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What is drink spiking?

Spiking is where alcohol or drugs are added to someone's drink without their knowledge. Incidents can at times go unreported due to embarrassment or memory loss. Alcohol is the most common substance used to spike drinks.

It can take only minutes for someone to feel the effects of being spiked. Memory loss can be a side effect of many of the drugs used to spike drinks. Many victims are unaware of what has happened to them and have very little memory of the incident, if any at all.

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.

Some drugs are particularly dangerous when mixed with alcohol because they combine to have a very powerful anaesthetic effect. These drugs can come in different forms and do not always have an unusual taste or smell.

How to avoid drink spiking

You may not be able to see, taste or smell any difference to your drink if it has been spiked, so it is important you know what to be aware of and what you can do to protect yourself. 

Follow our advice below to help you stay safe from drink spiking when you are out.

  • Never leave your drink unattended whether it’s alcoholic or not and if you can, keep an eye on your friends' drinks.
  • Be careful about accepting a drink from someone you do not know.
  • Think about drinking bottled drinks and avoid sharing drinks.
  • Always make sure you know how you are getting home and only use reputable means of transport. Where possible, have your taxi home booked in advance.
  • If you think your drink has been tampered with, don't drink it – tell a trusted friend or relative and police as soon as you can. 
  • If you see suspicious activity report it to staff or Police.

Be vigilant if you're drinking with strangers

It is important to be aware of your surroundings and to be vigilant if you are drinking or socialising with people you do not know.

  • Be cautious if someone appears to be over-friendly and eager to get you to drink.
  • If you get separated from your friends in a bar, pub or club, let them know where you are.
  • If you happen to meet someone new and they ask you to go on somewhere else, introduce them to your friends and tell them where you’re going.

Look out for each other

If you're out with a friend or group, look out for each other. If a friend appears unwell, dizzy or incapacitated, stay with them, seek medical help and contact police straight away.

What should I do if I think my drink has been spiked?

If you start to feel strange or feel that your drink has had more of an effect on you than it should have, get help immediately. 

If alone, call someone you trust and get to a safe place. If you need urgent help, call 999. Be wary of accepting help from a stranger.

If you feel unwell, someone you trust should take you to your nearest hospital and tell the medical staff that you think you have been spiked, being sure to arrange for a trusted friend or relative to take you home and, if necessary, stay with you until any drugs leave your system.

Regarding the offence of spiking by injection, be aware of any sharp, sudden pains, and if you do experience this, check the affected area for an injection site. Tell someone you trust or a member of staff/security and report to Police. If you need urgent help, call 999 immediately.

How to report if your drink has been spiked

Timing is a key factor in a criminal investigation into reports of spiking. The substances used can metabolise out of your system very quickly, leaving no trace. This is why it’s incredibly important to notify police as early as possible.

Anyone who believes they have been the victim of drink spiking should seek medical advice and make a report to police as soon as they can by contacting 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Information has been published on symptoms of drink spiking to look out for, along with tips on how to help someone who may have been spiked. You can read this in the Drugs section of Drugs and Alcohol NI website.

The law and drink spiking: Our message to offenders

The Police Service of Northern Ireland take reports of drink spiking incredibly seriously.

Those who are found to have carried out such a premeditated, dangerous act could face a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Our officers are robustly investigating any reports we receive of drink spiking to ensure that anyone taking part in this reckless and dangerous behaviour is held accountable.

We have been working with, and will continue to work with, pubs, clubs and other stakeholders in the night time economy to increase vigilance around this type of behaviour. Staff are actively looking out for the signs and will immediately contact us if they suspect someone is spiking drinks.

Further advice and information

Read the preventative measures and guidance outlined by the Licensing Security and Vulnerability Initiative and National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) around drink spiking in licensed venues.