Over the last year, there has been a huge increase in the number of drink spiking incidents across the UK. This is likely due to the reopening of nightclubs and large venues after several lockdowns.
Thousands of women returned to the clubs to have a good time with their friends and while many returned home safely at the end of their night out, this could not be said for all women. Just a few weeks into the reopening of the nightclubs, several reports were filed to the police regarding drink spiking.
There were at last 198 confirmed reports of drink spiking between September and October throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Fifty-eight of these reports were made to the Metropolitan police in London and most of them were women reporting drink spiking incidents. This begged the question ‘is the UK safe for women’, especially when they are on a night out.
What is even more concerning is that some of these reports were not just regarding drink spiking. There were also reports of needle spiking in some of the busy nightclubs across the UK and many women were worried about how to protect themselves at night.
What is Drink Spiking?
Drink spiking refers to when somebody puts alcohol or drugs into another person’s drink without their knowledge or consent.
Usually, when an attacker chooses to spike somebody else’s drink, their aim is to incapacitate the other person so that they can take advantage of them. The intention may be sexual assault, rape, or robbery. Many people also spike other people’s drinks for fun or as a (not so funny) joke.
It is illegal in the UK and there are repercussions if somebody is caught spiking drinks. Currently, drink spiking carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and if the perpetrator carries out an assault or robbery, this sentence could be extended.
Although more women are victims of drink spiking than men, it can happen to anybody at any time. This is why it is so important for everybody to keep an eye on their drinks when they are out and about, no matter who they are or where they are.
What Substances Are Used to Spike Drinks?
Although it’s illegal to add any drug to someone else’s drink without their permission, there are certain drugs that are most commonly used for drink spiking.
These drugs are often referred to as ‘date rape drugs’ because they slow down the nervous system and reduce responsiveness, making it almost impossible for you to resist an assault or attack. There are various date rape drugs and spikers may use one or a combination of them to take control of their victim.
Here are some of the most common drugs that are used to spike drinks, we think it's important to arm you with as much information as possible.
Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a colourless substance that comes either as a liquid or powder. Because it lacks colour or taste when used in small amounts, it is difficult to spot in a drink.
It dissolves very quickly, so can easily be slipped into somebody’s drink without their notice. The effects begin after just 30-60 minutes and may last up to six hours.
Benzodiazepine is a type of tranquilliser that can cause muscle weakness, amnesia, and loss of consciousness. This sedative usually comes in a tablet that can dissolve in drinks very quickly.
Other tranquillisers include valium, roofies, and benzos. They all work as depressants by slowing down the nervous system. They can take effect within half an hour of consumption and can last up to 12 hours.
Colloquially referred to as ‘vitamin K’ or just ‘K’, ketamine is a powerful anaesthetic that comes as a tablet, powder, or liquid. It can take effect within 30 minutes and lasts around 1-2 hours.
Ketamine causes you to feel detached from reality or spaced out. It may also cause hallucinations, vomiting, and even seizures if taken in large amounts.
Often, attackers use drugs and alcohol in combination to increase the depressing effects of date rape drugs. However, alcohol can also be used on its own in drink spiking.
The problem with alcohol is the fact that it very easily goes unnoticed. Since most victims will already be consuming alcoholic beverages on a night out, they might not spot some extra alcohol in their drink.
The effects of alcohol may take 1-2 hours to appear, depending on how much is used and what type of alcohol is used. It also depends on the type of alcohol that the victim is drinking. If multiple alcohols are mixed together or if alcohol is combined with other drugs, the effects may be enhanced.
What Are the Symptoms of Drink Spiking?
Symptoms vary depending on the types of drugs that have been used and also based on the individual characteristics of the victim. However, there are some general symptoms that are often seen in drink spiking, such as:
- Loss of balance
- Loss of concentration
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of inhibitions
- Memory loss
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Poor coordination
- Slurred speech
- Visual problems
What Should You Do if You Suspect That You Have Been Spiked?
It can be difficult to determine whether or not your drink has been spiked, especially if you are under the influence of alcohol on a night out.
However, if you think that your drink has been spiked, you must tell the people that you are with immediately. If you are out alone, call somebody that you trust and find a safe place to stay until they can come and meet you. Trusted people may include a family member, close friend, doctor, or the police.
If you are already experiencing symptoms, you must seek help as soon as possible. Ring the police or call an urgent care centre so that you can receive medical attention.
You may need to stay in hospital overnight if the doctors need to flush the drugs out of your system. Alternatively, you should stay at a relative’s or friend’s house so that they can make sure you are safe. Most date rape drugs will have left your system after 72 hours.
As soon as you feel well enough, call the police and file a report. It might be difficult to remember the details of your night but it’s important to try and include as much detail in your report as possible. The more details you provide, the more likely it is that the police will be able to catch the perpetrator and make a charge.
How Ashley is helping
At Ashley we are always coming up with new innovations to keep women safe - firstly our personal safety alarm (also known as a rape alarm) but now we have released our Tipple Toppers.
These are drink covers to prevent spiking - they are designed as hair scrunchies you can wear out on your wrist or hair and then use it whenever you have an open top drink. It has a useful hole for a straw too!