How to help a friend who’s been spiked

Stay vigilant.

We’ve been desperate to return to pubs, bars and nightclubs for the best part of a year and a half now. The dancing, the music, the chatting and the people have all been sorely missed. But after a nightlife hiatus, it’s likely you’ve forgotten about the less desirable aspects of going out-out. Some, like long queues and grotty toilets, are minor annoyances. Others, like unwanted harassment and drink spiking, are genuine risks to our safety.

Between 2015 and 2019, there were more than 2,600 reports of drinks being spiked in England and Wales, and it’s likely that many more incidents went unreported. Victims were found to have anything from traditional date rape drugs, like Rohypnol (i.e. being”roofied”) and Gamma Hydroxbuyrate, to recreational drugs such as LSD and ketamine in their systems. However, not all victims have the peace of mind of knowing which drug they were spiked with.

This can have disastrous consequences, leaving party-goers disorientated, incoherent or even unconscious. And as Mair Howells, founder of anti-drink spiking platform, @IveBeenSpiked, notes, this behaviour can often be mistaken for drunkenness, prompting bouncers and venue owners kick [victims] into the street, leaving us in a vulnerable situation”.

So, as nightlife opens back up, it’s time to get clued up on what to look out for, so you can help when a friend or stranger is in need. Party hard, party safely.

What are the symptoms of drink spiking?

According to the NHS, symptoms of drink spiking can vary depending on what drug is used and in what quantity, what it’s mixed with, a person’s body type and how much alcohol they’ve already consumed, but there are a few tell-tale signs to look out for. These can include:

  • Feeling as though you’re out of it” or drunker than expected

  • Mental confusion

  • Drowsiness

  • Difficulties with speech, such as slurring

  • Memory loss

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Muscle spasms or seizures

  • Breathing problems

  • Unusually long or severe hangovers relative to how much has been drunk

Who is at risk of being spiked?

Statistically, women are more likely to have their drink spiked than men, but it can happen to anyone. It’s important to be aware of the fact that drinks can be spiked by both strangers and people you know, so always make sure you know where your drink came from.

How to prevent being spiked
  • Go out with friends you can trust and rely on, and make sure you’re keeping an eye out for each other’s safety.

  • Buy your own drinks and avoid leaving them out of your sight.

  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers. If you do, accompany them to the bar so that you can receive it from the bartender directly.

  • Keep an eye on bartenders as they prepare your drinks.

  • If it’s possible, buy drinks in bottles that have lids and take them with you when you go to the toilet.

  • Tell a member of staff immediately if you witness a drink being spiked or suspect a spiking has occurred in the venue.

What to do if someone has been spiked
  • Alert someone you trust, like a friend, and/​or a staff member.

  • Find a safe place and make sure your trusted person accompanies you.

  • Keep a close eye on the person who has been spiked to monitor their condition.

  • If their condition deteriorates, call an ambulance.

  • Contact the police as soon as possible.

Where to find more helpful information and resources

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