Keeping students safe amid rising reports of spiking cases

Erin Murphy

Ireland has observed a surge in reports of spiking following reports that a number of students of Munster Technological University had been spiked during freshers week this October. Similar incidents have been recently recorded in Derry, Bray and Dublin city.

Vigilance around spiking is essential as nightlife in Ireland resumes. Following a 590-day closure, nightclubs and late bars have opened their doors and are now playing host to a cohort of young people, many of whom have never before observed the behaviour inside of these venues. Awareness around spiking is crucial in deterring abusers and keeping each other safe on a night out.

There is a number of things to look out for which could indicate an incident of spiking. A change in appearance to your drink could indicate that it has been tampered with. If you notice your drink has sinking ice, a change in colour, excess bubbles or a foggy appearance stop drinking it immediately.

According to Drinkaware, Rohypnol and Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) are the most known date-rape drugs. These drugs are unlikely to change the appearance of a drink and could go unnoticed. Victim’s of spiking often present with changes in behaviour and an attack could be identified this way.

Symptoms of spiking can include lowered inhibitions, nausea, confusion, loss of balance, vomiting and unconsciousness. If a supposed victim of spiking begins hallucinating or loses consciousness they should be brought to a hospital immediately.

Clodagh McGwynne, Technological University Dublin graduate, spoke about her reaction to getting spiked, an incident which occurred on a trip to London during her college years.

“I don’t know what [the perpetrator] spiked me with, he was holding me to keep me up but the second he let go I fell to the floor,” she said, adding, “I was angry and shouting, I was unaware of what was going on, but I was aggressive.”

If you suspect that an incident of spiking has occurred in a nightclub or venue alert a member of staff. For discrete assistance, ask a member of staff for Angela.

‘Ask for Angela’ was a 2016 campaign launched to tackle sexual violence. By asking for Angela staff will know that you need to be removed from a situation and escorted off the premises safely.

To help a victim of spiking, stay with them and keep them awake by talking to them, call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates and never let them leave with someone you don’t know or trust. If possible prevent them from drinking more alcohol as this could exacerbate their symptoms and cause health problems later.

To confirm an incident of spiking, blood and urine tests need to be administered. It’s important these tests are executed as soon as possible. According to the HSE, drugs such as GHB are undetectable in blood within six to eight hours and in urine within 12 to 18.

As incidents of spiking are disproportionately perpetrated against young people, third level institutions are doing their part to ensure students have pathways to report abuse.

DCU Student’s Union Vice President for Wellbeing Dean O’Reilly noted the importance of the ‘Speak Out’ tool which launched this year. Students can use the tool to anonymously disclose cases of sexual violence, harassment, stalking and hate crimes.

To report an incident see: 

Erin Murphy

Image Credit: Moritz Mentgez on Unsplash