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Stay safe this Christmas: Warning signs your drink has been spiked – and what to do next

3 months ago

By The Guide Liverpool

Stay safe this Christmas: Warning signs your drink has been spiked – and what to do next
Recognising the telltale signs of a spiked drink can be paramount for your safety.

This party season, take heed of the signs someone has tampered with your drink.

Amidst the festive season, it’s crucial to stay vigilant. Recognising the telltale signs of spiked drinks can be paramount for your safety.

As part of a new package to crack down on drink spiking, ministers have set out plans to fund testing kits and training for door staff.

It’s an attempt to modernise the law on spiking – when someone puts drugs into another person’s drink or directly into their body without their knowledge or consent.

Calls to ministers to make needle and drink spiking a special offence has been ongoing, but this new announcement falls short of that demand.

Instead the Home Office sets out a number of practical steps it is taking to protect people, heading into the festive partygoing season.

What are “date rape” drugs?

Date rape drugs can be mixed into drinks and are almost impossible to detect. They make people feel weak and confused and can cause them to pass out and forget everything that happened while they were on the drug.

The most commonly known date rape drugs are:

  • Rohypnol (also called roofie)
  • Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) 

Other less common date rape drugs are:

  • Ecstasy
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • Ketamine
Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Here are some of the warning signs Merseyside Police have provided that could mean your drink has been spiked:

It can be difficult to know if your drink has been spiked, but if you feel strange or like you’ve had more alcohol to drink that you actually have, then get help straight away.

Symptoms could include:

  • confusion
  • memory loss
  • feeling sick or throwing up
  • lowered inhibitions
  • loss of balance
  • unconsciousness
  • problems with vision

According to the NHS, there are many variables to how symptoms could surface in your body after getting spiked.

For instance, it could depend on the amount and type of alcohol or drug used by the perpetrator. Even how much you have had to drink, other medication you may be taking and your physical size and age, could all be a contributing factor.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Dr Lynn Thomas, medical director for St John Ambulance, said:

“You may notice someone become confused, not knowing where there are and feeling disorientated. They could also start to hallucinate and begin to see and hear things that are not there, as well as suddenly acting paranoid.

“This experience can be really frightening for someone who has been spiked, so it’s really important to get medical help and stay with them. Try to reassure them, use simple words and tell them where they are, and who you are if they suddenly don’t recognise you.”

Symptoms can develop very quickly, between 5-20 minutes to be precise, and last for up to 12 hours.

“When someone is spiked, it can cause them to lose their balance or have poor coordination. They may seem like they are staggering and become unsteady on their feet. They may complain of feeling dizzy and if walking, they might suddenly feel or look as if they could fall over,” said Thomas.

“If you notice these symptoms in your friends, it’s important to try and get them to sit down somewhere to keep them safe so they don’t fall – whilst you get medical help.”

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Dr Thomas added:

“Spiking makes someone very vulnerable. In certain situations, they may lose the ability to communicate, which can be very scary. If this happens, sit them down in a safe place, and make sure you stay and reassure them.

“Spiking can also cause problems with vision. They may have difficulty focusing their eyesight and in particular complain of blurred vision. This does get better once the symptoms have worn off, but in that moment it can be frightening and again, making them much more vulnerable.”

She continued:

“As well as other symptoms like abdominal pain, feeling or being sick, spiking can cause someone to become unresponsive and affect their breathing, so it’s really important to get medical help if you feel unwell or are worried about a friend and think they may have been spiked.

“If your friend becomes unresponsive or unconscious but are breathing normally, put them into the recovery position and call 999.

“Keep checking their breathing and responsiveness. If they stop breathing at any point, open their airway and prepare to start chest compressions whilst medical help is on its way.”

How can you stay safe?

Thomas also shared advice on how to keep youself and your friends safe on a night out and what to do if you believe someone has been spiked.

First of all, stay together. “This will provide some accountability and encourage pacing yourself when drinking. It’s important to keep an eye on how much you and your friends are drinking,” she said.

You could even nominate someone to not drink, who can also be an additional pair of eyes and ears.

“Many bars and nightclubs offer bottle ‘bungs’ like a cork which can prevent drinks being spiked – ask for one. And never accept any drinks from strangers, especially after you have had a few drinks yourself.”

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

What to do if you think you have been spiked?

But if you think you or a friend has been spiked, Thomas advised that you alert bar or event staff and the police, including reporting any suspicious behaviour.

“Call 999 and get medical help, especially if there is a loss of consciousness, breathing difficulties, or abnormal or impaired sight.

“If you have used recreational drugs or drunk a lot of alcohol, it’s important to tell your friends what you have taken and when and get medical help from event staff if you need it.”

How you can report it

Does it feel like the situation could get heated or violent very soon? Is someone in immediate danger? Do you need support right away? If so, please call 999 now.

If you have a hearing or speech impairment, use our textphone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.

One of the main effects of date rape drugs is memory loss, so you might not be sure if you’ve been assaulted. 

It’s always your choice whether to report possible rape or sexual assault. But if you decide to report it, you can:

  • tell the police or report it to another organisation
  • report it anonymously or give your full details and start an investigation
  • report it yourself or ask someone else to report it for you

If you want to report it the police, you can do that:

How to report rape and sexual assault

You can report drink spiking even if you don’t think you’ve been assaulted.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Forensics

If you give permission, Merseyside Police can perform forensic tests to check for date rape drugs in your system.

Blood and urine samples need to be taken quite soon after the incident. But hair and nail samples can be used to detect drugs much later.

Find out more about forensic evidence in rape and sexual assault.

Further advice

You can get support for rape and sexual assault whether or not you want to report it to Merseyside Police.

Drink spiking can happen in any situation and it’s never your fault

Support

If you have been affected by the subject matter of this article and you require additional support Victim Support is an independent charity that helps victims of crime, their family or friends.

You can visit the website HERE.

For the latest news in Liverpool click HERE.

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