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Health and Wellbeing

Stay safe from drink spiking

By Adrian 15 Sep 2023

Drink spiking is where someone adds drugs or alcohol to another person’s drink without them knowing.

Whether it’s done as a prank or with the intent to steal from or assault the victim, drink spiking is illegal and carries a maximum 10 year prison sentence.

How to stay safe from drink spiking

  1. Never leave your drink unattended - not even for a moment.
  2. Never accept a drink from somebody you don't know.
  3. Never drink anything that you didn’t see being opened or poured.
  4. If you're unsure about your drink, don't drink it.

Some more safety tips include:

  • Stick to bottled drinks (it's harder to spike a drink in a bottle)
  • Avoid punch bowls or jugs of cocktails - you have no idea what's in them.
  • Don't tell your address to someone you've just met.
  • Before going out, let someone know where you're going and what time you expect to be home.
  • Make plans for your journey home.
  • Don't take expensive equipment or jewelery out with you.
  • If you’re on a date with someone you don’t know, arrange for a friend to call you during the evening and/or pick you up. Meet in a public space. Arrange your own transport.
  • Be extra vigilant if someone appears to be over-friendly and eager to get you to drinkt.
  • If you get separated from your friends in a bar, pub or club, let them know where you are.
  • If you meet new company and they ask you to go on somewhere else, introduce them to your friends and tell them where you’re going.

Symptoms and signs of being spiked

Unfortunately you might not be able to see, smell or taste if your drink has been spiked. The drug may be colourless, odourless and may not affect the taste of your drink. Although symptoms will vary depending on the drug used, warning signs include:

  • lowered inhibitions
  • difficulty concentrating or speaking
  • loss of balance and finding it hard to move
  • visual problems, particularly blurred vision
  • memory loss (amnesia) or "blackouts"
  • feeling confused or disorientated, particularly after waking up (if you've been asleep)
  • paranoia (a feeling of fear or distrust of others)
  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing or touching things that aren't there) or having an "out of body" experience
  • nausea and vomiting
  • unconsciousness

Most of these drugs take effect within 15-30 minutes and symptoms usually last for several hours. However, if you pass out it will be hard to know the full effect. You may still feel some of the symptoms of a date rape drug after a night’s sleep.

What to do if you think your drink has been spiked

If you start to feel strange or more drunk than you think you should be:

  1. First, tell someone you completely trust, such as a close friend, a relative, a medical professional, or the police.
  2. If you aren't with anyone, call someone you trust and get to a safe place. Ask to use a phone if yours has been stolen.
  3. If you're in a pub, bar, or club, tell a member of bar staff or security.
  4. If you need urgent help, call 999.
  5. Be wary of accepting help from a stranger and don't leave with someone you don't know.
  6. If you feel unwell, someone you trust should take you to the nearest hospital emergency department. Tell the medical staff that you think your drink's been spiked.

Arrange for a trusted friend or relative to take you home and stay with you until the drugs have fully left your system. Report it to the police as soon as you can. They may ask you to provide blood and urine samples. Most drugs leave the body within 72 hours of being taken (the date rape drug GHB leaves the body within 12 hours), so it's important to be tested as soon as possible.

How to help a friend who you think has had their drink spiked 

  • If you are in a bar, pub or nightclub, tell a bar manager, bouncer or member of staff.
  • Stay with your friend and keep talking to them.
  • Try and prevent them drinking more alcohol.
  • Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates, they collapse or are unconscious.
  • Don’t let them go home on their own.
  • Don’t let them leave the venue with someone you don’t know or trust.
  • Get them to a safe place as soon as possible.

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). 

You can also go directly to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre.

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.

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Adrian is a medical doctor, the Student Health & Wellbeing Manager at the University of London and the Warden of Connaught Hall, where he has lived for more than 25 years.
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