By Catherine McGeer •
Updated: 24 Oct 2023 • 17:48
Drug-spiking incidents have increased five-fold in the last five years.
Image: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images
SPIKING is back in the news, thanks to a recent Channel 4 documentary that has shocked and horrified viewers. The documentary revealed that drug-spiking incidents in the UK have increased five-fold in the last five years, with over 20,000 reports received in total. However, the number of reports resulting in a criminal charge has dropped from 1 in 25 to 1 in 400.
These figures only represent those who have reported spiking incidents, and it is important to remember that the majority of victims never do. This is likely due to a number of factors, including fear of stigma, embarrassment, or shame.
In this article, we will take a closer look at spiking, including the alarming increase in needle-spiking, the situation in Spain, and what is being done to prevent these worrying statistics.
Spiking is the act of adding drugs or alcohol to someone’s drink or food without their consent. This can be done for many reasons such as to incapacitate someone in order to commit a crime, to make them more vulnerable to sexual assault, for revenge or rejection, or simply for amusement.
These drugs can cause a variety of symptoms like drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, loss of coordination, memory loss, and blacking out. Spiking can also lead to more serious medical problems such as heart failure, coma, or even death. As the perpetrators have no knowledge of their victim’s medical history, nor do they care, the combination of these drugs with underlying issues can be fatal.
Spiking can happen to anyone, but it is most common among young women and girls. It is important to be aware of the risks of spiking and unfortunately take steps to protect yourself. First and foremost never leave your drink unattended and if you need to leave your drink, ask a friend to watch it for you. Drinking directly from a bottle (bottled beer, alco-pops, etc..) can make it more difficult for the perpetrators to spike your drink. Be careful about accepting drinks from strangers even when it feels socially awkward. Perpetrators rely on this and use our fear of being rude against us. Getting comfortable saying NO is a must and stop worrying about being perceived as rude.
There are some gadgets available and some more being developed to help detect if your drink has been spiked. Coasters and napkins can be purchased that can determine if GHB or ketamine is present in your drink. They are light and handy to keep in a handbag, a few drops of your drink on one of these products can determine if it has been spiked.
A nail varnish like the one seen in the Netflix hit drama ‘Stay Close’ is in the works along with cups, smart straws, and a USB flash drive all of which claim they will be able to determine if a drink is safe or not.
Unfortunately, just as gadgets and products are developed to detect these drugs in drinks the perpetrators are also learning and changing things up. Needle-spiking or ‘los pinchazos’ as they are known in Spain are on the rise across Europe. This seems to happen in more crowded settings where the perpetrator stabs the victim in the thigh with a needle with one of the previously mentioned drugs. The victims feel a pinch and think nothing of it, as this method delivers the drugs directly into the blood flow they feel the effects seconds later. The symptoms are much the same dizziness, extreme fatigue, and nausea. The Guardia Civil has noticed an alarming rise in needle-spiking especially at concerts and festivals.
In reaction to the rise of spiking, needle spiking, and gender-based violence the Spanish government has installed ‘Puntos Violetas’ (Violet points/Stands) which are safe and trustworthy areas or stands where you can feel safe, ask for information or get advice. Many bars, festivals, concerts, and clubs in Spain now have one of these areas set up usually close to the bathroom. They recommend that if you feel like you have been spiked or are unsafe in any way make your way to one of these safe places preferably with someone you trust.
Law enforcement advises that you report these incidents even if you feel like it would be difficult to prove. The information you provide will help the police identify locations where spiking is more prevalent. They can use this information to apply pressure on the government to create legislation to make bars and clubs safer and to investigate these incidents to bring justice for the victims and create more of a deterrent for the perpetrators.
If you are feeling unwell, it is important to get to a safe place where you can sit down and rest. This could be a friend’s house, a ‘Punto Violeta’ if you are in Spain, or even a hospital. Tell a friend, a family member, or someone you trust what happened. They can help you get medical help if it is required and report the incident to the police.
Even if you are feeling better it is important to see a doctor to make sure that you are not in any danger. Spiking drugs can have serious side effects and it is important to get treatment. If you have been needle spiked you will also need to have some extra tests to ensure the needle was not contaminated.
Apart from the physical symptoms spiking can cause psychological symptoms and can impact a victim’s mental health. Victims may experience post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. They may have issues trusting others and feeling safe. It is easy for them to withdraw socially.
Speaking to one such victim they described how they had been spiked and then followed to the bathroom by the perpetrator who happened to be the owner of the club who had fixed her drink. ‘I knew straight away that I had been spiked as I came to the bar straight from work, I was working really late and the mojito he prepared was my first drink. I had drunk only half of it when I began to feel funny. I went to the bathroom and then when I turned to leave I noticed the barman had followed me and was blocking the door. He lunged at me and I pushed past him. I think he was surprised that I was strong enough to do so. I think he assumed I had been drinking elsewhere previously. He tried to grab me again but I got out and I ran out of the club and as I was not far from home just ran home. On my way home my legs went from under me. I will never forget how lucky I was, or how stupid for going home alone. I just wasn’t thinking straight.’
She went on to describe how the fact that he worked there made her feel more unsafe and this really impacted her social life. She went on to have panic attacks and severe anxiety after the incident. When I asked if she had reported it she said no as she felt she had no way to prove it. She also mentioned the bar owner’s standing in the community saying ‘he knows everyone.’
Go to a hospital or a health centre, doctors and nurses can provide medical treatment for the effects of spiking such as nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. They can also test you for drugs and alcohol. If you feel too unwell or you feel like you are still in danger and cannot get to the medical centre call 112.
Report the incident to the police, you can go to the local police, call 112, or call the Guardia Civil on 062.
There are a number of victim support organisations in Spain that can provide you with support such as the Oficina Asistencia Víctimas. This is government-run so there is at least one per region. You can find their telephone number, address, and email address on the following link: Ministerio de Justicia – Direcciones y teléfonos (mjusticia.gob.es)
Most importantly tell a loved one, speaking to someone you trust can help you feel supported and less alone.
One of the most important things that can be done to prevent spiking is to educate people about the issue, create awareness campaigns, and keep the conversation going. Some countries have started school programs and training for bar and club staff.
Some bars and clubs take a number of security measures such as ID scanners, more security to patrol the premises and some provide covered drink holders.
As mentioned above some companies are working on products that can detect if your drink is safe to drink.
Some countries have created legislation to make it easier to convict people for spiking and as mentioned above the Spanish Government has created the ‘Puntos Violetas’ in order to create a safe place at bars, festivals, and concerts
Spiking is a serious crime that can have devastating consequences. It is important to be aware of the risks and take steps to protect yourself and others by being aware of what is happening around you. Challenge the victim-blaming culture every time you encounter it, and make it easier for victims to tell their stories and get help and the support they need. Hopefully by continuing to shine a light on the topic we may help scare the cowardly perpetrators back into the shadows. What do you think can be done to prevent spiking?
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
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I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!
Really interesting read.. Well done on highlighting this…
Very very interesting and great to have it highlighted.. Can be a scarey world out there 😣
Very interesting!! Thanks 🙏🏼
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