It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. One moment, you could be enjoying a well earned night on the town with friends and family, and the next you could find yourself incapacitated and completely helpless in the corner of a club. For women and men of all ages, the risk of having your drink spiked during a night out should not be underestimated.
Statistics around spiking make for scary reading. According to official government figures, incidents in the UK have increased 108% since 2015, though this is by no means an exclusively British issue. Statistics from 2016 also revealed that around 71% of victims were female, showing that this is a concern that has an adversely proportional effect depending on your gender. With incidents on the rise, and a growing number of chemical weapons in a spiker’s arsenal, there has never been a more important time to be aware whether you might be about to become a victim.
Part of what makes spiking awareness so complex is the sheer variety of effects that a drug might produce. Depending on your metabolism, body shape or natural tolerance, you may be more or less able to withstand a spiking. With the vast majority of drugs, it is often impossible to detect a difference in the taste, smell or texture of your drink - by the time you realise something is amiss, it may be too late.
According to Britain’s NHS, there are a number of symptoms closely associated with most common date rape drugs. Unfortunately, what can make these symptoms extra difficult to spot is that they affect us in much the same way as an overindulgence in alcohol. Reduced inhibitions, lack of balance, visual impairment, confusion, nausea, vomiting and unconsciousness are all regular side effects of a spiking.
Many of the most common drugs have their own telltale side effects. GHB and GBL, for instance, can cause feelings of intense euphoria as sleepiness, and can last for as long as seven hours. Tranquilisers such as valium and rohypnol, on the other hand, can affect short term memory abilities, leaving victims disoriented and confused.
The key to recognising when you may be in danger is understanding your own limits and how alcohol ordinarily effects you. If, for instance, it seems as though you are getting far drunker far more quickly than usual, there is a chance that you may have been a victim. In this instance, the most important thing to do is inform someone that you trust, whether that is friends or family. If you’re on your own, this should be done by telephone call.
The next step, experts suggest, is to contact emergency health services and ask to be taken to the nearest hospital. Speaking to The Independent, Dr Sarah Jarvis revealed that staff will then be able to run a series of urine and blood tests in order to tell exactly what you may have been spiked by. Since most drugs leave the system within a 72-hour period, it is crucial that medical professionals are able to conduct these tests as quickly as possible in order to establish exactly what’s going on.
No one should ever have to spend their night worrying about becoming the victim of a criminal. It’s unfair to ever lay the blame of a spiking incident at the door of someone who is just trying to celebrate in public. Nonetheless, there are a few steps that we can all take to minimise the chances of something terrible happening. Never leaving your drink unattended, and using useful gadgets such as bottle toppers to prevent someone slipping something in a glass is a good place to start.
Being a victim of a spiking incident can be traumatising. Though the physical effects are rarely serious, the mental impact can be huge. There are many helplines and support networks available for victims who find themselves struggling in the aftermath, including “Rape Crisis” or “End Violence Against Women” in the UK. It is always important to remember that these incidents are in no way the fault of the victim, and are instead indicative of how some in society feel it is acceptable to behave.