When you hear the term ‘Drink Spiking’ your mind may bring up an image of the current Netflix hit based on Jeffery Dahmer, not something associated with a night out with your friends. But whilst the Dahmer story is chilling, it’s important to remember this isn’t confined to the history books or your TV screen and the nefarious reasons people may spike your drink are real and worrying.
This article therefore defines drink spiking and offers advice on what to look out for to avoid your drink getting spiked. Also, it details a portable drink spike self-test that checks a drink in seconds to alert victims, friends, and family of drug adulteration.
What is drink spiking?
To spike a drink means to put alcohol or drugs into a person’s drink without their knowledge or permission. Approaches vary, but commonly include one of the following.
- Adding alcohol to an alcohol-free drink
- Adding additional volumes of alcohol to an alcoholic drink
- Slipping ‘date rape’, illegal or prescription drugs into any drink
Drinks can be spiked with the intention of making a person more vulnerable to theft, assault, rape or worse. It has also been reported that drinks have been spiked for amusement purposes. Spiking is both dangerous and illegal, carrying a sentence of up to ten years.
Drinks are commonly spiked with Ketamine and GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyrate). But how do you know if your drink has been spiked with these drugs? read on.
What symptoms to look out for?
A variety of factors can influence the symptoms an individual will experience after being spiked. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of the following symptoms:
- Feeling nauseous or vomiting
- Feeling more drunk than usual
- Feeling sleepy
- Difficulties communicating
- Loss of balance and finding it hard to move
- Memory Loss or confusion
- Breathing issues
- Visual problems, particularly blurred vision and or hallucinations
- Lowered inhibition
Unfortunately, some of the symptoms are the same as if someone is drunk or under the influence of drugs. Some onlookers may just say, “they’ve had too much to drink”! Also, these symptoms may have crept up on the victim surprisingly. So, it is important to be aware of and/or follow the steps in the following section to be vigilant against drink spiking.
ADVICE: What can you do?
A recent YouGov poll1 found 1 in 3 women have either been spiked themselves or know someone who has. And if you think it is just women who are at danger, think again. For men, that number is 1 in 5. While those aged 18 and 24 fall into a high-risk group, 14% of those aged between 24 and 49 say they have personally been spiked.
Whilst these numbers are alarming, we still don’t know for certain the prevalence of spiking. A recent Home Affairs inquiry report said more is needed to be done.2 This doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence to enjoy a night out with friends at a party, in a bar or club, or when overseas.
So, what can you do? Here is some advice from a UK police force:3
- Never leave your drink unattended whether it’s alcoholic or not and if you can, keep an eye on your friends’ drinks.
- Be careful about accepting a drink from someone you do not know.
- Think about drinking bottled drinks and avoid sharing drinks.
- Always make sure you know how you are getting home and only use reputable means of transport. Where possible, have your taxi home booked in advance.
- If you think your drink has been tampered with, don’t drink it – tell a trusted friend or relative and police as soon as you can.
- If you see suspicious activity report it to staff or Police.
This is great advice, and you can go one step further – test your drink.
ADVICE: Use a drink spike test
Yes, you can use a drink spike test, sometimes called a drug adulteration test. CYD (Check Your Drink) is a compact and discreet test strip that can detect the two main ‘date rape’ drugs used in the UK – GHB and KETAMINE. Stored in a resealable foil pouch, the test can be used anywhere. You simply add two drops of your drink on to the two swatches. If they change colour, even if very faintly, within 10-30 seconds, the drink has been spiked. Do NOT continue to drink and alert someone you trust immediately and inform the police and venue staff.
Why use a drug adulteration test?
The effects of having a drink spiked is terrifying for the victim. Having a test that tells victims, friends, medics, or venue staff that someone has been drugged, means action can take place immediately, a venue can be alerted to possible drink spiking and CCTV can be viewed quickly for a suspect drink spiker. Without a test, speculation and a lack of appropriate action can lead to repeat drink spiking or a victim’s condition being ignored or brushed off, leaving the victim in a vulnerable state.
Don’t be fearful, be vigilant
Whilst the statistics around drink spiking, and the reasons people do it, are incredibly worrying, we shouldn’t hide ourselves away. If you follow the police advice, carry a test to check your drink if you are concerned, don’t leave your drink unattended, or refuse drinks from strangers, then you dramatically decrease the chances of falling victim to this awful crime.
Keep safe, have fun, and enjoy those special times with friends and family.
- One in nine women say they have had their drink spiked | YouGov
- Fight against spiking hampered by lack of understanding and poor victim support – Committees – UK Parliament
- Drink spiking | What is it and how to prevent it (psni.police.uk)