In recent months, there have been a growing number of reports in the media surrounding students' drinks being ‘spiked’ in nightclubs. The past two months have shown over 200 cases of spiked drinks reported to the police and more than 10% of those cases relating to the new tactic of ‘needle spiking’.
The sudden rise in spiking has caused a lot of worry amongst young female students since statistics have shown that men are more likely to conduct these spiking tactics on women than vice versa.
If you are worried about the rise in drink spiking over the past couple of months and want to keep you and your friends safe on a night out, we have put together all the important facts you need to know about what spiking is, how to prevent it and what you should do if you think you or a friend has been spiked.
What Is Spiking?
Drink Spiking is the illegal action of someone adding extra alcohol or drugs to a victim’s alcoholic drink without them realising. This is typically when a drink is left unattended for a brief moment by the victim and once drunk, they will feel unexpectedly vulnerable to physical or sexual assault.
Just like when a drink is spiked, needle spiking (also known as vaccine or injection spiking) is when a person receives a discreet injection of a drug through a needle or syringe without their knowledge. Victims of needle spiking have described waking up with scratches or needle pricks in the arm without any recollection as to how they got there.
What Do People Spike Drinks With?
Typical substances used in ‘spiking’ include gamma-hydroxybutyrate and some forms of tranquilisers such as a benzodiazepine.
How To Know If Your Drink Was Spiked?
Symptoms of a needle or drink spike will show between 15-30 minutes. You may start to feel strange as you experience signs including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of inhibitions
- Feeling drunk, or drunker than expected
- Feeling woozy, sleepy or drowsy
- Feeling confused or loss of memory
- Collapsing or falling unconscious
Your doctor can also test for traces of particular drugs in your system through urine or blood samples with results in 24 hours.
How Long Does A Drink Spike Last?
The average amount of time it takes for a drug to leave the body can vary from 12-72 hours depending on the type of drug used as well as the amount. If you suspect that you have been spiked either by alcohol or injection, it is important to get medical attention as soon as possible by visiting A&E or dialling 999 in an emergency.
How To Help A Spiking Victim Or What To Do If Someone Spiked Your Drink?
If you start to feel strange and suspect that you or one of your friends has been spiked, tell friends, members of staff at the club or the police immediately. If you are alone then contact someone you trust to let them know what has happened and if you need urgent medical attention, call 999.
In this situation, it is dangerous for you or your friend to be with strangers as they may be behind the spiking. Therefore, stay with your friends or a member of staff if you are alone, you should not follow or trust anyone you don’t know.
If your friend has collapsed or fallen unconscious, call an ambulance and stay with your friend until they arrive, try to keep them talking if they can.
How To Avoid Having Your Drink Spiked?
Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to needle or drink spiking by following these tips:
Don’t accept drinks from strangers unless it has been given directly to you from bar staff where you have seen it being prepared.
Avoid communal drinking stations or punch bowls that can be easily tampered with.
Don’t leave drinks unattended, a handy tip is to keep your hand over your drink whenever you are not drinking it so there is no way for someone to spike it. If you suspect it has been spiked, leave it.
Keep an eye on your friends, what they are drinking and if they are meeting any strangers during the night. Don’t let them leave the group unless they are with someone they know and trust.
Stop drinking any more alcohol as the combination with drugs in your system will make you more susceptible to a dangerous situation.
If you think you have been spiked by a needle or syringe, immediately wash the area with soap to sterilise it and cover it with a plaster. It is also advised to visit a sexual health clinic within 24 hours as the needle used may have been reused previously.
Although there has been a rise in needle spiking over the recent months, it is still easier to spike drinks since injections take a greater deal of precision in a crowded nightclub space. Prof Adam Winstock from the Global Drugs Survey has affirmed this and says alcohol is "by far and away" the most-used drug in spiking.
As news of ‘spiking’ has increased, bars and nightclubs have been working to make their spaces safer for all students and young people including some introducing drink covers and drink spiking test kits. However, the best way to keep you and your friends safe is to look after each other and to be mindful of who you meet and what you are drinking during the night.
For support after a sexual assault, you can find more information here.
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