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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Kentucky: Understanding “Drink Spiking” Motivations and Experiences among College Students

“Drink spiking” and “drugging” is often discussed as a phenomenon on college campuses, with “watch your drink” campaigns urging students to be on guard against being drugged by peers. However, research on this the motivations and results of drugging is nascent. Prior research has primarily focused on drugging as a means of sexual assault, and has not addressed drugging more generally.

[Photo: Dr. Corrinne Williams (left) and Dr. Ann Coker]

To gather data on drugging, researchers collected data from 6,064 students at three universities. The goal was to explore the prevalence of drugging as well as experiences and perceptions among those who had drugged someone (or knew someone who had) and those who had been drugged.

More than one in 13 students reported being drugged (462 students, 7.8 percent of the sample, reported 539 incidents), and 83 students (1.4 percent) 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 four out of five victims reported negative outcomes, a small number of (mostly male) victims said they enjoyed being drugged.

The authors conclude that to design interventions to prevent the negative consequences of drugging, the full context of drugging must be better understood. The study appears in the April issue of Psychology of Violence. Study authors include Dr. Corrinne Williams, associate professor of health, behavior & society, and Dr. Ann Coker, professor of epidemiology, of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health.