Men are victims as well as women—and the 15,000 US ER cases in a year are just the tip of the iceberg.
About 15,000 people arrived at US emergency rooms in 2009 after being deliberately drugged by someone else without their knowledge, finds a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The victims’ demographics are broad: nearly 75% are over the age of 21—and perhaps surprisingly, almost 40% are male. Most cases—just under 60%—involve drinks being spiked. The motives for these poisonings aren’t good ones; they include the desire to rob, attack or rape—about three million American women in total have been raped in cases found to involve non-consensual drugging. “This is not an epidemic, but it is a serious situation,” says Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. He lists “stimulants, cocaine, ecstasy, anxiety drugs” as among those used. And the reported figures understate the problem: some people will never know they were drugged, with memory loss often a symptom. Delany warns, “if you’re in a situation where there’s drinking and drug use going on, you need to keep an eye on things and pay attention.”