Be careful: What s in your drink might not be what you think

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Intentional drugging is not often talked about, yet the results of a new Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report reminds all of us especially women of the dangers associated with leaving your drink unattended.

Intentional drugging resulted in nearly 15,000 ER visits in 2009 alone and 60 percent of such cases occurred after someone sneaked a drug into the victim s drink. Indeed, such incidents have been associated with an estimated 3 million rapes in the U.S. Yet not all poisonings lead to sexual assault; some people are intentionally drugged for injury or robbery.

Drugs used can include stimulants, cocaine, ecstasy, or marijuana. However, as ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom notes, most of the "date rape drug" risk comes from three drugs: GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), Rohypnol (a very strong Valium derivative, often called a roofie), and ketamine, an animal tranqulizer. "GHB," he explains, "is particularly insidious, since in water, it's colorless, odorless, and essentially tasteless; there is no way to know it's there.

Unsurprisingly, women accounted for over 60 percent of the victims. Yet as Dr. Michael Brodsky, a psychiatrist at the University of California-Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine observes, there is a risk for both men and women. It s quite likely that the figures in the report are an underestimate, since younger people may be less likely to report incidents of intentional drugging because they don t want to be charged with illicit consumption of alcohol.

But whatever the specific number of incidents is, the report s message is an important one: Never leave your drink unattended or accept drinks from people you don t know. Use extra caution, especially when alcohol is involved.