January 25, 2024

What is drink spiking?

Bar table with a number of drinks

Drink spiking is back in the media spotlight. But how much do you know about it?

We want you to know the facts about drink spiking, so you can keep yourself and your friends safe!

Drink spiking occurs when a person deliberately adds alcohol or another drug to someone’s drink without them knowing.

Drink spiking is illegal in Australia. Penalties include fines and imprisonment.

Sometimes people spike drinks as a prank, but sometimes drink spiking is used to assault or rob someone.

Estimates suggest that one-third of drink spiking incidents are associated with a sexual attack.1

What do people use to spike drinks?

Usually, drinks are spiked with alcohol. Either the drink is stronger than you think, or someone has added even more alcohol.

Despite recent media reports, drink spiking with drugs like GHB and Rohypnol® is actually quite rare.

If drugs are used, they’re usually depressants that make you feel like you’re drunk, or about to pass out.

How do I know if a drink has been spiked?

The drug or extra alcohol in your drink could be colourless, odourless and tasteless, so you might not be able to tell if your drink has been spiked.

Warning signs include:

  • feeling dizzy or faint
  • feeling ill or sleepy
  • feeling drunk even if you've only had a little bit of alcohol to drink
  • passing out
  • waking up feeling uncomfortable and confused, with memory blanks about the night before.

Keeping safe

Nobody should ever feel like it’s their responsibility to prevent their drink being spiked. And, it’s never a person’s fault if they’re the victim of a drink spiking incident.

If you do feel worried about drink spiking, you can use some of these simple strategies when you’re out at a pub, club or party:

  • have your drink close to you and keep an eye on it
  • avoid sharing drinks
  • if someone you don’t know very well offers you a drink, go to the bar with them and watch the bartender pour your drink
  • if you think your drink tastes weird, pour it out
  • buy or pour your own drinks – many people have their drinks spiked by someone they know
  • keep an eye on your friends and their drinks
  • if you’re a venue owner, install easily accessible water taps instead of having open water jugs.

Why don’t we hear about drink spiking more?

Historically, drink spiking incidents have always been very under-reported.1 Not much has changed since, as we still have very little knowledge about how often drink spiking occurs and where the hotspots are.

Often victims won’t report drink spiking incidents because they are worried people won’t believe them, or they think they will be blamed for what happened – especially if they were already drinking or taking drugs.

But, if someone’s drink has been spiked, it’s a crime, regardless of what they were doing at that time.

If you or someone you know has had their drink spiked, speak out and speak up – and encourage others to do the same.

Make a police report, talk to the venue, speak to your friends.

The more we talk about drink spiking, the more we can help reduce stigma surrounding it. This will encourage other victims to come forward, knowing that they will be taken seriously.

What to do if your drink is spiked

You know your body better than anyone. Trust your instincts.

If you feel like your drink has been spiked, you can:

  • ask someone you trust to help you get to a safe place
  • if you’re not out with people you trust, talk to one of the venue staff or security
  • if you feel really unwell or have been sexually assaulted, go to an emergency department or the nearest hospital
  • ask your doctor to test for the presence of drugs – urine or blood tests can pick up traces of certain drugs up to 24 hours later
  • report the incident to police.

Drink spiking is serious: In an emergency, call triple zero (000) or the nearest police station. 

Needle spiking: there have been some reports of people being spiked with a needle while on a night out. If you suspect this has happened, seek medical attention and report the incident to police.

For information about sexual assault, or for counselling or referral, call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

If you’ve been a victim of drink spiking and feel like you need someone to talk to, the following services can help:

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

Kids Helpline: (5-25 year olds): 1800 55 1800

  1. Taylor N, Charlton K, Prichard J. National project on drink spiking: Investigating the nature and extent of drink spiking in Australia. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology; 2004. Report No.: 0642211248.

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