It's Real & It's Common: 5 Tips to Prevent Drink Spikes

06/10/2016 02:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Having a frank conversation with your children about sex is almost a rite of passage through adolescence to adulthood. But have you set aside time to talk about sexual assault, too? A new study published in Psychology of Violence, a journal released under the American Psychological Association, indicates that sexual assault through non-consensual drugging is still a very real occurrence on college campuses. Here are five ways you can try to protect yourself and teach young women (and men) to protect themselves from spiked drinks.

1. Party with close friends. When you do go out, make sure you stick with people you already know well and trust. If you begin showing signs of having been drugged, your friends are not only more likely to have your back, as people who know you they're more likely to recognize that something is wrong to begin with.

2. Make your own drink. Never accept a drink from someone you don't know. Even watching someone else make a drink for you can be risky. Get your own drink when you want one, ideally in a can or bottle that you open yourself.

3. Know your limits. Before you start drinking, decide how many drinks you will have and make a mental note of how intoxicated each drink will make you. If you've only had one beer but it feels like you've had a six pack, don't shrug it off. Find your friends and alert them to how you're feeling immediately.

4. Have a plan. Make an exit strategy with your friends in case one of you feels unsafe or is worried they may have been drugged. Agreeing on a plan while everyone is still sober will make it easier to act if you need to. Agree that one person should remain sober. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where you desperately need to leave, but the people you came with are too drunk to help you escape.

5. Trust your instincts. If preventing sexual assault were as easy as printing out a checklist and following rules, it would never happen. But real life is nuanced; threats can come from people you'd least expect, friends can be selfish at exactly the wrong moment, and in the end all you have is yourself. If all else fails, or even if all else seems good but there's something that just feels off, trust your instincts. Better to be wrong and leave a party early than find yourself in an unsafe or dangerous situation.

These tips to avoid drink spiking may seem like common sense, but sometimes inexperience and naïveté can lead us to act against our better judgment. Anyone, including the close friends you made a backup plan with, can hurt you. Going over these tips before going out will keep them fresh in your mind and remind you to be cautious even as you let your guard down and have fun.