Date-Rape Drug Myth

A study of more than 200 students revealed many wrongly blamed the effects of a “bad night out” on date-rape drugs, when they had just drunk excessively. …  The study … found three-quarters of students identified drink spiking as an important risk – more than alcohol or drugs.  More than half said they knew someone whose drink had been spiked.  But despite popular beliefs, police have found no evidence that rape victims are commonly drugged with such substances, the researchers said. …

“During thousands of blood and alcohol tests lots of judgement-impairing compounds were discovered, but they were mostly street drugs or prescription pharmaceuticals taken by the victims themselves, and above all alcohol was the common theme. …  Earlier this year, Australian researchers found that not one of 97 young men and women admitted to hospital over 19 months to two Perth hospital claiming to have had their drinks spiked, had in fact been drugged.

More here.  Apparently women prefer to blame a mythical drug over own drinking, etc. Like parents would rather worry about mythical kidnappers at the mall than ordinary kid-parent conflict.  And so on.  Really folks, look first for simple ordinary explanations before looking to unusual ones.

HT to Patri Friedman.

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  • Dan Armak

    Really folks, look first for simple ordinary explanations before looking to unusual ones.

    The hard part is learning to pick out the ordinary explanations over the extraordinary ones.

  • Eric Johnson

    I’m hesitating. This may just be a way to get treated for street drugs without admitting having taken them.

  • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

    It’s like the old food-poisoning ruse (“must have been something I ate…”). No one wants to admit they just plain drank too much.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      A great example.

  • http://billmill.org Bill Mill

    A high false-positive rate does not mean that there are no positives, and it is a fallacy to think it does.

    • Cognitive Miser

      A Straw Man argument is also a fallacy.

    • http://eucalculia.blogspot.com John Faben

      A high false-positive rate does not mean that pigs can fly, and it is a fallacy to think that it does. What exactly is your point?

  • Violet

    Also might be related to signaling.

    There is stigma attached to (women) doing certain things, so signaling innocence after the fact is one strategy. Which might be quite rational in some circumstances.

    If society unfortunately judges:
    alcohol + rape -> “the victim shouldn’t have drunk so much”
    date-rape drug + rape -> “the victim is innocent”

    Then it is quite clear that people will prefer to say “I was drugged”.

    Which in results in the myth.

    • asd

      You’re assuming a lot by saying “alcohol + rape”. Willingly consumed alcohol often *creates* consent that is later regretted, that’s very far from rape. Whereas a pill that makes a woman more pliable, given without her consent or knowledge, very much is rape.

      Finally, yes women who willingly make themselves incapacitated among drunk men very much do have themselves to blame for getting raped. Much like a drunk small guy picking a fight with a big guy has himself to blame for getting his teeth punched out.

      Imo it’s unfortunate that drunk women aren’t being blamed more for their risky behavior.

      • her

        In many locations, drunken consent is not legal consent.

  • Jackson

    “When the novelist Martin Amis said recently that it was the sexual revolution of the Sixties and Seventies that destroyed his ‘pathologically promiscuous’ sister Sally, an alcoholic who died in 2000 aged 46, he provoked a wave of controversy.”

    http://tinyurl.com/yco7au8

    When I read this I immediately thought of my sister. We had a moderate Christian upbringing and, well, to cut a long story short, she has spent her adult life seemingly trying to get involved with the least appropriate men possible AND retain some ‘cake and eat it’ faith in ‘God’. If this f**ked up world is anything to go by, she’ll almost certainly go straight to heaven.
    On discovering the writing Theodore Dalrymple I had a sense of relief, he articulates so many instances of this wilful behaviour, and much else besides.

    Karen told a touching story. When he was 18 and she was 16, she “fell for him,” but he was so rough with her when they had sex that “it put me off doing it again.” Nevertheless, she continued to see him until he became too jealous and possessive.
    “Those gorgeous eyes that girls always spotted could be evil as well as charming,” she recalled. Unfortunately, though, she met him again in a pub five years later, by which time she was engaged to be married. “Now he was a man. We were laughing and getting drunk. He was charming me again, and I fell for it again.” The happy couple went back to his home. “He locked the bedroom door. Then his mood changed. He overpowered me, got on top of me, and forced me to have intercourse.”

    Anyway, about two years ago I was talking to my sister, in the News a man had recently been found guilty of serial date rape. I reacted, without really thinking, to the evidence that women hadn’t reported him sooner. I said something like “Why wouldn’t they?”
    My sister, (ad hominem) whose personality is something of a very off-putting mix of cynicism, immature girly (who me?) kookiness with sharp, cutting, intelligence nonchalantly said something like “they were probably embarrassed, ashamed… I think I got raped once… I have a pretty good idea who it was… but shit happens blah blah.”

