Spiking: the threat to young people’s safety at night

November 2, 2021

Collage concept by Barnaby with images from Pexels

Barnaby Fournier investigates the wave of needle and drink spiking

The rise in needle and drink spiking in the last few weeks has been exponential. I’m a student at Manchester University and every single day when I scroll through my social media, I see multiple posts from people having been spiked the night before. Young people are clearly warning others about dangerous venues and clubs.

Many of my friends have been spiked in the last month. It’s happening somewhere not far away from me every night. I know dozens of people that have ended up in hospital, unable to walk, throwing up and passing out. One friend recently left A&E at 8 in the morning with no memory of how they got there.

It’s not known why there has been a surge in needle spiking, but police have said it is “distinctly different” to anything they have seen before, according to an article in the Independent. Primarily young women are being injected with drugs straight through their clothing with victims reporting feeling a physical scratch before becoming sick.

In 2019, the BBC published statistics showing a rise in drink-spiking, with over 2,600 reported cases since 2015. These attacks overwhelmingly target women. The American Psychological Association found that 71% of spiking victims were female.

Three of my friends who recently went clubbing together were spiked. They all felt utterly disorientated, got separated and have no recollection of getting home. One friend woke up on a bus in completely the wrong part of town, another was woken up by a taxi driver and the other simply doesn’t remember how he got home.

The government need to act now! People’s lives are at risk.

They reported this incident to the police the next day, to which the response they got was, you were probably just very drunk. It’s frightening that this is the attitude of those who are meant to protect us.

A boycott of clubs was organised in Manchester on the evening of Wednesday 27th of October with protests taking place in the day. There was a wide range of speakers, including one of my local councillors, The People’s Assembly, Manchester Student Labour and Stand up to Racism. There were some stirring and disturbing testimonies from people who had been attacked. It was an emotional event but heartening to see such a large and powerful turnout.

I have hope that both the boycott and the protests will continue to raise awareness and force clubs and venues into taking action to prevent spiking. The rise in spiking has made national news. The government need to act now! Real people’s lives – your friends, your family, your own – could be at risk.

If the government doesn’t act straight away people will die. Perpetrators who spike rarely get caught. There must be greater punishment for offenders. Currently, this crime holds a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, but most don’t serve nearly this long.

The government should make it mandatory to employ first aiders who are trained in how to treat different types of poisoning, including alcohol, drugs and narcotics, at every venue where alcohol is served.

Most of the rhetoric about spiking is based around victim blaming

Venues should routinely search their staff, as there have been multiple reports of bartenders and security workers spiking drinks. Perhaps they could install brighter lighting around bar areas.

In my experience, it seems like there is ample security staff in clubs and venues, but not all of them are helpful. Too many times I’ve witnessed security just throwing young people out of a venue, when it has been obvious to me and my mates that there’s much more to it than the person just being drunk. This lack of care can mean young, vulnerable people are now left on their own, incapacitated on the street and open to yet more danger.

Most of the rhetoric about spiking is based around victim blaming. People are saying that victims weren’t vigilant enough; that it was their fault because they were too drunk; that they didn’t feel the scratch of the needle or keep an eye on their drink. This blame-culture needs to change.

Nobody should have to be worried on a night out about their drink being tampered with or feel they must watch their backs in fear of being injected. Nobody should need to take extra measures, like using lids or bottle stoppers. Nobody should have their human rights abused.

It’s up to all of us to educate ourselves, to start the conversation with our friends, our brothers, our cousins, our colleagues. It is the behaviour of the assailants that must change, not the behaviour of spiking victims.

Meanwhile here are some tips to stay safe.

Barnaby is a student at the University of Manchester, studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He is half-French, loves travelling and aspires to travel to every country in the world. Currently, he has been to 28 out of 196.

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