This is taken from a really interesting blog article on The Guardian yesterday and you can read the full piece here. The article was talking about some of the discussions surrounding products being developed to identify the presence of date rape drugs. Because the liquid used to carry these drugs is invariably alcohol it then became a wider issue discussion:
Alcohol is such an integral part of our culture we frequently underestimate its potency. Among its toxic effects are memory impairment, which typically begins after just one or two drinks. Alcohol-induced blackouts are common among young, social drinkers. A study in 1999 found that 35% of trainees in a large paediatric residency programme in the US had experienced an alcohol-induced blackout. Another study in 1995 found a third of first–year medical students had experienced alcohol-induced amnesia. An investigation of 2,076 Finnish males found 35% had had at least one blackout in the previous 12 months.
Research suggests that alcohol-induced blackouts are even more common among university students. A 2002 study in the US surveyed 772 undergraduates asking them if they had ever awoken after a night of drinking unable to remember things that they did or places they had gone. Just over half of drinkers, 51%, reported blacking out and later learning that they had engaged in a range of activities they could not recall, including vandalism, unprotected sex and even driving.
Despite males in the survey drinking significantly more, men and women experienced an equal blackout rate, probably as a result of gender-specific differences in alcohol metabolism. Other investigations suggest that women may be more susceptible than men to milder forms of alcohol–induced memory impairments. In a subsequent study, 50 undergraduates who had experienced at least one blackout were interviewed. While the blackouts were deeply disconcerting to both men and women, women were far more likely (59%) to change their drinking habits after such an episode than men (25%).
While we may think we know our limits, alcohol metabolism is hugely variable and influenced by a range of factors, only some of which we control. Blood-alcohol content is strongly affected by the amount of food we have eaten prior to drinking, permeability of the gastric and intestinal tissues and body mass, among numerous other factors. Worse, alcohol reacts strongly with other drugs, particularly cannabis and benzodiazepines making blackouts far more likely. The latter is particularly problematic, as this drug type is the basis of many anti-anxiety and muscle-relaxant medication.
It is vital to remember that sexual activity with someone who cannot give informed consent is assault, regardless of the particular agent that rendered them incapacitated, and cannot be justified. Whether their becoming intoxicated is their own fault or someone else’s is irrelevant. The mentality that an inebriated victim is somehow “asking for it” should never be accepted.
While fears over exotic rape drugs might be unfounded, rape is all too common and alcohol frequently plays a role. Rather than fixating on unlikely scenarios of drink spiking, we might be better served by reexamining our collective relationship with alcohol and reinforcing the message that sex with someone incapable of giving consent is assault.
I wonder which one of the four key ‘benefits’ as identified within the Drinkaware drunken nights out report and described as ‘escape’, ‘bonding and belonging’, ‘social adventures’ and ‘stories’ this would fit ……