Anxiety and the realities of spiking
In October of 2021, it was announced in the news that there had been several cases of ‘spiking by injection’ in the city of Leeds. With students calling it an ‘epidemic’, it exposed an entirely new level of anxiety surrounding engaging in nightlife culture, and re-entering social spaces following the pandemic for young people. As a person who has previously been spiked myself at age eighteen, the lengths to which spikers were now going left me reeling. It wasn’t enough that women should spend half their night darting their eyes around to make sure the cup that they’re clutching hasn’t had something dropped into it. Now there were needles to look out for. Needles.
Discussing it with friends, I found that we all experienced the same fear, and that that fear was inevitably leading to frustration. It was clear that changes needed to be made to ensure that young people were able to enjoy time in social spaces without being in fear. If you ask me there is no one better to put their opinion forward than those who have been through it themselves, so I took to asking people who have been spiked to share their story. Below are some anonymous accounts that might provide a personal insight into the experience of being spiked, and the repercussions that can follow. Names have been changed.
Rose: After returning back to uni I went out with my mates in freshers week. We went to a couple bars and were chatting to a group of lads. I was absolutely fine and knew what was going on and then I leave the club with one of them and my mates and that’s about all I can remember. I went and got some food and have no idea where I ended up after that. I remember waking somewhere I didn’t know and I just felt so so sick and dizzy. I went to stand up and everything was just spinning and my legs were shaking. I was also so tired like I could feel myself coming in and out of sleep and I tried to stay awake. When I woke up in the morning I wasn’t hungover but I felt awful. Like I couldn’t stand or stop shaking and it just wasn’t like being hungover at all. I’d had way less that night to drink than I usually do so my mates and me believe I was spiked. I tried to report it later that day but the police lines were busy so I did it the next day. The officers were great but even with all the tests they ran it was too late to find out what exactly happened.
Martha: It was the first week of October and my first social as social sec for the union club. We’d had a great evening (Hawaiian themed) having some pre drinks at my house, nothing crazy just a few to loosen up. Next we went to (*bar) where I only bought one drink and was served by my friend who works behind the bar. I then remember walking to (*second bar), tipsy but not drunk.
The next part is what others have told me.
I was locked in the bathroom stall for about 30 mins and my friends kicked the door down to find me passed out next to the toilet. They got my boyfriend and I was carried outside by him. They immediately thought I’d just had too much to drink so ordered an Uber and we went home. When I got home, it became much worse. I was fitting (having seizures) and couldn’t speak properly so my boyfriend called 111 who sent an ambulance. I spent the next 2 days in hospital, connected to two IV drips. They ran blood tests and found 3 unknown substances but they were unable to tell me what they were without testing the drinks themselves.
Catherine: I was in (*club) and I was waiting for someone in the loo and one of those ladies w trays of jaegerbombs came around so I bought one then someone came over to chat to me, and we were chatting then my friend came out the loo and I drank the Jaegerbomb a couple of minutes later (could have been longer or shorter I can’t really remember). I started feeling really weird and dizzy and spacey so I tried to go out the front of the club. On the way out I fell down and a bouncer and friends helped me out. When I got out the front apparently I lay down and wasn’t responding to anyone and looked completely glazed over, they called an ambulance but it was too busy so would have been a two hour wait, about an hour later I started moving and responding again just felt so so odd, all I can remember is seeing lights and faces but i had no idea who they were and I didn’t understand what the light was and I tried to move but couldn’t.
Amy: I recently got spiked on Saturday night at a Halloween house party. didn’t realise it until yesterday when I had a shower and saw a bruise on my inner arm. on closer inspection I realised I had a puncture mark and when looking at my top there was a puncture hole which lined up with the bruise. I didn’t realise on the night coz I just thought I was (drunk) and as it was a house party didn’t connect the dots and also thought my incredibly bad hangover on the Sunday was just a sign of me getting older… I went to A&E after calling 111 who said they can’t do anything as the protocol for needle stick injuries hasn’t changed (?) although they did say it would be changing soon due to the sheer volume of people coming in after being spiked.
