Spiked. Not stirred.

In case you had any doubt, spiking of drinks does take place. More often than you think, and it could happen to you!

Spiking a drink is mostly associated with drugs (including some over-the-counter drugs) being slipped into someone’s drink. But spiking can also refer to alcohol being added to a non-alcoholic drink, or further alcohol added to an alcoholic drink. In all instances, this is done without the knowledge or permission of the person whose drink has been tampered with. But remember, food can also be spiked.

A new, and far more sickening development in spiking is the use of syringes to inject drugs directly into the body of an individual. A number of incidents relating to being injected or finding a pinprick on the body have been reported to the police. According to The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) almost 200 cases of drink spiking were confirmed across the UK during September and October (2021). In addition, 24 reports alluded to the use of an injection.

Not that this type of drug ‘delivery’ mechanism is impossible to achieve, it’s worth noting that a number of knowledgeable people have expressed their concerns as to the effectiveness of using a syringe.

Harry Shapiro, Director of DrugWise says, “for the drugs to take effect they’d need to be injected into a vein.”

Prof Adam Winstock from Global Drugs Survey also has doubts about the use of syringes. He says, “needles have to be inserted with a level of care – and that’s when you’ve got the patient sitting in front of you with skin and no clothes. The idea these things can be randomly given through clothes in a club is just not that likely. Prof Winstock also said it would be “difficult” to keep a needle in someone’s skin long enough to get all of the substance in. “Normally you’d have to inject several millilitres, that’s the equivalent of half a teaspoon. That hurts and people notice.”

It’s apparent that these experts, whilst not dismissing the possibility, have an open mind on this issue, and are playing down the concerns of being spiked by an injection.

Sexually motivated, by far the majority of victims are women, with sexual offences up 8% to 164,763 recorded in the past year by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). But a small number of men have also reported their drinks being spiked – the reason being it was a prank.

Rape is also on the increase with a 10% year on year rise. According to the ONS there were 61,158 offences recorded in the year to June 2021. That’s the highest annual figure and incorporated the reporting of 17,285 rapes between April and June 2021 – the highest ever for any single quarter!

Sometimes described as ‘date-rape’ drugs, they can be colourless, odourless and tasteless, and leave the body in a short space of time – making them much harder to detect. As such, victims often don’t remember being drugged or assaulted until many hours later.

Despite the many different types of drugs that can be applied when spiking occurs, they all tend to manifest the same several characteristics; extreme drowsiness compromised cognitive and physical abilities. Below is a small selection of the side effects:

  • feeling drunk, woozy or drowsy
  • feeling “out of it” or drunker than expected
  • mental confusion
  • speech difficulties (such as slurring)
  • memory loss
  • loss of inhibitions
  • breathing problems
  • vomiting
  • heart failure
  • muscle spasms or seizures
  • loss of consciousness
  • an unusually long hangover
  • a severe hangover when you had little or no alcohol to drink.

Drink (or food) spiking is illegal, with a maximum sentence of 10 years if found guilty. Or longer if a sexual assault or robbery takes place. Furthermore, it shows coercive and controlling behaviour by the person(s) who commit such an act.

So who’s most likely to spike your drink?

The highest instance according to research is by a stranger. For women, a friend is the second most likely person to spike them. For both men and women, an acquaintance is the least likely, with the penultimate scenario being on a date. Though for men, a male friend is most likely. (Those pranksters, fun-loving male friends, huh?!)

It’s no surprise that bars and clubs are the obvious locations for spiking to take place. House parties are hotspots too, but also music festivals and concert venues.

How do you protect yourself against being spiked? Apply common sense. Don’t leave your drink unattended, be wary of anyone who hands you a drink, always keep your eyes on your drink even while it’s being poured, and if you’re in a group, ask everyone to look out for each other and remain vigilant at all times.

You can also incorporate psychological and physical deterrents such as a drink cover that fits over a glass, or a stopper that fits in the top of beer bottles – both work in conjunction with a straw, and are available in the Personal Safety Pack.

Consider Life Centric’s Personal Safety Pack as a way of helping you stay safe.

The pack contains items that will help you stay safe in real-time. For example, various alarms, a drink cover that fits most glasses and helps prevent drinks from being spiked, and even a portable door lock.

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