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Needle spiking: What is it and why is it happening?

A spate of incidents where victims have been spiked by injection have been reported throughout the UK

Kate Ng
Wednesday 03 November 2021 09:08 GMT
Women have reported fears they have been spiked with an injection
Women have reported fears they have been spiked with an injection (Getty Images)
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Young women and university students have been reporting an increasing number of spiking by injection incidents while in nightclubs and other nightlife venues across the UK.

In recent weeks, reports of such incidents have emerged in Nottingham, Exeter, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Nottinghamshire Police are investigating 12 separate reports of young women and men being “spiked” in less than a month.

On Tuesday, South Yorkshire Police said that three women have been treated in hospital after suffering from suspected needle spikings in night clubs in Sheffield.

Two of the women, aged 18, were discharged, but a 19-year-old woman remains in hospital in stable condition.

The force has launched independent investigations into all three incidents, which Detective Chief Inspector Benjamin Wood described as “careless and cruel”.

Here is everything we know about spiking injections:

What is needle spiking?

Spiking injections, also known as needle spiking, take place when an unsuspecting person is injected with drugs using a needle.

Police across the UK are carrying out investigations, but it is believed that the drugs used in these incidents are the same used to spike drinks, such as Rohypnol (roofie) or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), commonly known as date-rape drugs.

Victims of needle spiking have reported discovering a painful pinprick on their body after blacking out.

Sarah Buckle, a second-year student in Nottingham, told Sky News she spent 10 hours in hospital after becoming severely sick while on a night out and woke up to a bruise on her hand.

“The bruise was getting darker over time and my hand was hurting more and more,” she said. “The nurse told me, ‘It seems as if you’ve been spiked possibly by a needle’.”

How does needle spiking affect people?

A number of women who believe they were injected with drugs while in a nightlife venue describe becoming suddenly unwell, being violently sick and unable to move their limbs properly, and losing their memory until the next morning.

Stories by women recounting their experience have been shared on various social media accounts, detailing the same symptoms as those caused by date rape drugs.

According to Drink Aware, being spiked with date rape drugs can lead to loss of balance, visual problems, nausea and vomiting, confusion, and losing consciousness.

Why is needle spiking happening?

It is not known why needle spiking is on the rise, but police have said it is “distinctly different” to anything they have seen before.

Superintendent Kathryn Craner of Nottinghamshire Police said a “small number of victims have said that they may have felt a scratching sensation as if someone may have spiked them physically”.

“We do not believe that these are targeted incidents; they are distinctly different from anything we have seen previously as victims have disclosed a physical scratch type sensation before feeling very unwell.

“This is subtly different from feelings of intoxication through alcohol according to some victims,” she added.

What action is being taken against needle spiking?

Universities, which have seen a particularly high number of reports about needle spiking, have condemned the incidents and said they are working with police to ensure student safety.

A spokesperson for Universities UK, an advocacy organisation representing higher education establishments across the country, said: “The safety of students is of the utmost importance and universities are working together with local police forces, clubs and bars, and student unions to ensure they are fully aware of all risks to student safety.

“Universities will not tolerate any form of sexual assault or harassment and are dedicated to ensuring that students have the safe and enjoyable university experience they deserve.”

A joint statement from the University of Bristol and Bristol Students’ Union said: “We are aware of an increasing number of reports from across the country of young people experiencing drink spiking or even spiking via injection in bars and nightclubs.

“This is incredibly disturbing, particularly as this is the first time a lot of young people have been able to get out and have fun following months of lockdowns and restrictions on their freedom.

“We stand together in condemning such appalling behaviour. To be clear victims of drink spiking are not the ones at fault and our students should be able to enjoy themselves without fear.”

A petition to make it a legal requirement for nightclubs to thoroughly search guests upon entry has garnered 156,613 signatures at the time of writing, and will be considered for debate in Parliament.

What should you do if you or someone you know has been the victim of needle spiking?

If you have been affected by drink or needle spiking, you can go to the police, local GP surgery or the hospital.

You can also contact the charity Victim Support, which helps victims of crime, by calling 08 08 16 89 111 or visiting their website here.

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