In recent years, the proliferation of all-night parties or raves has given rise to young people, including college students, using 'club drugs' recreationally. These drugs include substances like ecstasy or MDMA, methamphetamine, and LSD, which are known for their psychedelic, stimulant effects, and their ability to bring about feelings of euphoria.
While many students use these drugs 'for fun,' they can lead to severely harmful and sometimes tragic consequences. When users consume these drugs without other drugs, their effects can include confusion, depression, anxiety, and feelings of paranoia. Their physical effects include dehydration, feelings of faintness, tremors, and increased heart rate. Classified as illegal substances, these drugs are often laced with other substances that contribute to their deleterious effects. When used in conjunction with alcohol or other drugs, their ill effects can be exacerbated.
Other new synthetic substances have been associated with the party scene, including gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), ketamine, and rohypnol, as drug users looking for new ways to get high have sought their sedative and hallucinogenic effects. However, increasingly, the use of these drugs are leading to serious negative consequences, such as rape or other incidents of sexual assault where the victim has unknowingly ingested the drug, leaving him or her incapacitated and unable to fend off or recall the attack.
Drugs and Sexual Assault
Starting in the 1990s, college students encountered drugs used to intoxicate for the purpose of committing rape. While some people consume these drugs recreationally, others may use them intentionally to commit sexual assault, by dispensing the drugs into drinks to be unwittingly consumed by a victim, leaving him or her unconscious and vulnerable to assault.
The effects of these drugs make them particularly attractive to the would-be rapist. As sedatives, the drugs reduce inhibition and relax muscles, often bringing on unconsciousness and incapacity; they can also lead to memory loss. The drugs are quickly metabolized, leaving the victim's system before law enforcement or health care providers can detect they may have been present. The effects of the drugs include dizziness, confusion, disorientation, and even coma. When used in conjunction with alcohol, these effects may be exacerbated.
A final note about drugs and sexual assault: In recent years, several commercial groups have developed products to detect if a drug has been slipped into a drink. Regardless of any evidence of effectiveness of these products, they belie the fact that alcohol is the most commonly used drug that puts college students at risk for sexual violence. That is not to say that the burden or fault for sexual assault lies with people who drink alcohol (i.e., rape is not the fault of the person who drinks and gets raped, but is the responsibility of the person who may drink and then rapes). However, it is important to bear in mind that drugs are not the only substances that may facilitate sexual assault among college students.
An environmental management approach to prevention can be effective at changing the overall environment in which students make decisions about abusing club drugs. Campus and community leaders can work together to create a normative environment in which club drugs aren't seen as "the thing to do"' for students who want to party or have fun. Additionally, comprehensive AODV prevention programming should include efforts specific to preventing the use of club drugs in sexual assault.
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