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DRINK-SPIKING with "date rape'' drugs was rare -- and the myth proved the alcohol message was being ignored, a sexual health conference in Hobart heard yesterday.
The Australasian Sexual Health Medicine Conference was told that Australians could not complain about skyrocketing binge-drinking while alcohol abuse was openly promoted.
The Drugs, Sex and Alcohol session also heard about the effect of magic mushrooms, cannabis, heroin and speed on sexual desire and performance.
Paul Dillon, information manager with the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Sydney, spoke about drug facilitated sexual assault, DFSA, or "drug rape'', while detailing the risk behaviours associated with drug use.
"Drink-spiking undoubtedly occurs, however alcohol is the usual drug used,'' Mr Dillon said. He said, contrary to popular belief, drugs like sedatives, Rohypnol or "disinhibitors'' were rarely used.
These were easily detected up to several days after assault.
A three-year study by forensic scientists Fiona Burton and Michael Scott-Ham found that of 1014 women who complained of drink spiking, 46 per cent had used alcohol and 34 per cent illicit drugs.
Only in two per cent of cases was a sedative or disinhibiting drug used that the woman had not taken voluntarily -- and none with Rohypnol, made famous on television as the "date rape'' drug.
The results were similar in other studies.
Mr Dillon said people targeted for assault were usually already intoxicated.
"We have to educate people about alcohol. And we need to tell people that [DSFA] is more likely to be someone you know and in the home. The image is promoted of someone lurking in pubs and nightclubs and we're not sending the right message.''
He said more research was needed.
Meanwhile, Professor Anthony Smith from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University spoke about the trend in first having sex at an earlier age, with about one quarter of teens, 27-28 per cent of boys and 25 per cent of girls, first having intercourse under 16.
That had grown from about 17 per cent and 5 per cent respectively in the 1940s.