    I don’t remember the words exactly but I can quite confidently say I’ve never been so drunk that I wouldn’t remember something like that, but then, I’ve tended to be boringly sensible.

    Now I can’t wait for all the people to tell me how much more horrible I must be than my sister for what I’ve just written… yeah, well P*ss off and go read Dalrymple!

  • Douglas Knight

    Apparently women prefer to blame a mythical drug over own drinking, etc. Like parents would rather worry about mythical kidnappers at the mall than ordinary kid-parent conflict.

    Those seem rather different to me. If people worry about it in the sense of taking precautions to avoid it, it becomes a lot harder to blame it. (Parents do try to blame mythical kidnappers when their children run away, but they usually can’t deceive themselves for very long.)

  • ed

    “It’s like the old food-poisoning ruse (”must have been something I ate…”). No one wants to admit they just plain drank too much.”

    Reminds me of this great Onion article

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/27832

  • Sigivald

    Bill: True, but note that there were zero true positives in the sample.

    If out of nigh a hundred cases where someone thought they were drugged significantly enough to seek medical attention, there were zero confirmations (and if we assume that other contexts have shown that our tests are basically accurate for detecting the absence or presence of the drugs in question), we can very, very reasonably infer that the real rate can’t be very high.

    (Or, I suppose, we could infer that “real” druggings are so un-obvious that the victims don’t notice and go in to get looked at? That also seems unlikely.)

    • plutosdad

      I saw on some news program once a man who was caught because it was on his hidden nanny cam. They showed part of it in the beginning, it was pretty distrubing, the girl was completely unconscious, like a doll. So there is no way she would remember anything.

      Her only clues would have been the circumstances in which she awoke, and well depending on what he did with her body. If he is convincing he might convince her she passed out on the couch and, being a gentleman, he left her there.

      That is totally different than remembering what happened. If she can remember and was conscious, then there was no date rape drug. I think that accounts for the zero cases.

      Whether that is rape or not is a completely separate issue. The issues is, parents should care less about the minute things that might happen but probably never will (getting kidnapped, getting date rape drugs slipped in their drink, etc) and focus on teaching their kids to be responsible and watch for common dangers, like not binge drinking, etc.

  • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

    Apparently women prefer to blame a mythical drug over own drinking, etc.

    Blaming the rapist is off the table?

    • komponisto

      I’ve often noticed that people have real cognitive trouble with blaming more than one person or thing at the same time.

      It’s as if the total amount of blame is always fixed, and blaming one thing more causes us to blame another thing less.

  • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

    Might a possible explanation be that people aren’t expert at identifying the effects of the drug, which iirc are basically a blackout and not terribly different from heavy drinking?

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  • Singularity7337

    There is a bit of irony here. Most of the posters here are males who are more likely to be virgins or be unsuccessful sexually. They might use such a pill, if they could only get a reasonably thin girl to drink with them.

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      Someone should do an experiment that tests willingness to “spike” a drink with (what is believed to be) such a drug. If that goes against goody-two-shoes academic ethics, maybe a tv show could pick up the slack.

  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    So the females are usually drugged with alcohol?
    Part of the larger problem is that it’s perhaps unreasonably hard for men to have sex with women when women aren’t intoxicated, and yet having sex with an intoxicated woman puts a man at risk for a rape charge.

    • Violet

      Maybe you should worry about unethical behaviour more than a charge.

      If someone is unable to consent don’t take advantage of them.

      • plutosdad

        That’s my general attitude, I am uncomfortable if a woman can barely stand. But plenty of women tell me they drink so that their inhibitions are lowered so they WILL go home with someone. They make the choice when they start drinking.

        So basically I just never have one night stands, safer all around. But I can’t really say when they do happen between two drunk people, that the man is wrong.

    • nawitus

      No, the females drugged *themselves* with alcohol.

      • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

        That’s assumed, but not proven. It’s conceivable that extra alcohol was slipped into the drinks of women who thought they were drugged. This wouldn’t show up in the lab tests.

      • mike

        It’s also possible that they were hypnotized. That doesn’t show up on tests, either. Better lock the guy up just in case.

      • http://petitioprincipii.wordpress.com/ Ray Gardner

        The extra alcohol thing does happen of course, but by definition would be very difficult to pull off. Too stiff of a drink and the drinker simply isn’t going to consume as much.

        I bartended in my early 20s, and know from well worn experience, there’s only so much you can do with juice and vodka and still have a tolerable drink.

        Keep in mind that this isn’t an indictment of women, it’s an example of the well known habit of human beings to evade blame whenever possible. Just think of all of the excuses men have used as to why they cheated.

