Drink spiking and date rape drugs

Drinks spiked with alcohol or drugs can make a person vulnerable. Always keep an eye on your drink to make it more difficult for someone to spike it and make sure you recognise the symptoms of drink spiking so that you can act quickly to help a victim of this crime.

What is drink spiking?

A person’s drink can be spiked to make them more vulnerable for a variety of reasons, including theft, sexual assault or as an attempted joke.

Because there are no official statistics it’s difficult to know the true extent of the crime. Often people don’t report drink spiking because they don’t remember details of the night or they feel embarrassed.

It can be a scary experience and it’s important to be able to recognise the signs your drink has been spiked or how to help someone you suspect has been a victim.

What are date rape drugs?

According to the NHS, alcohol is used more commonly than drugs to spike drinks1. Shots of alcohol can be added to drinks to make them stronger. This causes someone to get drunk much quicker than expected.

Rohypnol (or Roofie) and Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) are the most commonly known ‘date-rape’ drugs. They can be odourless, colourless and tasteless. They also leave the body within a short amount of time making them hard to detect.

Both drugs can be used to commit physical and sexual assaults as they can sedate or incapacitate a victim, making them more vulnerable to attack.

Recreational drugs like Ecstasy, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), Ketamine and other ‘party-drugs’ are sometimes used to spike alcoholic drinks. Mixing alcohol and stimulants is can be very dangerous and can cause serious problems, ranging from nausea to heart failure.

Symptoms of drink spiking

The effects of drink spiking vary depending on what you’ve been spiked with. Your symptoms could includ

  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Loss of balance
  • Visual problems
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Unconsciousness

Dr Sarah Jarvis, Drinkaware medical advisor, says: “The symptoms will depend on lots of factors such as the substance or mix of substances used (including the dose), your size and weight, and how much alcohol you have already consumed.”

“If your drink has been spiked it's unlikely that you will see, smell or taste any difference. Most date rape drugs take effect within 15-30 minutes and symptoms usually last for several hours. If you start to feel strange or more drunk than you should be, then get help straight away.” 

How to help a friend who you think has been spiked 

If your friend is showing any of the signs described above there are few things you can do to help.

What to do if you think a friend has been spiked:

  • Tell a bar manager, bouncer or member of staff
  • Stay with them and keep talking to them
  • Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates
  • Don’t let them go home on their own
  • Don’t let them leave the venue with someone you don’t know or trust
  • If possible, try and prevent them drinking more alcohol as this could lead to more serious problems

 

What to do if you think you have been spiked

If you’re on your own, call someone you trust or dial 999 if you need urgent help. If you suspect drink spiking, ask to be taken to the nearest Accident and Emergency department.

Tell the medical staff you think you’ve been spiked. Urine and blood tests carried out in the first 24-72 hours are most likely to detect traces of date rape drugs. 

What to do if you've been assaulted

One of the effects of date rape drugs can be amnesia, or loss of memory. That means it’s possible that you won’t be sure if you’ve been assaulted. But it’s important that if you suspect you’ve been physically or sexually assaulted you should tell someone. Try to confide in someone you trust like a friend or family member.

You can go to the police, local GP surgery or hospital. If you don’t feel able to do that right away you can call the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre on 0808 802 9999 (12–2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day). 

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by sexual harassment or any sort of sexual harm, help and support is available. Victim Support is an independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime. They offer free, confidential help to anyone who’s been affected by sexual harassment. Call 08 08 16 89 111 or go to Victim Support's website

Spiking someone’s drink is a serious crime

Spiking someone’s drink carries a maximum 10 year prison sentence. Adding a few extra shots to a friend’s drink may seem like a harmless bit of fun but not only could it ruin a good night out it could also result in serious criminal charges.

Assault, rape or robbery carry additional sentences. Sex with someone without gaining the victim’s consent is also a crime. 

How to avoid drink spiking

Some clubs give out drink stoppers for the top of your bottle to prevent someone dropping something in your drink. There are also testing kits with strips that detect certain drugs but these do not test for all types of drugs and often do not work2.

Don’t forget that these won’t detect extra alcohol in your drink.

Drink spiking can happen in any situation. However, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

Dr Jarvis advises: “Get into the habit of never leaving your drink unattended and don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know. Keep an eye on your drink at all times – don’t go off and dance then come back and drink the rest. Avoid drinking too much alcohol by sticking to the government’s alcohol unit guidelines of 14 units a week for both men and women. This will put you in the best position to be alert to anything suspicious and able to look out for your friends.”

References

1. NHS choices (2017) Drink spiking and date rape drugs, Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/abuse/Pages/drink-spiking.aspx, Accessed: 09/08/201

2. ibid