Drink spiking

As we talk to parents across the country and share experiences, a topic that is coming up more and more is about drink spiking at private parties and when out. A recent survey in Cambridge nightclubs found that third of students have experienced their drinks being spiked. Please do speak to your teenagers about never leaving their drink unattended, or accepting drinks from anyone they don’t know well, especially as we get into the season of summer parties and festivals. Drink spiking can be linked to sexual assault and robbery, however, the majority of reported drink-spiking incidents are not linked to any additional crime. In these instances the motive may be ‘prank spiking’. Drink spiking is illegal, whatever the intent. This means that slipping alcohol or drugs into a friend’s drink as a joke is against the law. People who spike drinks can be charged, fined or jailed. The public perception is that drink spiking is limited to slipping drugs into an alcoholic drink. However, drink spiking can include:

  • putting alcohol into a non-alcoholic drink (such as water, soft drink, non-alcoholic punch or fruit juice)
  • adding extra alcohol to an alcoholic drink
  • slipping prescription or illegal drugs (such as tranquillisers, amphetamines or GHB – also called liquid ecstasy) into an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink.

How to help prevent drink spiking

Suggestions include:

  • Party with trusted friends. Discuss how you will watch out for each other while at the venue.
  • Buy your own drinks. Watch the bartender prepare your drink.
  • Don’t accept any drinks from strangers.
  • Accompany the person to the bar if you do wish to accept the offer of a drink from a stranger. Take the drink from the bartender yourself.
  • Be wary if a stranger buys you a drink and it’s not the type of drink you requested.
  • Don’t take your eyes off your drink. If you have to leave the table (to go to the toilet, for example), ask a friend to watch over the drinks.
  • Buy drinks that come in bottles with screw-top lids. Carry the bottle in your bag when you go to the toilet or have a dance.
  • Don’t consume your drink if you think it may have been spiked. Discuss your concerns with the manager or host.
  • Tell the manager or host immediately if you see someone spike a drink or if you suspect that drink spiking may be occurring.
drink spiking image

Symptoms of drink spiking

You may not realise your drink has been spiked by smelling it or tasting it. The substances used to spike drinks are often colourless and odourless. The symptoms of drink spiking depend on many factors such as the substance or mix of substances used, the dose, your size and weight, and how much alcohol you have already consumed. Symptoms could include:

  • feeling drunk, woozy or drowsy
  • feeling drunker than expected
  • mental confusion
  • hallucinations
  • speech difficulties such as slurring
  • memory loss
  • loss of inhibitions
  • nausea and vomiting
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness
  • an unusually long hangover
  • a severe hangover when you had little or no alcohol to drink.

How to help If someone shows any of the above symptoms, suggestions include:

  • telling the manager or host what is happening
  • taking the person to a safe area and staying with them
  • keeping a close eye on their condition. Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates in any way, for example, if they lose consciousness
  • if you or your friend suspects drink spiking, contacting the police or going to the emergency department of your nearest hospital. Urine or blood tests performed within the first 24 hours are able to detect the presence of most drugs