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27th Oct 2021

More and more spiking cases reported on nights out

Jade Hayden

“The harm that someone can do by drugging someone else could be lifelong.”

More and more spiking cases have been reported on nights out across the UK – and now in Ireland too.

Spiking has long been a safety issue for young people, and the reopening of the nightlife sector has led to an influx of reports of such instances and concerns around the protection of women.

Recent days have seen college campuses sharing warnings to students, spiking resources being posted widely across social media, and much concern among young people who have only recently returned to bars and clubs, some for the first time.

CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Noeline Blackwell says that while most spikings tend to target women, many men also fall victim to the crime.

“Anyone can be a victim,” she tells Her. “It is entirely unacceptable to attempt to poison someone by so called ‘spiking’ of drink.

“A lot of effort goes into telling women how to keep their drink safe, and how to prevent this harm happening. While that may unfortunately be necessary, every single effort should be made to stop those who are carrying out this very harmful behaviour.”

Unfortunately, these days it’s not just warnings of spiked drinks that are dominating social media. Recent weeks have seen a surge in reports of ‘needle spiking,’ as young women across the UK and Ireland report waking up from nights out with syringe marks on their bodies.

The issue first became prominent in the UK following multiple reports of such alleged instances in nightclubs and bars. Both women and men were reporting being injected by needles on nights out, a worrying shift from the most common method of spiking, by dropping a pill in someone’s drink.

One woman told the New York Times that she was in a crowded club in Nottingham when she felt a sharp prick in her back. 10 minutes later she was unable to stand and was brought to A&E, where she spent hours without the use of her legs.

Another victim shared a TikTok stating she was “90% sure she was spiked by an injection” while on a night out in Bristol. The video showed the student “completely paralysed” unable to climb the stairs to her bedroom.

In Ireland, one young woman shared her experience on Twitter. In a now deleted tweet, she shared a photo of the “dirty bruise” on her arm after a night out, and said that she “tested positive for multiple drugs in my system.”

The known cases of needle spiking are relatively small, but their prevalence on social media has led to much concern and fear among students and other young people. Some drugs and alcohol authorities, however, have said that the likelihood of getting spiked with a needle is slim compared to being spiked by a drink, due to the difficulties involved in actually administering the drugs.

Professor Adam Winstock from the Global Drugs Survey told BBC Newsbeat: “Normally you’d have to inject several millilitres – that’s half a teaspoon full of drug – into somebody. That hurts and people notice.”

However, some medical professionals have argued that the use of smaller needles could allow for a person to be spiked easily, especially if they are in a crowded club, or are less likely to notice the pain.

Dr Shirin Lakhani said that these days some needles are so thin,”you can barely feel [them] going in. If someone’s had a drink or so, they might be less inclined to feel the scratch of a needle,” she said.

Irrespective of the format in which the spiking is taking place, the issue is that it is happening at all. Police forces in the UK have reported receiving over 200 suspected spiking cases over the last two months, coinciding with the reopening of the UK’s nightlife sector.

Although there are few sources concerning the number of spiking incidents happening in Ireland, statistics elsewhere show that reported cases have been on the rise in recent years, with many others of course going unreported.

Warnings in recent days have led to an influx of resources and warnings being shared across social media and beyond. Once again women’s safety has been made the problem of women and women alone, but despite this glaring double standard, there is always merit in knowing the signs of a spiking and knowing what to do if you fear a friend may have been targeted.

A victim of a spiking may suddenly appear very drunk, woozy, or be slurring their words. They could also exhibit feelings of paranoia and panic, begin to act uncharacteristically, or lose consciousness.

According to the HSE, if you have been spiked you should tell someone you trust and take the necessary steps to get to a safe location. They also suggest keeping the spiked drink as it may be used as evidence by Gardaí.

Reporting the incident is crucial as it may help catch the offender, as is attending the hospital if you feel unwell, are drowsy, or are hallucinating.

Blackwell says that while harm prevention is an unfortunate necessity, the problem will persist until people stop spiking others.

“Those who sell the drugs, those who buy them, those who know that someone is going to be harmed are all committing dangerous and criminal behaviour and should stop doing it,” she says.

“No one in their groups of friends should permit or encourage that kind of behaviour and should report the crimes if they know they’re happening. The harm that someone can do by drugging someone else could be lifelong.”

You can find out more information about what to do if you are spiked here.