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Drink spiking is where alcohol or drugs are added to someone's drink without them knowing. In some cases, so-called 'date rape drugs' may be used to spike a drink before a sexual assault.

How do I know if my drink has been spiked?

Unfortunately you might not be able to see, smell or taste if your drink has been spiked. The drug may be colourless, odourless and may not affect the taste of your drink.

Although symptoms will vary depending on the drug used, warning signs include:

  • lowered inhibitions
  • difficulty concentrating or speaking
  • loss of balance and finding it hard to move
  • visual problems, particularly blurred vision
  • memory loss (amnesia) or "blackouts"
  • feeling confused or disorientated, particularly after waking up (if you've been asleep)
  • paranoia (a feeling of fear or distrust of others)
  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing or touching things that aren't there) or having an "out of body" experience
  • nausea and vomiting
  • unconsciousness

Most date rape drugs take effect within 15-30 minutes and symptoms usually last for several hours. However, if you pass out it will be hard to know the full effect. You may still feel some of the symptoms of a date rape drug after a night’s sleep.

What you should do if you think your drink has been spiked

  • If you start to feel strange or more drunk than you think you should be, get help immediately by telling a friend, bar or security staff or the police.
  • If you aren't with anyone, call someone you trust and get to a safe place as soon as you can. Ask to use a phone if yours has been stolen. If you are near your own or another College's Porters' Lodge, go there and seek help.
  • If you need urgent help call 999.
  • Be wary of accepting help from a stranger and don’t leave with someone you don’t know.
  • Your doctor can test for the presence of traces of certain drugs through urine or blood tests within 24 hours.
  • Find information here if you’ve been assaulted or raped.

How to avoid drink spiking

  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.
  • If someone offers to buy you a drink, go to the bar with them.
  • Buy your own drinks and know what you’re really drinking.
  • Don’t drink something you didn’t open, or see opened or poured; if you’re unsure about your drink, leave it.
  • Keep an eye on your friends. If someone collapses or is unconscious, call an ambulance immediately and stay with them until help arrives.
  • If you’re on a date with someone you don’t know, arrange for a friend to call you during the evening and/or pick you up. Meet in a public space. Arrange your own transport.

How to help a friend who you think has had their drink spiked 

If your friend is showing any of the signs described above there are few things you can do to help:

  • If you are in a bar, pub or nightclub, tell a bar manager, bouncer or member of staff.
  • Stay with your friend and keep talking to them.
  • Try and prevent them drinking more alcohol.
  • Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates, they collapse or are unconscious.
  • Don’t let them go home on their own.
  • Don’t let them leave the venue with someone you don’t know or trust.
  • Get them to a safe place as soon as possible.

See also: Drinkaware information on drink spiking, Harassment and sexual misconduct