Surge in drink spiking spurs action to address safety on nights out

The return to university this year saw students once again enjoying the freedom to go out to pubs and clubs with new friends. The renewal of nights out on the town, also saw a spate of alleged incidents of drink spiking at clubs, an ongoing issue that has created anxiety, and this time around, has led to an angry response.

Over the past two months, about 200 drink spiking incidents have been reported to the police, plus 24 reports of suspected needle spiking.
Although both men and women are included in the number, young women constitute the majority. Initiated by a student at the University of Edinburgh, a network of women created a movement that expressed their outrage that people could no longer feel safe when they are having fun.

Under the name of “Girls Night In,” they called for a boycott of nightclubs to protest the issue in November and for improving safety measures in drink venues. A petition that called for nightclubs to thoroughly search their guests gained more than 165,000 signatures.

Locally, Peterborough and Northampton have vibrant club scenes that have not been spared incidents of drink spiking. According to the police, there have been 23 incidents of drink spiking in nine Northampton venues since the beginning of September. Another incident included a 20-year-old who reported a needle injected into her waist in a Kettering nightclub. The incident has left the victim in a state of panic, and she does does not feel safe going to town anymore.

The number of incidents has always been difficult to count as some victims are embarrassed to report suspected cases of drink spiking or they do not remember the details of the night.

Whilst the most common form of drug spiking – dropping date-rape, illegal, or prescription drugs into the victim’s drink when they are partying away – is widely known, “needle spiking” a new form of drug spiking, has spurred public concern. Women from universities across the country, such as Edinburgh and Nottingham, posted on social media pictures and descriptions of what they believed to be a new form of drug spiking via the use of a needle. The posts reportedly showed photos of limbs with puncture wounds and told of blacking out in clubs. Posts like this have gone viral, unleashing widespread panic and anger.

Experts, however, are urging caution. Several criteria would have to be met by the spiker, the drug, and the victim. The drug would need to be suspended in a large amount of fluid using a thick needle for up to 20 seconds; it would be difficult for such an action to go unnoticed. It is unlikely that an average clubber would be equipped with the technical and medical knowledge needed to perform an intramuscular injection with the few drugs that would be suitable to be injected like this. Police and medical experts need to investigate these allegations adequately.

To ensure the safety of those who want to have a fun night out, the local police has launched Operation Kayak. They are sending plain clothed officers to counter predatory behaviour in town centres.

A spokesperson said, “We’re liaising with door staff and businesses in the night-time economy so that if there is a problem inside an establishment, police can be alerted. Door staff will be in constant contact with our officers on the streets. We won’t be inside — but we will be outside in hotspot areas around taxi ranks, in alleys and that sort of thing.’’

“The best way to protect yourself and your friends from being spiked is to be aware of what you consume and never take a drink that you haven’t seen being prepared in front of you. Never leave your drink unattended, even for a moment, and if it doesn’t taste right, don’t finish it. If you start to feel strange or unwell, seek help straight away,’’ says a Northamptonshire Police spokesman.

“We are committed to ensuring our streets are safe and this operation is intended to help do this by making the county a hostile place for those intent on committing sexual offences.’’

Jennifer Yang
December 2021