Next week, students around the UK are planning on boycotting nightclubs and bars in protest against a reported rise in spikings.
Students are asking that nightclubs put in more measures to prevent spiking and have emphasised that while this isn’t an attack on clubs, they feel it is the clubs’ responsibility to do more to protect clubgoers.
The boycott, started by a group of students in Edinburgh, has now spread to universities across the country with students planning to stay at home on the 27th or 28th of October.
Phoebe, a student at Surrey University and taking part in the boycott, told us “it is definitely something I worry about when going out. I just think it’s sad that as girls we have to be so careful all the time.”
Olivia, a student at Exeter University told us “I’ve had a lot of friends being spiked at the moment and I’m convinced I was spiked once too.”
“Every time a random person talks to me in a club my natural reaction is to cover my drink. I should be able to talk to people without instantly thinking they are there to harm me.”
Olivia’s right — students should be able to feel safe and enjoy a night out free from fear. This is what the boycott is hoping to achieve, not by attacking clubs, but by putting the onus on them to create a safe space for people to enjoy.
A letter written by Girls Night In Edinburgh to the clubs states â€œThe motivation of this boycott is not to take away from your revenue “The purpose of this boycott is to bring attention to the severity of the situation and to encourage you all to take this seriously.”
Social media posts around reported spikings have increased two-fold in the past couple of weeks, with some students even reporting that they were spiked by injection.
While cases of reported drink spiking have doubled in the past 3 years, according to a Freedom of Information Act survey, as of yet there is very little official evidence to verify that needles are being used across the UK to drug clubgoers.
Is the use of needles widespread?
Cases of injection are being investigated in Nottingham, Edinburgh, and other UK cities, however nothing has been shared by police to confirm cases and investigations into how widespread the issue is are still ongoing.
Nottinghamshire police are currently investigating 15 reports of spiking where needles are thought to have been used. Police have said that victims have reported effects “consistent with a substance being administered” and that in one case, a victim was injured in a way that “could be consistent with a needle.”
Medical and drug experts have also expressed that UK-wide spiking by injection is unlikely. This doesn’t mean that it’s not happening, just that reports are difficult to corroborate with hard evidence. Clubbers should still look out for signs of drugging by injection and preventative measures should be seriously considered by clubs and bars.
An emergency medical consultant and founder of drug testing project WEDINOS, David Caldicott, told VICE World News that “[t]he technical and medical knowledge required to perform this would make this deeply improbable.”
“It’s really hard to stick a needle in someone without them noticing, especially if you have to keep the needle in long enough, maybe 20 seconds, to inject enough drugs to cause this.”
However, David also stated on Twitter, “Victims should ALWAYS be taken seriously, attend hospital post-incident, & have exotic agents toxicologically ruled out, before their stories are dismissed out of hand.”
“If the current consensus proves incorrect, & there IS a new agent in the wild, being used in this way, it becomes a matter of public health to identify it.”
Experts are also keen to quell fears around the transmission of HIV. National Aids Trust shared a statement on their Instagram account, explaining “Online rumours someone was diagnosed with HIV shortly after a needle injury are demonstrably false.”
“Getting HIV from a needle is extremely rare. A diagnosis takes weeks.”
Is it just happening in clubs?
Whether spiking by injection is proved to be prevalent or not, cases of drinks being spiked have risen both in clubs and at house parties.
Helena Conibear, CEO of The Alcohol Education Trust, who speaks to around 25,000 young people every year, told BBC News that they “get a lot more calls during Freshers’ Week.”
“Most people we talk to, their spiking incidents have happened at house parties and festivals — in almost half the stories the charity hears, people are spiked by those in their wider friendship group.”
What can you do?
While the responsibility certainly doesn’t lie with you to prevent this, being aware of the signs of drink spiking, looking after your friends, and asking clubs and bars to make their spaces safer are all ways that you can incite change.
If you or your friends are a victim of spiking, then please report it to the police and get help from a medical professional.