The four warning signs your drink has been spiked and what you should do next

The Home Office sets out a number of steps it is taking to protect people

Yolanthe Fawehinmi
Tuesday 19 December 2023 14:26 GMT
Calls to ministers to make needle and drink spiking a special offence has been ongoing
Calls to ministers to make needle and drink spiking a special offence has been ongoing (Alamy/PA)

As part of a new package to crack down on drink spiking, ministers have set out plans to funding 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.

Here are some of the warning signs that could mean your drink has been spiked.

Confusion, hallucinations and suddenly acting paranoid

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.

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.”

Lose balance and poor coordination

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.”

Lose ability to communicate properly, and problems with vision

“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,” said Thomas.

“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.”

Having trouble breathing or being unresponsive

“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,” said Thomas.

“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.”

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.”

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

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