Increase in Spiking Incidents in London

As your Students’ Union we wanted to reiterate that student welfare and safety is of the utmost importance to us and we aim to support you to have the best experiences at university, but also to ensure you feel safe and supported if things do go wrong.

As the news stories keep coming regarding an increase in drink spiking in London and across the UK, we are conscious that although there is an increase in reporting, not all cases are reported so it is difficult to know the extent of this crime. Often people don’t report being spiked because they don’t remember details of the night or they feel embarrassed or unsafe to do so. As your Students’ Union we wanted to reiterate that student welfare and safety is of the utmost importance to us and we aim to support you to have the best experiences at university, but also to ensure you feel safe and supported if things do go wrong.  

Typically drink spiking is when drugs or alcohol are added to your drink, however, recently there have been numerous reports of spiking by injection and the increase in cases appears to be targeting people in nightclubs, bars, and house parties. A person may be spiked for a variety of reasons including but not limited to theft, sexual assault or as an attempted joke.  

We find these reports disturbing as you should be able to enjoy yourself without fear but also, we know that for many people they are only now feeling comfortable starting to go back out again after months of lockdowns and restrictions.  

Whilst venues and the police should work together to ensure that the environment is safe for everyone there are some practical steps you can take to stay safe on nights out. 

Practical steps to stay safe:

  • Always keep an eye on your drink, never leave it unattended. 

  • Only take a drink that has been prepared in front of you and don’t receive drinks from people you don’t know or trust. 

  • Do not finish your drink if it does not taste right. 

  • Let venues staff know if you are feeling uncomfortable or harassed by someone in their space The Ask for Angela code is being rolled out across London and we will be implementing this in our venues at the Blueprint Bar with immediate effect and at the Darkroom Bar when we reopen later in the year. If you ask venue staff to speak to Angela, they’ll know you are asking for help. The team at the students’ union will always deal with these situations confidentially and supportively so please don’t hesitate to speak to them if something does not seem right.  

  • Tell friends where you are going and if your plans change 

It is never the fault of the victim if your drink is spiked, and it is completely unacceptable that we still think about adjusting our behavior to stay safe. We urge venues to take this issue seriously and work together to create a safe environment for everybody.  

Is drink spiking illegal? 

The simple answer is yes. Despite whether or not someone has spiked another individual with the intent to commit a crime, the act of drink spiking is illegal and can result in a maximum of 10 years in prison. If someone is spiked they are put in a situation without their consent, despite whether or not they have voluntarily consumed alcohol or taken drugs. 

How do I know if I’ve been spiked? 

Drugs of this nature tend to 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 after a night’s sleep. 

Although your symptoms will depend on which substance has been used, they usually include some of the following: 

  • 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 

What can I do if I think I’ve been spiked:

Firstly tell someone you can trust – a friend, a member of venue staff, a relative, the police or a medical professional.  

If you can, pass the suspect drink to a member of staff in the hope they can test the drink for you.  

If you can, arrange for a trusted friend or relative to take you home and stay with you until the effect of the drug have worn off.  

If you feel unwell ask someone you can trust to go with you to A&E and tell medical staff you believe you have been spiked.  

What can I do if I suspect my friend has been spiked? 

Often a person who has been spiked may not be able to act to protect themselves, you can help support your friend and minimise the harm and distress caused by 

  • Telling a member of staff or security in the venue 

  • Staying with your friend  

  • Calling an ambulance if their condition deteriorates 

  • Don’t let them go home on their own 

What should I do if I have been a victim of theft, physical or sexual assault after being spiked? 

If you feel comfortable to, you can report what has happened to the venues staff and to the police, but you don’t have to do this. They will ask questions about what they look like, if you know them, the circumstances that led to the attack, what happened during the attack and what was taken (if it was theft) but don’t worry if you don’t remember, they will be able to investigate what others saw and whether CCTV cameras in venues have captured anything.  

If you have been physically or sexually assaulted, you should get medical attention as soon as possible to ensure you are not at further risk of sustained injury, having contracted any sexually transmitted infections, or pregnant.  

You do not have to report an attack to the police immediately (or ever) if you don’t want to. You can contact any of the below places for advice, treatment or referral to a specialist service (such as forensic examination): 

Any forensic evidence that’s obtained during tests can be stored while you decide whether to report an attack to the police or not so don’t feel pressured into reporting immediately if this isn’t something you are comfortable doing.  

If you suspect you have been spiked either on campus or anywhere by another student or staff member at UAL you can also use the Tell Someone reporting system which enables students to report a concern and be put in touch with a member of staff in the university student support team who can support you with deciding your next steps.