Credit: Nairne Clark

Spiking: it’s an epidemic

By Derry Barb

CW: Spiking

In 2015, I was spiked at a club in Glasgow. It was my friend’s 18th birthday. I had ordered drinks from the bar and I used my card to pay, about a foot away from where our drinks were sitting. I walked to the dancefloor, initially not yet feeling terribly drunk. This changed fast. 

I have brief, intermittent memories of what happened, blurry imprints of moving from one room to another, yet nothing close to a solid recollection. The drunkness hit quickly, slamming into me like I’d downed a whole bottle of vodka; not three vodka lemonades. 

The next thing I knew I was pushing my way out of the club, unable to feel any part of my body, numb to everything. I was lucky: two of my friends had spotted my behaviour, and they followed me outside to double check I was okay. “Okay” was the furthest from reality; instead, they found me semi-conscious on the ground behind the club, unable to bear the weight of my own head and incapable of forming a sentence. 

Staying with me, they pulled me together, taking me back to the rest of the group who crowded a small area of pavement outside of the club. Propped up on a ledge, hair tied back, I looked like just another “silly little girl” who’d “just got too drunk” after “drinking too much” that night. 

“I looked like just another “silly little girl” who’d “just got too drunk” after ‘drinking too much’ that night.”

Apparently I’d phoned my mum. I’d told her I felt funny, and that I was scared. Mother’s intuition has some strength: she guessed instantly that I’d been spiked and told me to get help immediately. She told my friends to get me home.

A friend took me back to their house in a taxi so I could sleep it off. I was vomiting, unable to speak or see, and physically incapable of holding myself upright. To everyone else, I was the classic drunk friend, but I knew it felt different. 

The next morning, my friend’s mum woke me up with some orange juice and paracetamol … only I had no hangover. I felt weird, not like myself, and I had a pit in my stomach. As I began chatting to my friend about the previous night and watching snapchat stories people had posted of me, I soon realised that I could not remember any of it. Not in the way that you black out sometimes when you’re drunk, where tangled memories emerge upon their mention in conversation. No, I didn’t have a single memory from my night in the club after walking away from the bar. 

As the days went on, the concern that I still couldn’t remember anything was building up. Well, to say I had no memory wasn’t true, but the memory I had was a strange one. It was a memory of my mind feeling distinct from my body, their connection severed, and my physical capacity no longer my own. To this day, none of my other memories from that night have returned. It still frustrates – and worries – me deeply. 

A Google search confirmed my dubious premonition that I had been spiked. My experience replicated those shared online almost identically. “Spiking” sounded so far-fetched though; I thought people are only spiked to be assaulted. I thought that because no one had tried to harm me that there was no reason for me to have been spiked that night. I never thought that people could get spiked for other reasons, or perhaps no reason at all. When I suggested this to my friends, they laughed and labelled it as an “excuse” for my behaviour that night. I had been drunk before; so drunk that I was sick and could not stand up. This was not the same. 

Their hilarity made me doubt my experience. It’s hard to differentiate having drank too much yourself, and being spiked, because spiking is so insidious, and the effects appear the same. It was only until a few years later, when I spoke to another girl who was spiked who’s experience emulated mine, that I finally began to accept what had happened to me. 

The number of recent spiking stories from across the country are beyond terrifying. There have been almost 200 spiking reports from around the UK in the last two months. As a girl, I was always told to cover my drink, never leave it unattended, and don’t drink anything that looks funny, or that I didn’t order. These are lessons all girls are told, passed down through whispers, and we all try to adhere to them. But the thought of being spiked by injection is far scarier, and far harder to prevent. 

If I could ask for anything after my own experience, it would be to look out for your friends when you’re out. Signs that someone has been spiked are similar to those of being drunk, such as: feeling drowsy, struggling to stand or speak, being sick, and memory loss. If you think you or someone else around you has been spiked, tell the bar staff immediately. Don’t leave them alone, make sure they get home safe and, if needed, call an ambulance. 

Spiking is not only incredibly dangerous – a criminal offence – but it leaves you feeling vulnerable, violated, and victimised. No one should feel the way I did on or after a night out, and more needs to be done to make nights out safer, and for spiking to be taken seriously.


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