“Our message is it can be any drink, in pretty much any location and it can happen to any person.” – Helena Stratton, Chief Executive of the Alcohol Education Trust
The rate of drink spikings in the UK, according to Sky News, has increased by 108% from 2015-2018, and a new report suggests that at least 15% of women and 7% of men being affected by spiking. Spiking is the illegal act of adding a substance - typically Rohypnol (Roofie) and Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GBH), more commonly known as ‘date-rape’ drugs - into a person’s drink without their knowledge or consent. Spiking incidents are said to have reached ‘epidemic levels’ according to the Alcohol Education Trust (AET), and yet people are still unaware of the dangers and signs of having their drink drugged.
The AET surveyed twenty-three thousand students across nineteen universities and found that one in ten people are spiked and 35% of cases take place at private parties. Spikings have recently been thrust into the spotlight, as there has been an escalation of spiking by injections, a seemingly new ‘trend’ where an unsuspecting person is injected by syringe with unknown drugs typically whilst out clubbing. It has been said that the injection causes a painful pinprick feeling before the victim loses consciousness.
In October 2021, Martha Williams, a student from Edinburgh, called for a boycott of nightclubs for one night in response to the growing spiking concerns. The #NightIn campaign urged clubs to protect clubgoers from harm, as on a night out they are extremely vulnerable and unaware of potential dangers. The first boycott took place on the 25th of October 2021 in Exeter, followed by Durham, Liverpool, Leicester and Aberystwyth on the 26th. The protests were sparked due to a police report stating there had been ‘198 spiking’s’ in two months, alongside twenty-four injection reports, the majority of which involved young women at licenced venues or private parties. Izzy Broadhurst is the #NightIn Leeds organiser, who has urged local nightclub owners to take “responsibility for the safety of people in their clubs” and called out the “culture of victim blaming” surrounding the “serious” and “traumatic” crime.
With the rising number of cases there has also been an increase in companies, campaigns, and products to help in the struggle to stop drink spiking. @Invisawear is a company that makes drink protectors, which are concealed inside of scrunchies, these prevent tampering and are reusable. The company primarily advertises on TikTok, an app that provides an effective platform for raising awareness on important topics among Gen Z. Other brand utilising TikTok in this way include @sipsafe.uk, who have created a drug detecting beer mat and @thesafeyard, who advertise their drink strips, both of which can detect drink tampering through just one drop.
As the most affected demographic of spikings, according to YouGov, are aged between 18-24, many of whom are presumably at university or are college students, the issue with these companies is that their preventative measures cost individuals between £5-15. For many students, this may be a steep cost. Many campaigners say that these products should be provided by clubs and venues for free as it is a basic step in protecting their patrons from a traumatic and potentially life-threatening experience. The products are typically only one use and, due to high demand, they are almost always ‘out of stock’.
There are, however, several not-for-profit campaigns in the UK such as Stamp Out Spiking. Founded by Helena Conibear, the Chief Executive of the Alcohol Education Trust (AET), this campaign offers a range of “resources and solutions that help people stay safe”, whilst raising awareness of the issue. They aim to train bar, security and management staff to help prevent or aid victims of the drugged drinks or needle spikings. Alongside this Stamp Out Spiking aims to provide free ‘StopTopps’, single use foil topped drink protectors, in venues and at sponsored events across the country.
In 2021 data was released by Parliament, which reported 1,466 spiking cases, 722 of these reports were made in 2020 alone. The founder of Stamp Out Spiking, Conibear stated that only “9 charges” were made in “2019, 8 in 2020 and one…in 2021”. According to MP James Daly, spikings are the “most widespread criminal repeated act”, as it is difficult to catch and punish the perpetrator. This is especially true if the spiked victim is unaware themselves that their drink has been tampered with or, in some cases, they have been injected.
@Nichellelaus published a video on TikTok which demonstrates how easily a drink can be spiked without the victim’s knowledge. Lately more videos like these are circulating on the internet to show people how to be safe on a night out and what to do if a spiking incident occurs. Other social media users have shared their experiences online, such as @izzyhulyer who shared that, despite covering her drink in an attempt to stay safe, it had already been spiked by the bartender. Hannah Stratton, a 51-year-old from Cornwall, was interviewed by the Guardian after sharing on her blog how she became “violently ill” after being spiked at a “quiet bar” in Newquay. She also revealed that her two daughters had also had a similar experience. Stratton is said to have told MP’s that it’s no longer a case of “has anybody been drugged?” but instead “who has been drugged?”, as the crime rates increase across England.
So, what can we do? As a college we could provide awareness posters or tutor sessions which focus on how spiking happens and what to do and who to contact if it occurs. As students, the demographic most affected by spikings, we need to be careful and aware. If you go on a night out, make sure it is with a group of people you can trust. If you put your drink down to come back to, do not drink it, just buy a new one. While walking around or dancing with your drink in hand, make sure the cup is held in front of you or covered.
In terms of needle spikings, it’s hard to give advice as it is extremely difficult avoid, with most victims saying they weren’t aware they had been spiked until the next day. However, educating yourself on the symptoms and what to do if you or someone with you has been drugged is essential. A few of the symptoms of spiking are feeling ‘drunk, woozy or drowsy’, or ‘drunker than expected’, ‘mental confusion’ and ‘speech difficulties’ (such as slurring). In the case you recognise the symptoms of either a spiked drink or injection, report it to the bar staff and call an ambulance immediately, once you or the victim are safe, call the police.
To read more about the symptoms or to gain a better awareness of the situation, visit Better Health and Stamp Out Spikings: