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Drink Spiking in the UK Has Increased by 108% in Just Three Years

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Women are disproportionately affected by their drinks getting spiked with drugs. While new cases are reportedly on the rise on the UK, it’s important to understand that the motive is often sexual assault — and therefore it’s an act that’s part of a wider cycle of violence against women. Take action on gender inequality around the world here.

Cases of drinks getting spiked are rising exponentially across the UK.

Sky News has warned this week that incidents have doubled — an increase of 108% — in the last three years.

And, unsurprisingly, women are often the victims.

Take Action: Tell the UK Government: Help Create a World Where #SheIsEqual

There were 1,039 cases in total, with the most, 179, reported by the Met Police in London — an increase of 74% from 2015. Sky obtained the figures through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to police.

It’s illegal to spike a drink, and it can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years. The NHS says that symptoms can include lowered inhibitions, poor balance, blackouts, disorientation — and, depending on the drug used, many more. The most common drugs involved are Rohypnol, diazepam, GHB, LSD, and ketamine.

And even with the staggering rise in recent years, officials are warning that the vast majority of cases are likely going unreported.

Most people whose drinks have been spiked become incapable of informing police once the effects of the spiked drink take hold — and, often, it can be difficult to differentiate symptoms with having drunk too much alcohol, further fuelling the stigma that surrounds it. Victims will therefore rely on their social circle for protection, or even the kindness of bar staff, taxi drivers, and strangers.

“It’s so common, and in my head the police have bigger issues than if I got spiked. What are they going to do?” said student Dizzy Bagley — who told Sky News her drink had been spiked on two separate occasions. “To me personally at the time it was a waste of my time to call them ... as I couldn’t remember anything.”

Bagley said that drink spiking is all about “power”, and the “possession of women” — and, sadly, claimed that “fewer [of her friends] hadn’t been spiked than had been.”

Read More: Scotland to Become World’s First Country to Set Minimum Price for Alcohol

A study conducted across six US universities by Dr Suzanne Swan from the University of South Carolina — and published in the Psychology of Violence — reported that 79% of victims of spiked drinks are women. Meanwhile, 7.8% of all students sampled said they had been victims.

"Victims feel like they won't be believed,” said Jim Campbell, a former toxicologist at the Home Office. “They rack their brains to figure out what happened the night before, but because of the effects of the drugs they can't remember. They need answers."

And Detective Inspector Daniel Boulter from the rape and sexual assault task force at Lincolnshire Police told Sky News that the police in the UK only deal with incidents of drink spiking when it also involved sexual assault. Indeed, the data obtained here depends only on references to phrases like “spiking" or "lacing" in police reports largely connected to other crimes.

It’s often young women are most at risk — and the NHS have published a list of tips to help prevent your drink being spiked.

Of course, it misses the big one: Men, stop spiking women’s drinks!

The NHS advised to never leave a drink unattended, refuse drinks from strangers, hold your thumb over the top of bottles, and never engage in “minesweeping” — the practice of consuming the remainder of drinks left unfinished around a bar or club.

On a wider note, it also recommended to always tell family or friends where you’re planning on going out, make plans for how you’re getting home, and avoid carrying expensive items.

If you believe your drink has been spiked, the NHS said to tell somebody you trust — or security staff, bar manager, or medical professional. It said you should report the incident to the police as soon as possible, as it’s important to record a drug test before any substances have left the body within 72 hours. GHB leaves your body within 12 hours.