Just a Dare or Unaware? Outcomes and Motives of Drugging (“Drink Spiking”) Among Students at Three College Campuses

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Abstract

Objective: Drugging (administering a drug to someone without their knowledge or consent) is acknowledged as a problem in “watch your drink” campaigns. However, research on this phenomenon is nascent. Prior research has primarily focused on drugging as a means of sexual assault, and has not addressed drugging more generally. Method: Survey data from 6,064 students at 3 universities was used to explore drugging among those who had drugged someone (or knew someone who had) and those who had been drugged. Results: More than 1 in 13 students reported being drugged (462 students, 7.8% of the sample, reported 539 incidents), and 83 students (1.4%) reported 172 incidents of drugging someone. Participants’ perceptions of why people drug others varied by gender. Women were much more likely to mention sex or sexual assault as a motive, while men were more likely to mention having fun as a motive. Participants also mentioned getting others more drunk or high and getting someone to relax as motives. It is possible that some motives (e.g., “to ‘loosen’ me up”) could be euphemisms for more coercive or sexual motives not directly stated. Outcomes for those drugged were also gendered, with female victims experiencing more negative outcomes, including sexual assault, blacking out, and getting sick. Although over 4 out of 5 of victims reported negative outcomes, a small number of (mostly male) victims said they enjoyed being drugged. Conclusions: To design interventions to prevent the negative consequences of drugging, the full context of drugging must be better understood.

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