There is still the widespread belief that drink spiking is reaching epidemic proportions. I currently sit on the NSW Drink Spiking Action Group, a NSW government multi-agency group tasked with coordinating and improving the response to drink spiking across relevant government agencies. It has been interesting examining what evidence actually exists to justify the huge amount of community concern. Drink spiking undoubtedly does occur, sometimes resulting in other crimes such as sexual assault and/ or robbery taking place. However, the evidence seems to indicate that it is not as prevalent as the tabloid media would have us believe.

A UK study released last week sheds a little more light on the issue. It involved the analysis of toxicology results from 1,014 cases of claimed drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA), often labelled date rape by the press, at a London laboratory between January 2000 and December 2002. Interestingly, there were only 21 cases (two percent) where a sedative or disinhibiting drug was detected which the subject had not admitted taking and which could therefore be an instance of deliberate spiking. This included three cases in which complainants were allegedly given ecstasy (MDMA) without their knowledge. Other drugs detected included GHB and sleeping pills such as diazepam (Valium) and temazepam. Alcohol (either alone or with an illicit and/ or pharmaceutical drug) was detected in 470 of all cases (46 percent). Illicit drugs were detected in 344 cases (34 percent).

The authors recommended that advice be given regarding alcohol consumption, e.g. drinking steadily, not drinking on an empty stomach and the risks involved with the use of illicit drugs. They concluded by saying that if this advice was taken there would almost certainly be a significant decrease in the number of cases of alleged DFSA as fewer persons would find themselves in a vulnerable position through heavy alcohol and/ or drug intoxication.

One of the great myths that this study highlights is that Rohypnol is commonly used in DFSA. The authors found no evidence that Rohypnol had been used for this type of crime in the UK over the three-year study period. Rohypnol (generic name flunitrazepam) was withdrawn from sale in Australia in 1998 and there is little evidence that it is used in drink spiking incidents in Australia. The drug is easy to detect in urine, even in very low concentrations. Even in the USA, where the myths about Rohypnol’s use as a date rape drug started and gained currency, it is rarely ever detected by US police forces in drink spiking incidents.

Although we know that other drugs can be used in drink spiking crimes, the evidence continues to suggest that it is alcohol that we should be most concerned about. It is unpredictable and if anyone is going to spike a drink there are few drugs that are less detectable or more effective.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?/p>

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