Spiked drinks and food make good times go bad

It's not so rare as many think

  • Spiking a victim's drink and food is a common ploy in sexual assault
  • Drinks and food may be tampered with by a range of bad actors, including "friends"
  • Being informed can help keep you safe in social drinking situations

A lot of people may assume that having someone covertly slip something into your drink or food only happens to other people. But 56% of women and 44% of men, know from personal experience that's that's not so. That's according to statistics gathered in surveys conducted by Alcohol.org and published as a collection of infographics called SPIKED. They present the experiences of people who've experienced this nasty personal violation — or think they have, since it's often hard to be sure. Tampering with drinks and food is often the prelude to sexual assault, and alcohol is far and away the most common medium in which to hide date-rape drugs such as Rohypnol, GHB, and ketamine, and other substances.

All graphics in this post are by Alcohol.org.

The dangerous chemistry of spiked drinks

In addition to the horror of being sexually assaulted, some substances mixed with alcohol are also dangerous on a strictly chemical basis.

How can you tell you’ve been dosed?

After consuming a spiked drink, it's common to become so confused that it's hard to know what's going on at all during an attack, and often equally difficult later on to remember if something even happened. This is one reason why rape and sexual assaults are likely under-reported.

There may be symptoms of spiked substances that can provide a telltale clue if a violation is occurring or has occurred, even when there's no memory of it and only a troubling sense of something wrong. Alcohol.com's respondents listed these.

Sedatives and MDMA, specifically

The survey got into more detail, looking at symptoms specific to sedatives and MDMA (ecstasy).

Where are you most likely to get spiked?

You're most likely to run into problems, not surprisingly, at house parties, mostly unsupervised gatherings that can attract friends and strangers alike. Next up on the list is bars, where spikeable drinks are continually freely flowing and easily sidetracked for dosing. Alcohol.org also asked respondents to name the substance most likely to be used different places, and Unknown is the chilling top answer by a considerable amount. Again, it's hard to know what's just happened.

What’s the main problem substance?

Drilling down a little further, people were asked their opinions about what substances are being used most in spiking, with Unknown again the "winner." Respondents who'd had food or drink spiked were asked when it first occurred. (37% had reported multiple experiences with being dosed.)

It’s easy to tell who to look out for, right? Nope.

Obviously, strangers are significantly more likely to spike one's drinks and food than others. But a surprising number of respondents, men in particular, reported being dosed by people they viewed as friends. Most unsettling may be that about 15% of respondents weren't even sure who altered their food and drink.

Perpetrators often get away with it

A strong majority of people surveyed — 65% of women and 58% of men — said they don't expect the law to be of much use in going after the criminals. In addition to the usual difficulties female victims continue to experience when they attempt to report sex crimes, there's the additional problem of substance-clouded memories being undervalued by authorities. In fact, a stunning 62% of women, and 52% of men, didn't even report being attacked. A small number found their friends on the scene to be helpful.

It's clear that staying safe is up to each of us. Your best bet is to keep a close eye on your drinks and food as they make their way to you, and don't ever leave them unguarded without at least being under the watchful eye of someone you know you can trust.

Should you defend the free speech rights of neo-Nazis?

Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen discusses whether our society should always defend free speech rights, even for groups who would oppose such rights.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Former ACLU president Nadine Strossen understands that protecting free speech rights isn't always a straightforward proposition.
  • In this video, Strossen describes the reasoning behind why the ACLU defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, 1977.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

It’s just a sheet of glass. With AI.

A new paradigm for machine vision has just been demonstrated.

Image source: aleknext/Shutterstock
Technology & Innovation
  • Scientists have invented a way for a sheet of glass to perform neural computing.
  • The glass uses light patterns to identify images without a computer or power.
  • It's image recognition at the speed of light.
Keep reading Show less

New alternative to Trump's wall would create jobs, renewable energy, and increase border security

A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.

Credit: Purdue University photo/Jorge Castillo Quiñones
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
  • The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
  • It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
Keep reading Show less

Elon Musk’s Neuralink unveils device to connect your brain to a smartphone

"A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain," Musk said, referring to tests of the device.

Neuralink
Technology & Innovation
  • Neuralink seeks to build a brain-machine interface that would connect human brains with computers.
  • No tests have been performed in humans, but the company hopes to obtain FDA approval and begin human trials in 2020.
  • Musk said the technology essentially provides humans the option of "merging with AI."
Keep reading Show less