Spiking victims tell MPs of ‘horror’ experiences of being drugged on nights out which left them in ‘agonising pain’ and with liver and kidney damage
Spiking victims have today revealed their ‘horror’ experiences of being targeted in bars and nightclubs, as part of a new MP-led inquiry into its prevalence in the UK.
Sharing their eye-opening accounts, two women and a man told a House of Commons committee today how they had been targeted with date-rape drugs.
One of the women, a university student, told MPs how she felt ‘agonising pain’ after being spiked through an ‘injection’ in her leg.
Another woman, a 51-year-old mother of three, said how she lost control of her body after her drink was spiked in a ‘quiet bar’ in Cornwall.
And a man revealed how he had been on a trip to Las Vegas when he was spiked in an incident which saw him taken to hospital with liver and kidney damage.
The three victims gave their accounts as part of an inquiry by the Commons Home Affairs Committee into spiking.
The Committee is taking evidence from spiking victims about their experiences in the hope of better understanding its prevalence in the UK and the effectiveness of the police response to it.
The inquiry was launched after a spate of alleged ‘needle spiking’ incidents in which both women and men claimed they were injected with a date-rape drug.
Spiking victims have today revealed their ‘horror’ experiences of being targeted in bars and nightclubs, as part of a new MP-led inquiry into its prevalence in the UK. Pictured: University of Nottingham student Zara Owen speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee
Alexi Skitinis (pictured), from south Wales, said he was spiked while on a trip to Las Vegas in a nightclub with a colleague
The three victims gave their accounts as part of an inquiry by the Commons Home Affairs Committee into spiking. Pictured: Chair of the Committee Diana Johnson MP
What do the experts say on reports of injection spiking?
Is it possible?
Yes – and there are credible reports where people have woken up with needle marks having been spiked.
But the likelihood of it being a widespread phenomena is ‘deeply improbable’, according to one medical consultant.
David Caldicott, an emergency medicine consultant and founder of drug testing project WEDINOS, told VICE World News: ‘The 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 there for long enough, maybe 20 seconds, to inject enough drugs to cause this.’
Could someone not give the injection really fast?
Yes – but they’d need a very powerful drug to do so discreetly, experts say.
GHB is one of the most well-known ‘date rape’ drug and is also self-administered in small doses by people recreationally.
But Guy Jones, senior scientist at drugs charity the Loop, told VICE it would be a ‘poor candidate’ for injection because of the large amounts of fluid needed.
‘Therefore (it would require) a thick, painful needle. This means that the substance involved would be something that would be highly detectable for several days in a toxicology screening,’ he said.
Adam Winstock, director of the Global Drug Survey, added: ‘There are very few easily accessible drugs / medicines that could be given intramuscular in a small enough volume that people would not notice and the effects would take some time to come on.
‘What you see in the movies is not reality. People need to keep their drinks close to them, avoid taking them from strangers and keep an eye out for their mates.’
Can drugs be administered to any part of the body?
Yes – but some parts are more effective than others
Mr Jones told VICE: ‘Where drugs can be injected non-intravenously, there are specific injection sites that do not work well.
‘The back is one of these unsuitable sites due to the low fat-muscle content, and high concentration of pain receptors.’
What about drink spiking?
While injection spiking is still possible, drink spiking is a lot more common.
Incidents of drink spiking in the UK increased by 108 per cent between 2015 and 2018, with 179 incidents taking place in 2017 alone.
This is only the officially recorded numbers – and is likely to be much higher as it is common for people not to report it to police.
Charity Drinkaware advise: ‘Don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know and if they’re available, use drink stoppers, which can be purchased online, for the top of your bottle.’
Rohypnol (or Roofie) and Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) are the most commonly known ‘date-rape’ drugs.
Recreational drugs like Ecstasy, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), Ketamine and other ‘party-drugs’ are sometimes used to spike alcoholic drinks.
One of the women to give evidence at the hearing was Hannah Stratton, from Newquay in Cornwall.
She told MPs how her drink was drugged while she was having a few glasses of wine with two friends in a quiet bar.
The 51-year-old said she had to put her head on the bar table as she could not hold her upper body up and her legs felt like lead.
