Drink Spiking – Know the facts and protect your customers
Every week there are reports about drink spiking incidents and in December, the Commons Home Affairs Committee quoted a YouGov poll which found that one in nine women and one in 17 men in the UK said they have been the victim of drink spiking. It’s of such concern that awareness is also being raised through inclusion as a main storyline in Coronation Street.
As with any crime, it’s the offender not the victim who’s at fault and should change their behaviour but what steps can hospitality venues take to help protect customers?
Adam Jones, Drinkaware’s business development and partnerships director shares some thoughts and information to help staff recognise the issues around drink spiking and provide support to anyone who may be vulnerable because of a spiking incident.
Because there are no official statistics it’s difficult to know whether there’s been an increase in drink spiking or if cases appear to be rising because more people are reporting it. There’s also an increased focus on safety within hospitality at present with reports of spiking by injection making the headlines. The fact is that even one instance is one too many as it can have dangerous consequences for the health of the person whose drink is spiked and make them more vulnerable to other motives including theft or sexual assault. It’s a serious crime that carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence in the UK.
Hospitality invests heavily in ensuring customers have a safe night out. Building on that important work, the following tips highlight a few key areas for staff to be aware of to help support customers who may be victims of drink spiking.
What is it?
Drink spiking is the act of adding another substance to a drink to make someone change the way they behave and, potentially, be more vulnerable to a variety of offences. It can happen to any drink and the method may include:
- 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
If a drink has been spiked with a date rape drug it’s unlikely to look, smell or taste any different so people often don’t report incidents because they don’t think they have any evidence, don’t remember details, or they feel embarrassed.
Look out for the effects
The indications that someone’s drink has been spiked vary and can be difficult to spot, but symptoms can include:
- Lowered inhibitions
- Loss of balance
- Feeling sleepy
- Visual problems
The symptoms will depend on lots of factors such as the substance or mix of substances used (including the dose), the victim’s size and weight, and how much alcohol they’ve already consumed.
Best practice and warning signs
There are some practical measures that can be taken to help protect against drink spiking, such as increasing searches on entry and removing unattended glasses. Venue staff also play a key role in looking out for warning signs including being alert to suspicious or unusual behaviour and being aware of unusual requests such as ordering double or triple shots for other people or asking for alcohol to be added to another person’s drink. It’s also helpful to look out for anyone who has been separated from their friends or is vulnerable for another reason. The vigilance of hospitality staff can and does make a real difference.
If drink spiking is reported, best practice advice includes
- Listen to, and believe, the person sharing the information with you
- Avoid making judgements or assuming someone has had too much to drink
- Know your venue’s policy including who a case of drink spiking should be reported to, whether testing kits are available, and where the dedicated safe havens are
- Follow procedures and call for emergency assistance from the police or paramedics if required
Drink spiking can happen to anyone at any time. Help and advice is available to help you prepare, including Drinkaware’s vulnerability training in partnership with National Pubwatch which is available for free for members and Drinkaware funders: