don’t drink from punch bowls or other common, open containers. They may already have drugs in them.
  6. If someone offers to get you a drink from a bar or at a party, go with the person to order your drink. Watch the drink being poured and carry it yourself.
  7. Don’t drink anything that tastes or smells strange. GHB, one of the more commonly used drugs, sometimes tastes salty.
  8. Have a nondrinking friend with you to make sure nothing happens.
  9. If you realize you left your drink unattended, pour it out.
  10. If you feel drunk and haven’t drunk any alcohol—or, if you feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are stronger than usual—get help right away.

Source: Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health

Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.