Her friends helped her into a taxi home, but she said the driver judged her for being drunk and she felt the whole experience was ‘degrading’.
Ms Stratton said: ‘You just feel so disgusted in yourself – and that may make sense to the other victims here.
‘And it sounds really silly – a number of people that have said me: ‘No, no, no, don’t blame yourself, why are you feeling disgusted in yourself?’ But you do.
‘It takes quite a while to actually switch that around and realise that actually, I’ve got no self-blame or I shouldn’t be blaming myself, but that’s why I didn’t report it.’
She said she has battled feelings of self-doubt over whether she had had drunk too much, but added: ‘I’m 51 years old. I’ve never behaved like that in my life, and I’m not going to behave like it after a couple of glasses of wine.’
Ms Stratton said she had educated her three daughters about the risks but had believed she was ‘far too old’ for it to happen to her,
She said she put up a post online about her experience and was contacted by around a hundred people ‘of all ages and both sexes’ who said it had happened to them.
The committee was holding its first evidence session into spiking on Wednesday.
Alexi Skitinis, from south Wales, said he was spiked while on a trip to Las Vegas in a nightclub with a colleague.
He lost control of his hands, to the extent that he could not make a fist, and ended up in hospital several days later with liver and kidney problems.
Mr Skitinis said he did not report the ‘traumatic’ experience to anyone except his family.
He said: ‘For me, It took away the enjoyment of going out with friends, or planning anything with friends – to be honest with you I didn’t touch alcohol for nearly two years afterwards.’
He added: ‘I know the majority of spikes are (carried out on) females, but anyone could be spiked at any time and any place.’
University of Nottingham student Zara Owen said she lost her memory after being spiked on a night out and woke up in ‘horror’.
She had ‘agonising pain’ in her leg and upon inspection found a pin prick mark, adding that ‘the fact that someone has injected a narcotic into my body without me being aware is terrifying’.
Ms Owen reported the incident to the police, adding: ‘As the way I got spiked wasn’t as common, still isn’t as common as the spiking you hear about where it’s a drug in a drink, I felt I had to, and spread the word out, and tell this, because without doing so, who knows how escalated this could have been? And there could be more cases.’
The Home Affairs Committee announced the new inquiry in December following a number of reports of so-called ‘injection spiking’.
It came after police received nearly 300 needle spiking reports across the UK between September and November.
The figure, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), related to reported incidents – which means at the time of the release they were not confirmed by the police and had yet officially been recorded as crimes.
It also came after the Girls Night In movement urged girls not to go clubbing in Manchester, Nottingham and Bristol due to several claims of injection spiking.
The group’s month-long campaign came with a call for better safety measures.
Boycotts took place in at least 40 cities including Bristol, Brighton, Bournemouth, Belfast, Nottingham and Southampton.
Chloe Madico, 20, from Woking said in October that she was spiked by a needle in Guildford Popworld
Juliet McGeough shared a photo of a puncture wound in her back after she went to Revolution in Reading, Berkshire
A crowd of people gathered in Manchester in October to protest in a bid to urge venues to do more to protect customers from being spiked
In December, The Home Affairs Committee launched a new inquiry to understand better the prevalence of spiking and the effectiveness of the police response to it.
It will also look at the response of the police and partner organisations, such as night-time industries, universities and third sector organisations, in the prevention and detection of spiking.
The Committee will also examine what support is available to victims to report incidents and obtain treatment following incidents.
Launching the inquiry in December, Acting Chair of the Home Affairs Committee Tim Loughton MP said: ‘Spiking is a particularly pernicious act. It is specifically intended to make victims vulnerable and leave them unaware of what is happening to them.
‘It relies on deception, with victims only realising what has happened later and left doubting themselves due to the uncertainty that being spiked causes.
‘At present, the prevalence of spiking is poorly understood.
‘That is why as part of this inquiry we have launched a survey to hear directly from victims about what happened to them and how they were supported.
‘We also want to hear from those who have witnessed spiking incidents and have experience in supporting victims so we can understand their perspectives.
‘We want to understand what more can be done to stamp this out, but also how victims can be better supported in reporting these incidents and dealing with the long-term consequences on them.
‘We also want to see how police can work with partners in the entertainment sector and other areas to identify more effectively when such incidents take place.’