black and white photo of people in a night club

Spiking: here’s what young people really think

We spoke to our network of young people to explore what they truly think about spiking

Safety and crimeCurrent eventsSocial Issues
By VoiceBox ·

VoiceBox

For young people, by young people.

Spiking: here’s what young people really think

At VoiceBox, we know that drink spiking disproportionately affects young people. It’s so important to bring their voices into the conversation, which is why we launched our own campaign “Shots, not shots”, in response to the UK government’s enquiry into spiking. 

To round off the campaign, we spoke to our network of young people to explore and understand what they truly think about spiking – which we hope governments and organisations will take into consideration when making decisions. 

Here, we provide an overview of our investigation, which we hope will prompt further conversations and action from those in power.

What is spiking?

Spiking is when someone gives another person alcohol or drugs without their knowledge or permission. For example, if they were to either add substances to someone’s drink or inject them without their consent, they would be spiking that person. 

“When someone gives you alcohol and drugs without your knowledge or consent.”

“Someone might slip something into your drink, or inject you with something”

“Any kind of substance that is unknowingly given to someone without the consent. I would usually say in a drink, but now through injection as well.” 

Spiking can happen in a range of ways and in different circumstances. However, most people would associate the term with ‘going out’, either at a house party or at bars and clubs, where drugs and alcohol are already present. 

So how common is spiking really?

According to a recent YouGov poll, a third of women have either been spiked themselves or know someone who has. Similarly, one in five men say they know someone who has been spiked or have been themselves. While the frequency of spiking men’s drinks is lower, we believe it is equally as important to address. 

“At university it was very common on a night out to see a girl who had been spiked. You could tell they had been spiked because they were behaving either really out of it or sometimes quite aggressive. Usually that person’s friends were around saying that this was out of character and that they had been spiked. It’s scary to think what would happen if their friends weren’t there to look after them” 

“I think very common- I reckon about ⅕ people get spiked in their life”

“I have seen people on nights out that have been spiked multiple times”

“I know at least 4 friends who have been spiked”

We should also take into account the number of people who are unaware they have been spiked. With some symptoms of spiking often feeling similar to drunkenness, it’s likely that many are oblivious to being victims of such misconduct. 

“I think it’s pretty common. I know a lot of people who have been spiked or at least suspected they have been spiked, particularly women.”

“I’m sure I’ve been spiked more than once. When I look back on some nights out I’m like “hmmm that actually wasn’t quite right”. When I was 19-20 especially, I deliberately got black-out drunk and now struggle to remember some nights out. But I have hazy memories of being handed drugs by people who wanted to take advantage of me. Spiking comes in many forms, it isn’t just stuff secretly being put in your drink.”

“There are far more victims than we can comprehend and there are countless people who have been spiked and haven’t realised it. They may never even know.”

Where and when does spiking happen?

Many young people feel that spiking is most common in clubs, bars and parties. We found a general consensus that spiking wouldn’t be expected in daytime public places such as a cinema or a coffee shop. 

Spiking is most common on nights out due to the nature of those events that allows someone to feel like they can get away with it. These are usually busy places where a group or an individual can lock-onto someone and follow them without looking suspicious. 

“For the majority in clubs and bars. I don’t doubt it happens elsewhere but I think it would be harder for someone to do it as they might get caught.”

“Pubs and clubs as that’s where most people are drinking and leaving drinks unattended. You also meet a lot of new people in these places and it’s an easy place for strangers to take advantage”

Plus, with many already under the influence of alcohol and/or recreational drugs, the vulnerability of nights out makes it “easier” for predators to take advantage.  

“On a night out you are expecting to lose control in some way, so you are less aware of thinking you might have been spiked.  You are less aware of the immediate effects. You might just think you got it a bit wrong when actually you were spiked”

Some even felt that with crimes like this there was an element of copycat behaviour. As spiking becomes more common, many feel that people copy this behaviour as they believe they can get away with it.

“I think people who do it copy behaviours and therefore do it in similar ways and places”

Who commits spiking offences and why do they do it?

There are multiple reasons why people might commit spiking offences; from thinking it’s funny to taking financial or sexual advantage of someone. 

“I honestly just don’t understand the motivation behind spiking someone. I mean, I know there are probably sexual desires but how could a person have such unpleasant urges that they want to spike someone and then assault them? It’s literally rape. Blows my mind that so many people exist with the mindset of deliberately hurting others.”

Spiking can often be peer-to-peer. Many young people (particularly women) were worried about the prevalence of toxic masculinity among some groups of male friends, and how a culture of irresponsibility leads men to spike others in order to look dominant and in control. 

“Guys my age who want to try their luck. Probably egged on by their friends as well. I hate lad culture”

“Rapists”

“Most likely to be a man spiking. I think they do it for power reasons and the confidence and high they get from getting away with it”

There were, however, concerns about women spiking other women too. We should take into consideration the possibility that women are being recruited to commit spiking offences on behalf of others. 

“I heard about someone who was spiked by injection on a night out. A group of girls in the same club were arrested for spiking people that night. You always assume it’s men, so I was really surprised when I was told the story”

VoiceBox’s recommendations

  • Better partnerships between police and other support systems in safeguarding potential and actual victims of spiking

    • All police allegations to be taken seriously, regardless of the level of physical evidence 
    • Better training in compassion and communication within police, so spiking victims feel listened to 
    • Better communication between police and victim support charities to identify emerging trends within spiking offences 
  • Better industry training 

    • Government funding for training within the industry, to help hospitality staff identify a vulnerable person and ensure they are looked after 
    • Government funding for training within the industry, to help hospitality staff identify a suspicious individual and take the appropriate steps to rectify the situation 
  • Awareness within educational settings

    • Mandatory section to the secondary school PSHE curriculum, that covers how to identify and react to spiking offences 
    • Police visits to schools and colleges to educate teenagers on the law and what rights they have within spiking offences 

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