Clara: I’m in my first year freshers week at uni. I was spiked at a well-known club. I remember all of a sudden feeling what I thought was just really, really drunk and stumbling to the toilets. I thought it was strange because I hadn’t really drunk that much and definitely not enough to be feeling what I was. I sort of collapsed in a cubicle resting my head on the toilet seat. I let myself lie there for a little bit (hearing girls outside banging on the door trying to hurry me along) until I heard my friend’s voice. I remember trying really hard to form words to alert her I was in there too, but nothing was coming out. I think it was about then I realised I was in trouble. I remember telling myself ‘you need to get up and find someone’ but my body wasn’t really responding. It was at this point I think I was found by security who assumed, like me, that I had drunk too much. I was lifted to my feet by a female bouncer and dragged out the club. Still not really in control of my body, I sat and lent on a wall. Luckily 2 boys, probably freshers also, saw and was in trouble and tried talking to me to check I was okay, but I couldn’t really respond. They got me into an ambulance, and I was taken to the hospital where I woke up feeling extremely embarrassed at being that drunk until the nurse informed me it wasn’t drink that had done that to me.
How did you feel about the experience?
Rose: Honestly it made me feel guilty that I didn’t do something as soon as I realised I was in trouble but you don’t think about that.
Martha: I was terrified, confused and upset as I was alone in a hospital with no recollection of how I’d ended up there.
Catherine: Made me feel really scared I couldn’t go out for a while and didn’t buy drinks at clubs for a while after, I was so lucky that my friends were there and that nothing awful happened, I probably should have been checked at the hospital but I didn’t, made my panic attacks worse for a while and I avoided (*club).
Amy: Now I’m terrified to go out – even going to the shops is frightening (so stupid I know coz who’s gonna inject someone in coop at 3pm but it’s a fear all the same).
Clara: I think the experience definitely made me scared to be going out for a while. I was in a new city and didn’t really know a lot of people. I’m definitely more weary with my drinks on nights out. I feel anger when I see my friends carelessly picking up drinks that have been left by strangers, as I don’t want them to have to go through the same thing. However, I believe it can happen to anyone no matter how careful you are and the idea that you need to be more careful on a night out really isn’t going to solve anything. Especially with the recent news of spiking by injection.
How do you feel about the recent reports of spiking incidents?
Rose: The news puts me on edge tbh and after knowing what can happen it worries me for people that go out with their mates and wonder off. I’m always so careful with drinks and this one time I get one brought by lads who I thought were sound as I was with them the whole night, I paid the price.
Martha: Seeing the news did slightly reassure me as I knew it was nothing personal.
Catherine: The recent news just makes me feel disgusted, don’t understand why anyone would spike anyone, particularly the part that injections are becoming more common, it’s so scary and people just go out to have a good time and it’s really horrible always having to look out for yourself and your friends when you should just be able to have fun and trust other people to not spike you it’s just quite upsetting really.
What do you think could be done to help young people feel safe when they’re out?
Rose: There’s stuff that can be done. It angers me when people are like ‘there’s nothing that can be done’ cause then they don’t understand. For example, have bartenders make drinks down from the bar so people can’t spike them as they’re being made, and also have testing kits available for drinks. I think there should be more education about spiking and where to go and what to do. I’m at the point now where I’m just angry. I didn’t know I had to get tested within 12 hours for it to show up cause now no criminal convictions for spiking can be given. Train bouncers to look out for the signs and medically train them. Also make tougher sentences or easier for people to report spikings so people can get what they deserve for doing such a grim thing.
Martha: If the club had spotted the signs earlier, I could have potentially gone straight to hospital instead of leaving the responsibilities with my boyfriend. Scared me senseless and I didn’t go out for about 2 weeks afterwards and I’m still very anxious about buying drinks when I’m out.
Catherine: I think free drinks covers are absolute necessities in all clubs (props to the clubs that have this in place already) and more systems in place so that if you suspect you or a friend has been spiked you can get the help you need quickly and easily, I think bouncers need to be trained to a higher level to help this process.
Clara: I think what would really help to prevent drink spiking or at least make people feel safer in clubs is bouncer attitudes. I feel they should be trained to stop someone who has been spiked and know how to help if someone comes to them suspecting they have been spiked.
Having the opportunity to chat with other young people who have shared the experience of being spiked, I have realised that if there’s one positive thing to come out of this, it’s that a conversation is being had now more than ever. An experience such as this can be extremely difficult to discuss, but if you feel able to talk about it with someone close to you, then it might just do a world of good. By sharing, we can able to raise awareness, and hopefully initiate some of the changes shared above.
Images from Hungry Jpeg