Summary

  • To spike a drink means to put alcohol or drugs into someone's drink without their knowledge or permission.
  • Drink spiking is illegal in all Australian states and territories.
  • Don't accept drinks from strangers and never leave your drink unattended.
  • If you suspect drink spiking or drug-assisted sexual assault, contact the police or a sexual assault service, or go to the emergency department of your nearest hospital.

To spike a drink means to put alcohol or drugs into someone's drink without their knowledge or permission. Drink spiking can occur anywhere drinks are served (such as at nightclubs, parties, pubs, restaurants and private homes).

Drink spiking can be linked to crimes such as sexual assault and robbery. In these situations, the offender may spike someone's drink to lower their defences and make it easier to commit a crime against them. Estimates suggest that one third of drink spiking incidents are associated with sexual attack. 

Drink spiking is illegal, whatever the intent. This means that slipping alcohol or drugs into a friend's drink as a prank is against the law – even if the drink is not consumed or the person is not harmed. People who spike drinks can be fined or jailed.  

What is drink spiking?

Drink spiking is a deliberate act. Public perception is that it is limited to slipping drugs into an alcoholic drink, however, drink spiking can include:

  • Putting alcohol into a non-alcoholic drink (such as water, soft drink, non-alcoholic punch or fruit juice).
  • Adding extra alcohol to an alcoholic drink.
  • Slipping prescription or illegal drugs (such as benzodiazepines, amphetamines or GHB – also called liquid ecstasy) into an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink.

Who is at risk of drink spiking?

Women are more likely to have their drinks spiked than men.

Studies show that most people are not aware of the dangers of drink spiking. For example:

  • Many people do not think they are at risk of drink spiking, and do not consider it a common occurrence.
  • Drinks can be spiked by people you know or have just met. Such as, you may not  consider an unknown person to be a stranger after talking to them for a while  – then more likely to accept a drink from them.

Tips to prevent drink spiking

To protect yourself and your friends against drink spiking, safety suggestions include:

  • Party safely and socialise with trusted friends. Plan how you will watch out for each other while you are out.
  • Buy your own drinks. 
  • If you are at a venue that serves drinks, watch the bartender prepare your drink.
  • Don't accept drinks from strangers. 
  • If you accept the offer of a drink from a stranger, accompany them to the bar and take the drink from the bartender yourself.
  • Don’t drink anything that has been spiked. If you see others doing so (including people you know), call it out. 
  • Be wary if a stranger buys you a drink and it's not the type of drink you requested.
  • Don't take your eyes off your drink. If you need to leave (to go to the toilet or dance, for example), ask a trusted friend to keep watch.
  • Buy drinks that come in bottles with screw-top lids. Carry the bottle in your bag when you go to the toilet or have a dance.
  • Don't consume your drink if you think it may have been spiked. Discuss your concerns with the manager or host.
  • Tell the manager or host immediately if you see someone spike a drink or if you suspect that drink spiking may be occurring.

Symptoms of drink spiking

You may not realise your drink has been spiked by smelling it or tasting it. The substances used to spike drinks are often colourless and odourless. 

Symptoms of drink spiking depend on many factors such as:

  • the substance used
  • what your drink has been mixed with
  • the dose
  • your size and weight
  • how much alcohol you have already consumed.

Drink spiking symptoms may include:

  • feeling drunk, woozy or drowsy
  • feeling “out of it” or drunker than expected
  • mental confusion
  • speech difficulties (such as slurring)
  • memory loss
  • loss of inhibitions
  • nausea and vomiting
  • breathing problems
  • muscle spasms or seizures
  • loss of consciousness
  • an unusually long hangover
  • a severe hangover when you had little or no alcohol to drink.

What to do if you suspect drink spiking

There are a few things you can do if you suspect you or someone else has had their drink spiked:

  • Alert a trusted person  - such as a friend, venue staff or host what is happening.
  • Go  a safe place – have a trusted person with you. 
  • Keep a close eye on anyone who has had their drink spiked. 
  • Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates in any way (for example, if they lose consciousness).
  • Contact the police, go to the emergency department of your nearest hospital or see your doctor. 
  • Make sure to tell them you suspect drink spiking so urine and blood samples can be taken. Tests performed within the first 24 hours can detect the presence of most drugs.

Sexual assault from drink spiking

If someone has been sexually assaulted or raped from drink spiking, you can contact:

If you don’t want to report a sexual assault to the police, you can still use the support services. You may wish to report the assault anonymously through the Sexual Assault Report Anonymously website.

People who have been sexually assaulted while intoxicated may find it difficult to contact police or ask for professional help because they feel guilt or shame, or are afraid they will not be believed.  

Get support even if you can't remember exactly what happened. Some drugs used in drink spiking can cause short-term memory loss.

Drug-assisted sexual assault, like all sexual assault, is a crime. Police, health workers and sexual assault services are there to hear your story and help you. 

Remember, there is no time limit on reporting sexual assault in Victoria.

Where to get help

References

More information

Alcohol

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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Last updated: October 2020

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