Drug Use a Factor in Two-Thirds of Sexual Assaults

'Date-rape' drugs play role in about 5% of cases, study finds

THURSDAY, June 1, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Drug use was a factor in nearly 62 percent of sexual assaults, and nearly 5 percent of victims were given "date-rape" drugs, a new U.S study finds.

"In some cases, the substances are taken voluntarily by the victims, impairing their ability to make decisions. In other cases, the substances are given to the victims without their knowledge, which may decrease their ability to identify a dangerous situation or to resist the perpetrator," study author Adam Negrusz, an associate professor of forensic sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy, said in a prepared statement.

His team's study included 144 sexual assault victims who sought help at clinics in Texas, California, Minnesota and Washington state.

The victims in this study ranged in age from 18 to 56, with a mean age of about 27 years. They provided two urine samples and a hair specimen, and also provided information about the sexual assault and any drugs they were using.

"The urine and hair specimens were analyzed for about 45 drugs that have either been detected in sexual assault victims or whose pharmacology could be exploited for drug-facilitated sexual assaults," Negrusz said.

The study found that nearly 62 percent of the victims had at least one of the 45 analyzed drugs in their system, about 5 percent tested positive for "classic" date-rape drugs, and just over 4 percent had been drugged without their knowledge. About 35 percent of the victims were impaired due to voluntary drug use at the time of the sexual assault.

"This study demonstrated the need for toxicological analysis in sexual assault cases. It also demonstrated that sexual assault complainants severely underreport their illegal drug usage. This could be corrected if the administering nursing staff was better educated on taking a truthful drug history," Negrusz said.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Justice, and can be accessed via the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about sexual assault.

SOURCE: University of Illinois at Chicago, news release, May 11, 2006
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