A new study has found that more than 20 pct of the sexual assaults are drug-facilitated.
Researchers from Women's College Research Institute in Toronto and the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres studied at least 882 victims of sexual assaults.
They found that 30pct of victims had taken prescription drugs, 26 pct over-the-counter medications, and 27 pct had taken street drugs in the last 72 hours before the assault.
Almost 90pct had consumed alcohol immediately before.
"These types of substances have pharmacologic properties that can alter states of consciousness and lower inhibitions, especially when used simultaneously with alcohol and in their own right may be used to spike drinks," wrote the authors.
"As such, victims could have unwittingly ingested a "date rape drug,"" although the combination of alcohol and drugs could also result in incapacitation, they added.
The authors suggest that education and public awareness campaigns regarding the effects of alcohol, especially combined with drugs, is essentially required to combat the problem.
Dr. Jan Welch and Dr. Bernadette Butler from King's College Hospital in London, UK said: "For clinicians caring for victims of sexual assault, a non-judgemental approach is essential. It is important to recognize the possibility of drug-facilitated sexual assault and provide the necessary therapeutic care while addressing forensic issues when possible, including evidence collection and documentation."
The study has been published in CMAJ.