What is drink spiking?
Drink spiking is someone adding alcohol or another drug to someone’s drink without their knowledge or consent. We’ve put together the information below and a downloadable graphic resource on spiking. You can find the PDF resource here.
Alcohol is the drug most frequently used to spike drinks. Many people have felt dismissed or ‘gaslighted’ (ie blamed as the victim on reporting what they experience; or made to doubt their own perceptions) when reporting spiking.
It could be:
- Slipping someone a double measure without telling them or when they asked for a single
- Topping up someone’s drink without telling them while it’s unattended
- Giving someone a line and telling them it’s coke and it’s actually ketamine
How can you tell if someone has been spiked?
Signs of being spiked might include:
- Sudden change in how out of it someone seems
- Dizziness, nausea
- Being unable to stand up, balance, coordinate or being really unsteady on your feet
- Difficulty talking or heavy slurring
- Losing consciousness
If you are concerned that you might have been spiked with a needle:
- Most people would immediately feel pain of a needle entering their skin, even if under the influence of alcohol.
- Injecting someone with enough drugs to incapacitate them would be likely to take long enough to notice, ie at least 15–20 seconds.
- Contracting HIV from a needle stick injury is very rare indeed
- If anyone has had contact with bodily fluids which may contain HIV or Hepatitis, Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is available via the NHS and your local sexual health service. PEP should be taken as soon as possible, but it can be taken up to 72 hours after exposure. The earlier it is taken the more effective it is.
- It would take at least 8 weeks to receive a definitive HIV test result after exposure
What to do if you think you or a pal have been spiked:
- Speak to a member of staff at the venue as soon as you can — they want you to be safe and should be trained to help
- Stay with your mates, keep talking to them and reassuring them that you’re getting help for them
- Encourage then to avoid taking any more drugs including alcohol
- Prevent them from leaving the venue alone or with anyone you don’t trust and who can’t prove they know them well and that they have their best interests at heart
- All bodies have and everybody has a right to safety, respect and bodily autonomy
- The biggest responsibility lies with anyone thinking about spiking not to do it
- Anyone charged with spiking (if not associated with rape, assault or robbery) could face up to 10 years imprisonment. They could also be charged as an accessory to any crime experienced by the victim while still affected (Offences Against the Person Act 1861, section 24; Sexual Offences Act 2003, section 61)
- Alcohol is the drug most frequently used to spike drinks. Other drugs that might be used produce a ‘sedative’ effect and may include feelings of lethargy,nausea, confusion, loss of balance/coordination and lowered inhibitions. To better understand the effects of different drugs visit our Drugs A-Z. We’ve also linked to some drugs that produce a sedative effect and have been reported to be used in instances of spiking at the bottom of this page under ‘Useful links’
- Venues have a responsibility to take reports seriously — please alert staff as soon as possible
- Most venues have CCTV and should review footage to seek to identify perpetrators as a priority
- Venue staff should be trained in searching people with respect and awareness of the potential for searches to be triggering generally, and with particular attention to rights and dignity of Black people, people of colour, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people
- Increased searching at clubs could lead to people swallowing all their drugs before entering. It could also lead to people not going to clubs and having private parties instead where there is no security to help, less access to First Aid and greater likelihood of drug-related emergencies and potentially experiences of sexual violence.
- Venue staff should be trained to support anyone affected by spiking and call for medical or police assistance in emergencies. This should be standard practice for someone who is intoxicated whether spiking is suspected or not.
- If you’re with someone who has been spiked or is seriously unwell, stay with them and ask for help as soon as you can
- Prevent them from leaving the venue alone or with anyone you don’t trust and who can’t prove they know them well and that they have their best interests at heart — venue staff should be aware of how to assess safety for helping people get home
- The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) investigated spiking in 2007 and made: “A request that the Department of Health arranges for “early evidence kits”, and appropriate advice on their use, to be made available in all Accident and Emergency Departments and Sexual Assault Referral Centres.”
Sources of Support:
In a medical emergency (loss of consciousness; serious, long-lasting disorientation or inability to communicate; significantly and sustained increased heart rate or chest pain) – call 999
Rape Crisis: Rape Crisis Scotland | Working to end sexual violence
Rape Crisis Helpline: 08088 01 03 02