Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson staff and organizations offer resources to prevent drink-spiking

Photo+courtesy+of+Michael+Discenza%2FUnsplash
Photo courtesy of Michael Discenza/Unsplash

With Halloween parties approaching, the college administration is ensuring students are aware of available resources for incidences of drugged drinking. 

Drink spiking happens when a person adds a substance, like alcohol or a drug, to a person’s drink without their knowledge. Drink spiking usually results in sexual assault or abuse, robbery, and violence and happens to about 50 percent of people, according to Alcohol.org.

“If you think your drink has been drugged, you should immediately tell a trusted friend to help get you to a safe space and then seek emergency medical care and tell their RA/ECPD to report the situation,” said Laura Owen, associate director of wellness and health promotion at the Emerson Wellness Center (EWC). “Drug testing can be done, although there is a small window of time before it clears the body.” 

There are many steps that someone who suspects they may have been drugged can take, including going to their local emergency room or even their college’s wellness center. The Emerson College Wellness Center provides resources to help students who may have been drugged through the process, including health and counseling services.

“Whether it is detected or not, it is a scary and traumatic experience. A person who wakes up and suspects they have been drugged should seek emergency care,” Owen said. “EWC  and Healing and Advocacy Collective will guide and support students through this trauma.”

The most common substances used to spike drinks are amphetamines, ​​barbiturates, and benzodiazepines—the most prevalent being Rohypnol, a commonly used date-rape drug, and ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic. Sleeping aids like Ambien are also often used in drink spiking. Most of these substances have little to no taste, making consumers unaware of the substance in their beverage. 

Many students shared heightened concerns about drugged drinking as the annual partying time is around the corner.  

“I think people don’t think it’s happening as often as it is. I think sometimes it gets swept under the radar,” said Maddy Monroe, a junior creative writing major and president of Team Awareness Combatting Overdose (TACO).  “I’ve had friends that have been like, ‘I feel really gross the next day or really hungover,’ and there is always a possibility that it’s not just a really bad hangover; you could be suffering the effects of being roofied.”

“Roofies,” a shortcut term for Rohypnol, and other date-rape drugs have different effects on everyone but most commonly cause hallucinations, fatigue or exhaustion, an extremely ill feeling or urge to throw up, and even loss of consciousness. The effects of roofies and different date-rape drugs can last 8 to 12 hours. These substances usually take 15 to 30 minutes to take effect and can be delayed based on liquid consumption, food consumption, and body weight. 

“I know that it happens more often than people like to admit,” junior theater and performance major and treasurer of TACO Jessica Immel said. “I know it’s preventable if people know the precautions, but I think a lot of the time it happens to young people who are getting too drunk and drinking too much and not concerned about that.”

Drink spiking is especially prevalent among young people, many of whom have not received proper drink safety education. In a survey done by American Addiction Centers, three out of four students received drug and alcohol education in high school. Drink spiking happens most often to young women, according to the American Addiction Centers, usually with the intent of assault. In the Boston Metropolitan area, the Boston Police Department received 116 reports of drink spiking in 2022, according to a list kept by a local Facebook group, Booze in Boston,  aiming to inform individuals of drink spiking.   

Immel believes that promoting safe alcohol consumption is one way to combat the frequency of spiking. It allows people to be informed about precautions they should take when at an event where alcohol is being consumed. 

First-year journalism major Aparna Prabhakar said it’s important to call more attention to the issue. 

“I know a lot of people who have been in bad situations regarding alcohol consumption,” Prabhakar said. ”Acknowledging it exists and doing something to make it safer would be a lot more effective.” 

Emerson has resources for students who may end up in a compromised situation because of alcohol consumption, including counseling and healthcare services, according to Owen.

“For overconsumption and [students] in need of help, students can utilize the help-seeking policy by calling for an RA, ECPD, or even 911 in emergencies,” Owen said. “ECPD may call for an ambulance to come to assess the student’s medical needs. Campus Life and the Wellness Center can support students through these incidents, difficult times, or even recovery from alcohol if desired.”

If a student is put in a compromised situation due to alcohol or drink spiking, 911 and ECPD are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for emergencies. There are other resources available to students trying to prevent any dangerous situations that could arise from alcohol consumption, including drink testing strips at local pharmacies and drink covers in the Emerson Wellness Center, Owens said. 

Drink covers help prevent drink spiking by offering a portable and discrete option to cover drinks. The Emerson Wellness Center offers scrunchies that can unravel into small fabric covers that people can place over their beverages to help prevent them from being spiked. 

Emerson also has a wide variety of resources available for students, including alcohol safety nights hosted by RAs. TACO, an organization on campus that focuses on drug and alcohol safety, also hosts meetings every other Monday where students can either drop by or join the organization. 

“TACO is really big about just knowing what a drug can do to you, what it is, where it’s most seen,” Monroe said. “They have a lot of really good research, and that is not just on opioids, it’s on roofies, and Xanax, and anything somebody could be trying to slip into someone’s drink at any social gathering.” Knowing different drugs’ side effects can help people identify if something is wrong and what it may be. Kyleigh Duff, a junior visual media arts major, believes that informing students about what drugs can do and being versed in recovery protocol and procedures are essential to keeping students safe. 

“I think promoting awareness just by having more information spread about organizations like [TACO],” Duff said. “Having more information around campus, the Health and Wellness Center, and just showing students where they can go if they need information and support.”

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About the Contributor
Kaitlyn Smitten, Staff Writer
Kaitlyn Smitten (she/her) is a freshman journalism student from Red Deer, Alberta. Canada. Kaitlyn is a part of the Emerson College softball team and enjoys traveling, reading, and listening to music. She aspires to be an investigative and/or breaking news reporter.
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