The key points
- Spiking can happen for different reasons – for example, because someone thinks it's funny or because someone wants to commit a crime against the person they're spiking, such as theft, rape or sexual assault.
- Whatever the motive, spiking is never okay or funny. It can make a person extremely vulnerable and ill, and have a lasting impact on their wellbeing and life.
- Spiking someone in order to commit a sexual offence is a serious crime that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison – even if a sexual offence doesn't actually take place. If a sexual offence does take place, the person who carried it out will face an additional sentence.
- Spiking someone in order to rape or sexually assault them is sometimes called 'alcohol or drug-facilitated sexual assault'.
There are several reasons why these particular drugs are used by people who want to commit rape or sexual assault.
- Make people feel physically weak, 'out-of-control' or confused, or even pass out completely.
- Can be odourless, colourless and tasteless – so it can be hard to know if your drink has been spiked with them.
- Leave the body within a short amount of time, making them hard to detect.
- Can cause memory loss – so the victim or survivor might not remember exactly what happened to them or who the perpetrator was.
However, any drug can be used to spike someone.
What does the term 'date rape' mean?
The term 'date rape' refers here to the fact that people are sometimes spiked with these drugs by someone they're on a date with. However, people can be spiked with these drugs by anyone – including someone they know for a different reason, someone they've just met on a night out or even someone they've never spoken to before.
Is 'date rape' a legal term?
No. Under the law, rape is always just rape and sexual assault is always just sexual assault – no matter if the victim or survivor knew their perpetrator or if they were spiked with alcohol or drugs.
It's important to remember that all forms of rape and sexual assault are serious crimes.
We hear a lot about so-called 'date rape drugs' – but alcohol is also commonly used by perpetrators of rape and sexual assault who spike their victims.
However, illegal or prescription drugs can also be used to spike people – and this can be done in a few different ways.
- Put drugs in another person's drink or food without their knowledge or consent.
- Give another person drugs but lie to them about the dosage or what the drugs are.
- Inject drugs into another person with a syringe without their knowledge or consent.
What drugs can someone be spiked with?
Someone can be spiked with any type of drug, including:
➡️ Drugs that are commonly taken on nights out or at parties – for example, Ecstasy (also known as ‘MD’, ‘MDMA’, ‘Pills’, ‘Mandy’ or ‘Molly’), Ketamine, GBL or LSD. These are sometimes known as ‘party drugs’ or ‘club drugs’.
➡️ Drugs that have become known for their use by people who commit spiking in order to rape or sexually assault someone – for example, Rohypnol, GHB or GBL. These are commonly known as ‘date rape drugs’. However, people often also take these drugs out of choice, including on nights out or at parties.
➡️ Prescription medicines that slow down the body and brain's functions – for example, diazepam (also known as Valium).
1 in 10women
have had their drink spiked
do not think the police would believe them if they reported drink spiking
1 in 20men
have had their drink spiked
What happens when someone is spiked?
This depends on several factors:
- What the victim or survivor was spiked with.
- How much they were spiked with.
- If they had already consumed alcohol or taken drugs, and how much they consumed.
- Their size and weight.
Symptoms might start to come into effect within 15 minutes, depending on what a person has been spiked with. These symptoms can then last for several hours.
What are the symptoms and how can you tell if someone has been spiked?
So-called ‘date rape drugs’ are particularly known for making people feel physically weak, ‘out-of-control’ or confused, or pass out. However, all alcohol and drugs can have this effect, depending on the factors listed above.
Other symptoms of spiking include:
- Feeling or being sick.
- Feeling ‘strange’ or drunker than expected.
- Feeling sleepy.
- Blurred or slowed vision, or trouble seeing properly.
- Loss of balance or coordination.
- Having trouble communicating.
- Having hallucinations.
- Acting strangely or out of character.
❗ If their symptoms seem serious and you think they need urgent medical attention, call 999 to speak to emergency services.
Other things you can do to help include:
- Try not to let them drink alcohol or take drugs.
- Try not to let them go home with someone you don’t know or trust.
- If you don’t know them or don’t know them well, try finding their friends or the people they were with.
- If you’re at a pub, bar, club or any other venue, tell staff who work there.
Under this definition, someone does not consent to being given alcohol or drugs, or to taking them, if:
- They don’t know it’s being put into their drink or their body by some other means.
- They are pressured, manipulated, tricked or scared into it.
It is not consent if someone:
❌ Consented to taking one type of drug or alcohol but was instead given another.
❌ Consented to a certain quantity of a drug/s or alcohol but was instead given more.
Under this definition, someone cannot consent to sexual activity of any kind if they have been spiked.
That's because spiking someone with alcohol or drugs takes away their freedom and capacity to make a choice about agreeing to sexual activity.