Going on holiday usually involves relaxation and letting our hair down. For some of us, this includes hitting the nightspots or jumping on the party circuit.
Having a few drinks helps many of us unwind but it can also increase the chance of being the victim of drink spiking.
Drink spiking is simply the act of putting alcohol or drugs into another person’s drink without their knowledge or permission. Typical examples include;
- Adding alcohol to a non-alcoholic drink (eg soft drink, mocktail or punch)
- Adding more alcohol to an alcoholic drink
- Adding prescription or illegal drugs into the victim’s drink (eg methanol, tranquilisers or amphetamines)
Drink spiking typically occurs where drinks are served – for instance, nightclubs, pubs, bars, restaurants, parties and even private homes. Sometimes, the intent of drink spiking is to render the victim unable to prevent theft of their belongings. A more sinister reason for spiking someone’s drink is to facilitate unwanted sexual attention and/or sexual assault.
Whatever the reason, drink spiking is illegal and the perpetrator can face criminal charges.
Statistics indicate that more women than men find themselves the victim of drink spiking. It is not, however, a crime only perpetrated against women and men should also take care to minimise the risk of drink spiking.
The symptoms of drink spiking differ because of the number of factors involved. These include the type of substance used, its potency and dose put into your drink. Your gender, weight, age and amount of food and drink in your system also plays a part.
Typical symptoms include:
- Feeling drowsy, woozy or more drunk than you should be
- Mental confusion and disorientation
- Blurred or double vision
- Slurred speech or difficulty communicating
- Memory loss
- Loss of inhibitions
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Sluggishness or loss of consciousness
Sadly, the victim may not be able to detect that their drink has been spiked simply by smelling or tasting it. This is because most substances used to spike drinks are colourless and odourless. For this reason, it is advisable that if you will be frequenting places where the possibility of drink spiking exists, you should take suitable precautions to protect yourself.
Here are our top tips to minimise the potential of drink spiking:
- Buy your own drinks. Ideally, watch the server prepare it and ensure it is handed straight to you.
- Don’t accept drinks from strangers. This a simple tactic used by drink spikers to deliver the laced beverage to their intended victim.
- Don’t leave your drink unattended. If possible, hold your drink and have it in line of sight at all times.
- If you have left your drink on the table while dancing or for a quick trip to the loo, write it off and get a new drink.
- Buy bottled and sealed (screw-top) drinks if possible. Keep the lid – if you want to save some of your drink for later, re-fasten the lid and put the bottle in your bag so it cannot be tampered with.
- Party with trusted friends and family. Using a buddy system to keep an eye on each other is a good idea. Also, identify a safe place where you can each head to if trouble strikes.
- If going out alone, make sure someone you trust knows where you are going and when you will return. They can raise the alarm if you’re a “no-show”.
- If at a party, avoid the punchbowl – communal drinks are easily spiked.
- Don’t flash valuable items around – this may prove too tempting for an opportune thief.
If you suspect that you or a friend have been the victim of drink spiking, it is important that you act quickly. In some cases, the substance used to spike the drink can be extremely harmful (eg methanol) and it is imperative that you seek urgent medical attention to prevent permanent disability or even death. Head immediately for the emergency department of the closest hospital or call an ambulance. If possible, you should also bring the situation to the attention of the manager or host. It may also be advisable to contact the police if you have been robbed or suffered sexual assault / unwelcome sexual advances.
So what about your travel insurance?
Most if not all travel insurance policies carry exclusions relating to being under the influence of illicit drugs or alcohol. But it’s not your fault your drink got spiked, right?
Each company has their own rules around this circumstance so it is best to check with your chosen provider. If you can show that you were the victim of crime (rather than just had a few too many drinks) this should help you succeed with a claim against your policy for theft of your property and/or medical expenses you incur due to drink spiking. For this reason, it is so important to seek urgent medical attention so that blood and/or urine tests can be run to determine which drug was used to spike your drink. Many licensed establishments also have CCTV and it is sometimes possible to secure a copy of footage which shows the crime being committed.
Prevention is always better than cure though and with a little forethought, you can minimise the potential that you will be targeted by a drink spiker.