One YouGov poll of 2,000 people commissioned for The Independent noted that a staggering 1/3 of women and 1 in 5 men had fallen victim to their drinks being spiked or knew someone who had. Further, a recent Guardian article notes that drink spiking is at all-time record levels with 15% of women and 7% of men having been spiked.
It’s a deplorable practice and it can happen to anyone of any gender, age, and intelligence. The victims of drink spiking are often street-smart and savvy individuals who fall victim to foul play. But no matter the circumstances, whether you’re careful or not, it is not your fault!
Read on to learn about the unfortunate rise in drink spiking, how to find testing kits, how to tell if you’ve had your drink spiked, how to stay safe, and what to do if you fall victim.
The rise of drink spiking
The Daily Mail reported recently that as many as 43,000 people may have had their drinks spiked in the last year alone – and only 1 in 12 people report it. Since 2018, spiking reports have doubled. Those are worrying statistics. A quick Google search on the news tab reveals over 17,000 recent articles on the subject. Drink spiking is prevalent and you have to be aware.
If you think, oh I’m over 30 and I rarely go to nightclubs, I’ll be safe, be aware that it doesn’t just happen to women or to young university-aged students. There’s often no discerning the victims. Older women. Older men. Young people. It can really happen to anyone. This Guardian article mentioned previously, describes how a 51-year-old woman from Cornwall had her drink spiked in a quiet Newquay bar. The victims of drink spiking are often unsuspecting and in “respectable” establishments (not that it should happen in places of “disrepute” either – no judgement here).
If you, like many Britons, like to go down to your local for a casual drink or go on a night out with friends, you may be at risk – and if you have university-aged children or friends, you’ll want to make them aware of the signs of drink spiking. Worst of all, it’s even happening at house parties where you’d think you’d be safe with your friends.
The more recent series on BBC iPlayer, I May Destroy You, chronicles the after effects and mental health impacts of drink spiking. And this journalist, Rose, talks about her experience too.
It’s important to know what drugs are used and what it feels like if you do get drugged. As many victims explain, the feeling isn’t just like the feeling of binge-drinking too many cocktails.
What substances are used for spiking drinks?
The most common term for the drugs used in drink spiking are “date-rape drugs” but they aren’t always used for sexual assault.
Common drugs for drink spiking include the following:
- Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)
- Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL)
- Tranquillisers (often benzodiazepines, including Valium/diazepam and Rohypnol)
When any of the above are mixed with alcohol, they become particularly dangerous as the combination creates a powerful effect. In the worst and most extreme cases, they can lead to coma or death.
The drugs can come in a powder, liquid, or tablet form and the victim often cannot taste or smell the drug in their drink.
How can I avoid drink spiking or limit the possibility of drink spiking?
It’s unlikely that you’ll taste a difference in your drink if it has been spiked. Some drugs like GHB taste slightly salty or taste unusual but that’s often not the case. If you start to feel strange or more drunk, you need to seek immediate help.
Here are some tips that may help prevent drink spiking – but remember you’re a victim and not at fault if this happens to you.
- Try to avoid drinking too much in unfamiliar situations where you could lose control, make risky decisions, or become less aware of danger.
- Don’t drink alone. Drink with friends and watch out for each other.
- Appoint a drinks watcher.
- Don’t leave your drink unattended. Carry it with you wherever you go.
- Do not accept drinks from someone you do not know.
- Consider drinking bottled drinks and avoid punch bowls or jugs of cocktails.
- Do not give strangers/someone you’ve just met your address.
- If you think your drink may have been tampered with, do not drink it and tell a trusted friend or relative immediately.
- Before you go out, tell someone you know where you’re going and what time you plan to be home. Check-in regularly with that person.
- Make plans for your journey home at the beginning of the evening.
- Don’t take expensive items with you on a night out as you could be a target for thieves.
- Be aware of the local area and where you can find help if travelling abroad. Drink spiking is a global problem.
- Try to be aware of your surroundings and stay in control.
- If you’re on a date, be aware of your date’s ability to consent to sex. You may be guilty of rape if the person is not in a condition to respond or react.
