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Drink spiking

Drink spiking can be malicious with the intent to hurt the victim through injury, or sexual assault. Some people also spike people’s drinks for fun as foolish jokes.

Drink spiking occurs when alcohol and/or another drug is placed in a person's drink without their knowledge. 1 Young women are common targets of drink spiking and the harms resulting include sexual assault, robbery and unsafe sex. 2

Alcohol is the most frequently used drug in drink spiking incidents. This can be giving a person a stronger drink by adding alcohol to their non-alcoholic drink, or adding extra to an alcoholic drink. However, a variety of other substances have also been identified. 2

What are the symptoms?

Many of these substances are quickly absorbed after being consumed, resulting in rapid onset of the effects. Symptoms to look out for include: 2

  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Feeling ill or sleepy
  • Feeling drunk even if you think you’ve only had a little alcohol to drink
  • Passing out
  • Waking up feeling uncomfortable and confused, with memory blanks about the night before.

The above list of signs can be related to someone who has been consuming a lot of alcohol. However, if alcohol and/or another drug has been added it will happen more quickly. This is further complicated by not knowing how much alcohol the affected person has consumed earlier.

Who is targeted?

  • 4 out of 5 victims are female 3
  • Around half of drink spiking victims are aged under 24 3
  • Of the reported drink spiking incidents, a majority have no associated criminal victimisation, indicating that ‘prank spiking’ may be a common motivation for drink spiking 3
  • Between 20 and 30 per cent of incidents reported to police involve sexual assault. 3

If you or a friend suspects a drink has been spiked you are encouraged to report it to the Police. Reporting the incident within 24-hours means a urine sample can be analysed. A positive test confirms the drink spiking and provides good evidence for prosecution. Police will be interested in all the circumstances surrounding the drink spiking such as last drink and descriptions of persons-of-interest.

How to avoid drink spiking

  • Always buy your own drink and watch it being poured 3
  • Don't accept drinks from strangers 3
  • Never leave your drink unattended while you dance or go to the toilet
  • Don't drink or taste anyone else's drink
  • Dispose of your drink if you think it tastes odd.

For further information on drink spiking view the Drink Spiking wallet card.

If you feel uncomfortable in the presence of the person you are with, leave their company and if you or your friends exhibit the above symptoms, including appearing intoxicated (loss of inhibitions, poor coordination, drowsiness, confusion or unconsciousness) after a small amount of alcohol, get to a safe place and seek help.

What to do if you are with someone who appears to have their drink spiked.

Take care of the affected person. If they are experiencing bad effects, call an ambulance immediately. Don’t delay, you could save their life. If the person becomes unconscious and you know First Aid, place them on their side in the recovery position and make sure their airway is clear. If they stop breathing, commence Expired Air Respiration (EAR). If a sexual assault is suspected contact the Sexual Assault Resource Centre.

 
References

1 Australian Drug Foundation. (2013). Fact Sheet: Drink Spiking. Retrieved from: http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/attachments/795_ADF_FactSheet_Spiking_Final_7May13.pdf

2 WA Police. Safety tips and advice. Drink spiking. Retrieved from: http://www.police.wa.gov.au/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=9E2LDK6XuHA%3D&tabid=1608

3 National Drug Strategy. (2004). National Project on Drink Spiking: Investigating the nature and extent of drink spiking in Australia.