Warning: This article deals with the topic of abuse and sexual assault. It may be triggering to some. If you or someone you love is in need of support please contact 1800 RESPECT or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Drink spiking is an unfortunate reality. It happens far more often than reported cases indicate and it can create an incredibly serious situation on a night out.
So what do you need to be aware of when it comes to this dangerous trend?
What does it mean to have your drink spiked?
Drink spiking occurs when alcohol or drugs are placed in a person’s drink without their knowledge. There are reports of drugs (such as date rape drugs) being used but alcohol is also one of the most frequently chosen substances for spiking.
This could be adding alcohol to a non-alcoholic drink or significantly increasing the alcohol content in a drink to make someone drunk faster.
The act of drink spiking is illegal in all Australian states and territories. Penalties can include fines and imprisonment of up to 25 years.
What are the symptoms to watch out for?
It can be difficult to tell if your drink has been spiked. According to the Alcohol Think Again website some of the symptoms to look out for include:
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Feeling ill or sleepy
- Feeling drunk even if you’ve had little to drink
- Passing out
- Waking up feeling uncomfortable, confused or with memory blackouts from the previous night.
How to reduce the chances of having your drink spiked
It’s worth noting that having your drink spiked is never your fault. But the sad reality is that many of us will continue to need to take precautions for our safety. The best approach here is to watch and hold onto your drink at all times. Never leave it unattended and never let it out of your sight.
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) also suggests that you avoid sharing drinks and that you keep an eye on your friends and their drinks. If someone you don’t know offers to buy you a drink, go to the bar with them.
It’s also not a bad idea to try and keep count of your and your friend’s drinks if you can. That way you’ll know if one of you seems unusually intoxicated.
What should you do if your drink has been spiked?
The ADF says that if your drink has been spiked you can:
- ask someone you trust to help you get to a safe place
- if you feel unwell or have been sexually assaulted, go to the emergency department of the nearest hospital
- ask your doctor to test for the presence of drugs. Urine or blood tests can pick up traces of certain drugs up to 24 hours later.
It’s recommended that victims of drink spiking report the incident to the police. However, it’s believed that incidents of drink spiking are incredibly under-reported. The ABC shares that, according to statistics, there were only 16 recorded spikings in the state of Victoria in the past 5 years.
It can be assumed that these numbers are so low partly because many drink spiking crimes also lead to sexual assault. Alcohol Think Again estimates that between 20-30% of reported incidents involve sexual assault, which would classify them as such in official records.
There also seems to be a stigma around drink spiking that makes it less likely to be taken seriously by authorities, particularly if the victim had been drinking or taking drugs of their own accord, which could discourage victims from reporting.
But drink spiking is a criminal offence and needs to be treated as such for more preventative strategies to put in place.
Laura Bajurny from the ADF told the ABC why it’s important for victims to report drink spiking to police:
“They can’t do anything unless they have those reports and data coming in saying there is a problem. I think that they’re doing everything that they can, but they need more information, and they need those victims to come forward and tell them about what’s happened to them.”