Our Advice and Counselling service have put together this guide of what to look out for and how to report an incident of drink spiking.
With Freshers' fast approaching, we want you to have the best time possible whilst also keeping safe. Although all our venues are safe and secure, there have been a rise in drink spiking cases across the country. Our Advice and Counselling service have put together this guide of what to look out for and how to report an incident of drink spiking.
What is spiking?
'Spiking' is when someone puts alcohol or drugs into another person's drink or their body without their knowledge and/or consent. Spiking is a serious crime – it carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison in England. If the perpetrator also commits a sexual offence against the person they spiked, they will face additional sentences. It can be used as a way of making it easier to sexually abuse or assault another person. Spiking someone with alcohol or drugs takes away their freedom and capacity to make a choice about agreeing to sexual activity.
In short: if someone has been spiked, they cannot consent to any kind of sexual activity. It doesn’t matter what a victim or survivor was wearing or doing before the spiking took place. It also doesn’t matter if they were drinking or ‘on’ drugs. No-one ever deserves or asks to be spiked. 100% of the blame, shame and responsibility lies with the perpetrator(s).
The most common way that people are spiked is by someone adding alcohol to their non-alcoholic drink, or extra alcohol to their alcoholic one, without their knowledge and/or consent. Drugs (legal or illegal) can also be added to drinks or put in someone’s body in another way, such as giving someone a drug but telling them it is a different dosage or a different drug altogether or injecting it into them with a syringe.
People can be spiked with any type of drug
- Prescription medicines, such as sedatives, tranquilisers and opiates – for example, Valium or Xanax.
- Illegal drugs that are commonly taken on nights out or at parties – for example, Ecstasy (also known as ‘MD’, ‘MDMA’, ‘Pills’, ‘Mandy’ or ‘Molly’), Ketamine or LSD. These are sometimes known as ‘party drugs’ or ‘club drugs’.
- Drugs that have become known for their use by people who commit spiking in order to rape, sexually assault or sexually abuse someone – for example, Rohypnol, GHB or GBL. These are commonly known as ‘date rape drugs’.
So-called ‘date rape’ is when someone carries out rape or another form of sexual violence or abuse against another person after spiking them. 'Date rape drugs' are sometimes used by people who want to commit a form of sexual violence or abuse for several reasons:
- They can make people become physically weak, feel ‘out-of-control’ or pass out.
- They can be odourless, colourless and tasteless – so it can be hard to know if your drink has been spiked with them.
- They leave the body within a short amount of time, making them hard to detect.
- They can cause memory loss – so the victim or survivor might not remember exactly what happened to them or who the perpetrator was.
Consenting to sexual activity:
As stated above, spiking can be used as a way of making it easier to sexually abuse or assault another person. Consenting to any kind of sexual activity means agreeing to it by choice and having both the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Spiking someone with alcohol or drugs takes away their freedom and capacity to make a choice about agreeing to sexual activity.
In short: if someone has been spiked, they cannot consent to any kind of sexual activity.
Symptoms of spiking:
- feeling or being sick
- feeling ‘strange’ or drunker than expected
- feeling confused, dizzy or disorientated
- feeling sleepy
- blurred or slowed vision, or trouble seeing properly
- loss of balance or coordination
- having trouble communicating
- having hallucinations
- changes in heart rate
- acting strangely or out of character
- memory loss
- loss of bladder control
- blacking out
These symptoms might start to come into effect within 15 minutes, depending on what a person has been spiked with. Symptoms can last for several hours.
Spiking can also leave long-lasting impacts on survivors, such as:
- social withdrawal
- problems continuing with education and/or employment
- difficulties concentrating
- fear that it will happen again
What should I do if I think someone has been spiked?
The most important thing is to try to make sure that someone trusted stays with them until they get home safely and – if possible – until the symptoms have worn off. If their symptoms seem serious and you think they need urgent medical attention, call 999 to speak to emergency services. Take care not to ask questions that might make them feel they are to blame for what has happened to them.
Other things you can do to help include:
- Try not to let them drink alcohol or take drugs.
- Try not to let them go home with someone you don’t know or trust.
- If you don’t know them or don’t know them well, try finding their friends or the people they were with.
- If you’re at a pub, bar, club or any other venue, tell staff who work there.
If you think they may have been sexually assaulted and there is a risk that the perpetrator might still be present, call 999. You can also contact Queen Mary's security team if this is happening on campus by calling 020 7882 3333. Some survivors may have concerns around reporting to the police (e.g. racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia) - if they are safe currently, let them decide if they wish to report this later.
What if I think I've been spiked?
- Tell staff or a trusted friend at the venue.
- Call 999 for emergency services and/or Queen Mary's security team on 020 7882 3333.
- Consider reporting to the police by calling 999 (emergency) or 101 (non-emergency) - early reporting will help preserve additional evidence (most drugs leave the body within 72h, some as early as 12h).
- Ambulance staff or police will be able to conduct testing for spiking incidents; some night venues also offer test kits.
- If you've been spiked, you can also use the Report and Support tool to report to the University.
The university Advice and Counselling service is here to help you - https://www.welfare.qmul.ac.uk/
The university also offers a Report and Support service where you can report an incident and can choose to remain anonymous if you wish - https://reportandsupport.qmul.ac.uk/