Drink spiking is becoming an increasingly frequent occurrence, with rates in the UK having more than doubled in the past three years. The drinking culture at university means students are at high risk, and therefore it is very important to be vigilant. These are scary statistics, but even so it is easy to disregard them, we are all probably guilty of dismissing something, thinking it wouldn’t happen to us. I know from personal experience that this is a dangerous way of thinking, and have not only experienced drink spiking myself, but know other Nottingham students who have fallen victim to it. Although there should be more initiatives that strive to prevent people from spiking drinks, on an individual level it is also important to know how to protect yourself as best as possible.
Making sure you go out with a group can help provide safety in numbers; being alone makes you more of a target for almost any crime, and being with a group means more eyes to look out for each other. Stick together all night, especially at the bar, and going home.
Another safety tip is ensuring you only drink beverages you have watched the entire time, from bartender to mouth. Never leave a drink unattended, and if you have, bin it. And as tempting as it is to accept that free drink offered by a stranger, it just isn’t worth the risk; you never know what else is mixed into that seemingly innocuous vodka lemonade. The safest thing to do is drink at the bar, so nothing can be slipped into your drink while you’re getting down on the dancefloor. However, if you want to sip at your drink on the dancefloor, hold the cup by bridging your fingers across the rim so your palm covers the open end. Drinking from bottles, when possible, can also reduce the risk of spiking.
“Your safety is always worth more than the cost of one drink”
If you have any suspicion of the contents of your drink then dump it out, your safety is always worth more than the cost of one drink. Feeling strange, acting out of character (or according to my friends, possessed) or much drunker than the amount of alcohol consumed warrants are all warning signs your drink may have been spiked. If you notice this in yourself or somebody else, notify a staff member immediately. You should try and get to a safe place with people you trust, and drink plenty of water.
In many cases, people who have been spiked experience memory loss, so it may be a good idea to write a note on your phone detailing information about anyone you may have noticed acting suspicious if you or a friend has been spiked, while you or your friend still has the presence of mind to describe them.
“Seek medical attention as soon as possible”
Anyone whose drink has been spiked should seek medical attention as soon as possible, regardless of any other injury. We commonly associate drink spiking with sexual assault or other serious crimes, but even if these do not occur, it is important to get checked out to make sure the substance ingested is not harmful. If the person you suspect was spiked experiences any severe symptoms, such as vomiting, hallucinations or unconsciousness, call an ambulance.
Similarly, in these cases people are often reluctant to report. Both times I have been spiked, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by good friends who got me home safely, and due to this and the fact I remembered nothing, I didn’t think it would be worth the police’s time. This is not the case however, as this is a crime they take very seriously, punishable by convictions of up to 10 years. Even though I could not help with any details of the crime or perpetrator, they emphasised how vital it was to report these cases, both to them and the establishment at which they occurred. This enables them to attempt to catch the perpetrator, and also allows the establishment to warn clients that they may be at risk, and to remain alert.
“Rise of new technology aimed at testing drinks for hidden substances”
I know this article may have been somewhat alarming, but there is hope! With the rise of new technology aimed at testing drinks for hidden substances, hopefully cases of drink spiking will start to drop in the future; there are nail polishes being trialled in the USA at the moment which can detect common date-rape drugs in drinks with a 99.3% accuracy rate. In the meantime, the best we can do is look out for ourselves and our friends. Remember, sometimes it pays to be paranoid, and maintain, in the words of Mad-Eye Moody, “Constant vigilance!”
For anyone who’s drink may have been spiked, here are some numbers that may be useful:
- Nottinghamshire Police: 0115 967 0999
- Nottinghamshire Police – Spiked Drinks Advice Page
- Queen’s Medical Centre: 0115 924 9924
- Nottingham Sexual Violence Support Services: 0845 600 1588