“Drink spiking” search is up 809% – everything you need to know about the UK spiking surge

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  • As many as 200 drink spiking incidents were reported to UK police in the past two months.

    Shaken by the headlines about drink spiking over the last week?

    Sadly, reports of spiking have trebled in the past ten years and as many as 200 drink spiking incidents were reported to UK police in the past two months, the National Police Chiefs’ Council reported last week.

    Not only that, but women are reporting experiencing spiking via injection, too.

    As doctor Sameer Sanghvi, clinical technology lead at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor explains, spiking via injection is particularly dangerous. “This is because if the needle is being reused, there is a possibility that you could catch something from other people who’ve been injected with the needle,” he explains. “Two of the most common viruses to look out for when reusing a needle by accident are HIV and hepatitis.”

    Here, Bee Goldsmith, author of Diary of a Date Rape, shares her story, plus breaks down how to know if you or a friend has been spiked and how to handle such a situation, too.

    Drink spiking: how to know – & what to do – if it happens to you

    What is the definition of spiking?

    Drink spiking is an act of putting something into someone’s drink, without their knowledge, to make them vulnerable, shares Goldsmith. “This is usually done to either reduce a person’s inhibitions or to render them unconscious,” she explains.

    It’s not only alcohol that can be spiked – non alcoholic drink spiking happens too.

    “Spikings are usually carried out either for the purposes of sexual assault or rape, or for theft,” Goldsmith continues.

    Drink spiking: Woman on her phone

    Drink spiking symptoms: 7 to know about

    The main symptoms of spiking, according to Goldsmith, include the following:

    • Feeling very quickly more out of control, or ‘out of it’, than anticipated
    • Feeling sleepy
    • Losing inhibitions
    • Feeling more ‘compliant’ with another’s wishes
    • Visual problems
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea or vomiting.

    “When I was spiked, I became unconscious within half an hour,” Goldsmith details.

    Do note here: symptoms will vary from person-to-person, according to the quantity of drugs or drink used in the spiking, according to the person’s body frame.

    What are the different types of drugs you can be spiked with?

    Interestingly, alcohol is still the most commonly used substance for spiking – but that doesn’t mean other substances aren’t used.

    “‘Date rape’ drugs, include gamma-butyrolactone, “GBL”, and rohypnol, known as “roofies”, are commonly used,” explains Goldsmith. “I believe I was spiked with rohypnol but was never tested for it.”

    Other drugs used for spiking include tranquilisers – often benzodiazepines, including valium (diazepam) – ketamine, ecstasy and LSD, she shares.

    “If someone is already using drink or drugs at the time of the spiking, the interaction between the drug used for the spiking and the drugs or alcohol in the body can have an even more dangerous and powerful effect on the person’s physiology,” she goes on.

    Will a spiked drink look any different to a regular drink?

    A recent poster campaign by Student Beans suggests that a spiked drink could look different. The poster suggests the drink could look foggier, have more bubbles, sinking ice or a change in colour.

    “Many drugs, however, are colourless and odourless so hard to spot in the drink,” warns Goldsmith.

    Drink spiking: Top view of glasses on the pink background

    Where to go and what to do if you think you or your friend has been spiked?

    If you think you or someone you know has been spiked, go to the bar and Ask for Angela. “Bar staff will put you in a safe place until help is found,” explains Goldsmith.

    Similarly, doctor Sameer advises you tell the people you’re with and alert staff within the building. “It’s crucial that you get to somewhere that you feel safe,” he stresses.

    If you’ve been spiked via injection, do make cleaning the wound a priority, he recommends. “In terms of cleaning the wound, wash the wound with running water and plenty of soap to sterilise it and cover it with dressing or a plaster if possible. Do not scrub the wound or attempt to suck anything out of it, because neither of these actions will help,” he warns.

    If you’ve been spiked or spiked via injection, most importantly: do seek medical advice urgently. “We’d recommend you attend a sexual health clinic or A&E within 24 hours of the event, so you can be fully assessed and considered for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) medicine, which may help prevent you from becoming infected with HIV.”

    Trigger warning – rape and sexual aggression

    “The person who spiked my drink was someone I was dating.”

    “The person who spiked my drink was someone I was dating. I was madly in love with him, and he told me he was in love with me too, but looking back, there were massive red flags.”

    “Whenever we had sex, for example I noticed there were things he did that were progressively more humiliating, for example, he used to spit on me before he gave me oral sex and if we kissed in public on the street, he would sometimes try and put his hands down my knickers.”

    “The man in question was a maverick in his personal and work life so I naively put his strange ways down to him not having much experience with women. In my book, Diary of a Date Rape, I explain how things seemed to become progressively darker sexually.”

    “On the night in question when my drink was spiked, we went into a bar and, while the man I was dating was at the bar buying drinks, someone else who must have seen what happened, came up to me to warn me that I shouldn’t be with the man.”

    “Half an hour later, I was unconscious, and I woke up the next day with no knickers on knowing that I had sex the previous night. I had no recollection of it, and I was in too much shock and denial to get myself tested, unfortunately.”

    Drink spiking: Bee Goldsmith

    Bee Goldsmith, Diary of a Date Rape author

    4 ways to prevent drink spiking

    1. Education and awareness

    This is so important. “This is the reason I wrote Diary of a Date Rape,” shares Goldsmith. “I wish I had been more aware of spiking and its effects, physical and psychological, before it happened to me. If you had told me that someone you were dating could spike your drinks, I never would have believed it.”

    2. Adequate criminal repercussions

    It’s also important for adequate criminal repercussions in terms of rape prosecutions, says Goldsmith. “Most sexual assaults and rapes go unreported but currently, of the ones that are reported, only 3% result in a successful conviction.”

    “The maximum term is currently a 10-year prison sentence in the UK just for the spiking alone, but assault, rape and robbery all carry additional sentences,” she goes on.

    3. Removing the stigma

    If we work to remove the stigma surrounding spiking, sexual assault and rape, women and men will be able to see that they have nothing to be ashamed of. “They are more likely to feel that they can report the incident – and seek help – themselves,” she shares.

    4. Ask for help

    Rape Crisis and The Survivors Trust, as well as local services such as Clean Slate in Oxfordshire, provide a brilliant counselling service to help victims come to terms with what has happened to them, shares the author.

    You can also go to StopTopps and order drink protectors which are foil stickers you stick over your glass so they cannot be spiked.

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