- In bars and clubs, get your drink directly from your bartender and keep your eyes on your drink order.
- If you put your drink down to dance, be wary of returning to your drink. It’s best to get another drink.
- Soft drinks can also be targeted for drink spiking so be aware even if you’re not drinking.
- If your friends seem too drunk for what they have downed, leave immediately and seek help.
- Do not spend time alone with anyone who makes you feel uneasy or uncomfortable – follow your instincts.
- Take some drink spiking tests with you on nights out and when travelling.
- If you suspect your drink has been spiked, test your drink.
REMEMBER: Drink spiking is a common and unfortunate circumstance and you are not to blame if it happens to you. You can take steps to avoid it but you did not do anything wrong if you fall victim to this horrific activity. Try to be aware and alert in these situations and follow the tips above.
How can I tell if my drink has been spiked?
The following symptoms may occur if your drink has been spiked.
- You may have lower inhibitions
- You may have difficulty concentrating
- You may experience a loss of balance and find it difficult to move
- You may experience visual problems, such as blurred vision or hallucinations
- You may feel as if you’re having an “out of body” experience
- You may feel nauseous or vomit
- You may have memory loss (amnesia) or “blackouts”
- You may feel confused or disorientated, particularly after waking up (if you’ve been asleep)
- You may feel paranoid (a feeling of fear or distrust of others)
- You may become unconscious
Look out for these signs in yourself and your friends.
Where can I buy drink spiking testing strips?
There are multiple places to buy drink spiking test strips and kits. They are on the pricier side, but it’s well worth it to check your drinks on nights out.
- You can buy kits on Amazon for around £7-10.
- The Check Your Drink website sells drink check products and a monthly subscription for £10 per month. The website also contains valuable information about drink spiking and date rape drugs.
- There are also “Drink Check Wristbands” available in a four-pack (with two tests on each wristband) sold online on the UK Wristbands website for £11.99. You dab a little of your drink on the test to see if it turns blue.
- You can buy SipChips, which were developed by the team, Undercover Colors, working on the nail varnish testers, but they were unable to make a marketable nail polish so the “drink testing” nail varnish is a myth, unfortunately. The concept was falsely reported in the news and went viral from there based on a prototype that hadn’t gone to market. The SipChip is a coin-sized disk that checks for common spiking drugs like Flunitrazepam (“Roofies”), Alprazolam (Xanax), Diazepam (Valium), Midazolam (Versed), Oxazepam (Serax) and Temazepam (Restoril).
- You can also buy kits from your local pharmacy such as Boots, Superdrug, and Lloyds.
The testing kits aren’t the cheapest option on the market but they’re great for peace of mind. The Check your Drink website also sells 5 packs of 10 test strips for £50 (currently on sale for £40) so that works out to be £1.25 each.
What do I do if I suspect my drink or my friend’s drink has been spiked?
If you suspect your drink has been spiked but you have not been sexually assaulted, you can call 111 for urgent medical advice, especially if you’re worried about any of your symptoms.
If you have been spiked and sexually assaulted, visit your doctor, emergency department, or nearest sexual assault referral centre (SARC), where you can receive specialist care and support.
In both cases, report your drink spiking to the police.
Where can I get further advice if I am a victim, friend of a victim, or parent/guardian of a victim?
The Talk to Frank website offers “honest information about drugs” and has a page on drink spiking.
If you’ve been a victim of drink spiking that’s resulted in rape or sexual assault, you can visit your local sexual assault referral centre (SARC) where you can receive medical attention as well as practical and emotional support for sexual assault or abuse.
You can always call NHS 111 or get help online if you have concerns or call the police for advice.
We may not always know the motivations for drink spiking – especially when the incident doesn’t result in a robbery or sexual assault – but it’s not your fault if it happens and there are resources available to get help. If you want to share a story, go to our Tria Beauty UK Instagram page and tag your post with the hashtags #triabeautyuk and #stopthespike. Find stories of other people at the #stopthespike hashtag.