Drink spiking is no urban legend among young partygoers. In fact, it is a growing problem prevalent among college students in the U.S., a study has revealed.

For this reason, researchers have developed a tool to determine whether a drink has been laced with drugs, and ultimately prove whether drink spiking is a common occurrence in the party scene.

Is It A Hidden Epidemic?

A research team at the University of South Carolina led by Suzanne Swan examined the extent of drink spiking by analyzing the data gathered by a survey of 6,064 students from three different universities.

Data analysis revealed that about 7.8 percent of students reported 539 instances where they were drugged, and about 1.4 percent admitted they were guilty of drugging someone or they know someone who drugged another individual.

Researchers also found that women are often the victims of drink spiking. Women were found to report more incidents, particularly when the motive is sexual assault. Still, many of the victims choose not to report because they are unsure of what transpired or what they have taken prior to the assault.

Although women frequently report drink spiking incidents, the activity also affects 21 percent of men.

Drink Spiking For Fun

Male respondents also claimed that drink spiking is often done "to have fun."

"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," said Swan.

Although there is no way for the researchers to validate the claims of respondents, what they found is enough to say that drink spiking is not an urban legend. It is indeed happening, and it is becoming more prevalent in universities where students are engaging in risky behaviors without thinking about the consequences of their actions.

Researchers recommend that interventions should also include not only the victims of drink spiking but the perpetrators as well. Those who drug another person do not understand that what they are doing is not fun. It has risks involved, including overdose.

"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," Swan added.

The analysis [PDF] is published in Psychology of Violence on May 23.

Photo: Hernán Piñera | Flickr

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