  • Rhoda

    I would have thought it’s the rapist that is to blame not the vicitim.

    Hopefully anonymous, are you implying that it’s unreasonably hard to ask men not to rape women? If a woman is so intoxicated she is unable to consent then it is rape.

  • lemmy caution

    “When the novelist Martin Amis said recently that it was the sexual revolution of the Sixties and Seventies that destroyed his ‘pathologically promiscuous’ sister Sally, an alcoholic who died in 2000 aged 46, he provoked a wave of controversy.”

    Martin Amis’s sister died of organ failure due to alchoholism. Blaming the sexual revolution is a stretch. She definitely had bad taste in men, but that didn’t kill her.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1231509/Was-Martin-Amiss-sister-killed-Sixties-sexual-revolution–drunken-fathers-neglect.html

  • Torben Peitersen

    Really folks, look first for simple ordinary explanations before looking to unusual ones.

    A med school teacher used to the heuristic, ‘consider symptom X an uncommon symptom of a common disease before a common symptom of an uncommon disease.’

    AFAICT — given symmetrical probabilities — this makes no sense from a Bayesian POV.
    unless we systematically overestimate P(uncommon disease) [in casu P(date rape drug)] because it’s more exciting and/or shifts blame and/or some other bias.

    Wise heuristic or not?

  • http://petitioprincipii.wordpress.com/ Ray Gardner

    This is the only blog I can think of that the comments are usually worth reading. The post is the meat of course, but I suppose the very nature of Robin’s writing makes the comments more relevant.

    Of course people – on average – will always take the route of an excuse that will absolve them from some or al blame.

    It really is that simple.

    That’s what sets genuine people apart from the crowd. Learning to own up to one’s mistakes – both large and small – is part of real maturity, and of course many, many people never get there despite their age.

  • Magoo

    I was in one of the druggiest fraternities at my school when I was in college. Drugs were pretty accessible – I could easily get marijuana or coke, and it would have taken only a bit more effort for lsd, 2cb, ecstasy, and shrooms. We had a charity event each year where students did retarded, gross, or dangerous stunts in order to raise money for a charity. The highlight of the event one year was going to be a “Roofie Run”, where a couple of students would take a roofie and run until all but one had passed out, thereby “winning” the event. It had to be cancelled because no one, in a club of 200+ dedicated drug users, knew where to get roofies.

  • Audrey

    This article is a typical example of victim blaming. Perhaps these women are wrong to identify their sexual assault as “date rape” but it is only a term. If a person is too intoxicated, be it from alcohol or rohypnol(a common date rape drug), to consent it is considered rape. To the person that wrote this article, please educate yourself.

    • ebastian

      And who forces said people to overdrink to the point of not being able to think clearly what they are doing?

    • cuda1179

      Here’s where it gets sketchy. Two people that are both equally drunk have sex. What do you think happens to them? The woman is a victim, the man is a rapist.
      Isn’t she just as guilty of raping him? Women, in general need to own up to their actions.

  • CC

    I find it really disturbing to come across an article such as this after being hospitalized just last week from being “roofied.” I know what my tolerance levels are when it comes to drinking, and considering I was only through one drink and was blacked-out really unnerves me to think that someone could simply say that “oh she just had too much to drink and is just claiming to be roofied to protect her reputation.”

    There are side-effects to date-rape drugs that are more serious than simply forgetting what happened or having a bad hang-over the next day. I was carried into the hospital by friends after I had trouble breathing and was in extreme abdominal pain. After being admitted, an EKG test showed that I was tacacardic (high heart rate that causes heart attacks). All this stress on my body due to rufilin caused a pre-diagnosed ovarian cyst to burst, which added to my pain. This is all in addition to the hours of vomiting, heartburn after eating for a week, and constant shaking that lasted two days.

    After going through all that, missing a midterm exam and having to catch a 5 hour flight two days after that ordeal, I am angered to hear that people may still believe I had simply had “too much to drink.” .. or even that it was my fault for not completely covering my drink the whole night… or for even drinking at all… or even for just being a girl!

    Which brings me to the question- if people, especially men as it seems to be after reading the above comments, start to attribute side-effects of being drugged while drinking to just simply having too much to drink, then at what point will people realize the difference between being intoxicated and having been slipped something in their drink? The effects that date-rape drugs have (and yes there are multiple types that have different side effects) on a person no matter how much they have had to drink are very serious and can lead to organ failures and death.

    So please for the sake of people’s HEALTH and SAFETY.. next time you want to assume that a girl, especially someone you know well, is just completely intoxicated by her own means, think twice because they could be in more danger than you can imagine.

    • ebastian

      So, basically, you are accepting drinks from strangers and hope for no consequences?

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