A new research published in CMAJ (http://www.cmaj.ca/press/pg513.pdf) establishes that of the 882 sexually assaulted sampled victims, more than 20% percent were drug-facilitated. The victims were most likely employed and living in big cities, and had consumed over-the-counter medicine, illegal drugs, or alcohol before the attack.

While this kind of assault seems to have increased over the past decade, there are hardly any studies thoroughly analyzing the incidence of drug-related assaults, there is also very little information on the victim’s profile.

Researchers from the Women´s College Research Institute, Toronto, and the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres, merged in a group effort to analyze data from seven hospital-based centers. Both rural and urban populations were attended by these centers on a 24 hour, 7 day-a-week basis.

In the seventy-two hours preceding the assault, it was documented that 30% of the victims reported having taken prescription medicines, 26% over-the-counter medications, and 27% illegal drugs. Alcohol was consumed immediately before in 90% of the cases.

Dr. Janice Du Mont and colleagues write:”These types of substances have pharmacologic properties that can alter states of consciousness and lower inhibitions, especially when used simultaneously with alcohol and in their own right may be used to spike drinks.” They add, “As such, victims could have unwittingly ingested a “date rape drug,”” although the combination of alcohol and drugs could also result in incapacitation.”

The 20 to 24 year-old bracket was the major age group represented in the study, with 36%, followed by 16 to 19 years of age with 23%.

Education and public awareness campaigns about the effects of alcohol, particularly in combination with drugs are necessary to help fight this problem, the authors write in conclusion.

Dr. Jan Welch and Dr. Bernadette Butler, King’s College Hospital, London, UK, write in related observations, (http://www.cmaj.ca/press/pg493.pdf) “for clinicians caring for victims of sexual assault, a non-judgemental approach is essential. It is important to recognize the possibility of drug-facilitated sexual assault and provide the necessary therapeutic care while addressing forensic issues when possible, including evidence collection and documentation.”

In addition, they recommend education for both genders to facilitate the understanding of the potential risks as victims and assailants as well as the various biological effects of alcohol and drugs.

Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ)

Written by Stephanie Brunner (B.A.)