Abuse of Rx Drugs Increase Risk of College Sexual Assaults

New research discovers the abuse of prescription drugs by college students can play a role in negative sexual events such as sexual assault and regretted sex.

In prior studies researchers found that heavy alcohol use — by the victim and/or perpetrator — is a factor in more than half of sexual assaults on college campuses.

In the new research, Kathleen Parks, Ph.D., studied the effects of nonmedical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD) by college students. NMUPD is defined as the use of a medication without a legal prescription.

Parks discovered NMUPD can result in negative sexual events similar to that found with alcohol intoxication.

Parks studied nonmedical use of opioid analgesics (such as Oxycodone), anxiolytics/sedatives (such as Xanax, Valium, or Ambien) and stimulants (such as Adderall or Ritalin).

Overall, the investigators discovered that among the 1,755 students studied, more than 500 reported NMUPD, and of those, a significant number experienced negative sexual events.

More than 14 percent of the students who abused prescription drugs experienced regretted sex, and among the female students, 7.1 percent reported being victims of sexual assault.

Significantly, the only prescription drugs associated with regretted sex and sexual assault were anxiolytics/sedatives.

“The responsibility for rape or any sexual assault always falls squarely with the perpetrator,” Parks says.

“This study shows NMUPD, particularly anxiolytics/sedatives, can have similar effects as alcohol, including slowed decision-making and physical coordination, which can decrease the ability to recognize danger or fend off a potential perpetrator.”

The study did not find that nonmedical use of opioid analgesics or stimulants was associated with negative sexual events.

“NMUPD is an increasing public health concern, particularly among emerging and young adults,” Parks said.

“Given the results of this study, parents and college administrators should be concerned about the relationship we found between nonmedical use of anxiolytics/sedatives and negative sexual events, and find ways to educate students about the potential dangers.”

Source: University of Buffalo