This is exactly what your Students’ Union is doing to prevent drink spiking

Lincoln is offering students rapid drug tests if they believe they have been spiked the night before

Right now it feels like there are more reports of spiking than ever before. Young people up and down the country are reporting being spiked, with a survey from The Tab finding last month that at least 2,600 young people believe they have been spiked already this term. Students are saying they’re “terrified to go clubbing” in the wake of reports, with 56 alleged incidents of spiking by injection being reported to the police in September and October this year.

In one night, two young women believe they were spiked with needles at a Birmingham Guild club night – one was taken to A&E and the other ended up in intensive care. The Guild now has additional measures in place, including increased bag searches, metal detector wands, and a trial of passive drug detection dogs.

The Tab asked Student Unions at over 40 major UK universities what measures they’re taking to tackle the issue of spiking.

In a landmark scheme, Lincoln students can take a rapid drug test at the SU’s Wellbeing Centre if they believe they’ve been spiked the night before.

Lincoln is one of six SUs, including Southampton, Sussex and St Andrews, to offer drink testing kits inside its venues. UEA, Bristol and UCL SUs all say they’re also looking into testing.

At least 13 SUs currently or will soon offer anti-spiking drinks covers, lids and bottle tops, including Leeds, Lincoln, Sussex and Oxford. Northumbria is also giving out panic alarms.

SUs including Edinburgh, Southampton, Queen Mary and Lancaster have dedicated welfare areas or specially trained welfare staff.

Along with Birmingham SU’s scheme of passive drug detection dogs, Lincoln SU also has drug detection dogs alongside physical searches.

Many Students’ Unions have also signed up to the Good Night Out scheme. SUs including Edinburgh, Leeds, Queen Mary, UEA, and Warwick have received training or become accredited members of the campaign.

This involves training staff on sexual, racial and LGBTQ+ harassment, consent, and other topic areas to keep people safe. To be accredited SUs and other venues must also display Good Night Out’s information posters, and adopt or adapt the campaign’s best practice policy.

Here’s what your students’ union is doing about spiking:

Community Officer at Nottingham SU, Muhammad Ali, told The Tab the SU has teamed up with First Aid Soc and uni Welfare to produce First Aid and Nightlife Safety cards, which they are encouraging students to carry and are being given out with bottle toppers at the SU. Muhammad is sitting in the Police Operation Windblown Gold group, which he says is “coordinating a multi-agency response to the reports of spikings, and is working with venues to provide anti-spiking devices and free drink-testing kits”. The SUs club nights, at external venues, are all provided free testing kits by the police. You can read more here.

Bottle toppers and Nightlife Safety cards (via Muhammad Ali/UoN SU)

Liverpool John Moores SU has met with groups including the uni, city council and police to increase support for students. It is looking into supporting self-defence classes for students, and offering drop-in sessions with the on-campus police officer so students can raise any issues.

Anna-Ruth Cockerham, director of Wellbeing and Equality at St Andrews SU, told The Tab their bars are currently Best Bar None accredited, and in the long term they are looking for Good Night Out accreditation. Students can request test strips for drinks and urine if they believe they’ve been spiked. The Customer Safety Team have received further training on spiking and regularly walk around venues looking for signs of spiking, as well as doing random bag searches on entry; and the SU is redeveloping its alcohol safety training for student societies.

At Lincoln SU, students can take a rapid drug test at the Wellbeing Centre if they believe they have been spiked the night before. The SU’s on-campus nighttime venue offers drink covers, tops and drink testing kits. Other measures include drug detection dogs, as well as physical searches.

Lincoln campus

Edinburgh’s Students’ Association has precautions including CCTV throughout, staff monitoring of spaces to identify students who may need support, on-duty first aiders and a dedicated welfare area where attendees are offered safe transport home, if needed.

Liverpool Guild has created a “spiking information hub” which includes information on the symptoms of spiking and ways to feel safer on nights out. At all its bars, anti-spiking devices are now available for free, as well as information about spiking and further support. Bar staff receive training and there will be increased trained medics and first aid responders on site for large events and gigs.

Southampton SU told The Tab it is creating a student safety charter which will be in place across its venues. This includes providing a “welfare space” with trained staff, making “every reasonable attempt to ensure students do not travel home alone”, and providing a means of testing drinks if spiking is suspected. It is also encouraging other local businesses and venues to sign this charter and agree to the measures it puts in place.

Soton campus

Queen Mary SU postponed Halloween events in order to have time to review existing safety measures in place and implement additional ones across its venues, including retraining security teams, providing drinks covers, and introducing spiking testing kits. It has also introduced a dedicated welfare officer and safe space area at each event. Students affected by drink spiking can report to a member of staff in SU venues.

Bristol SU is offering student groups guidance on keeping students safe on socials, asking for funding for drink toppers and testing kits, and training bar staff.

Gaz Smith, SU president at Northumbria, told The Tab Newcastle its union bar gives out free anti-spiking bottle toppers and and drinks covers, as well as offering panic alarms for students. The Sabb team has met with police, local authorities and unis to further understand how they can combat the issue and support students.

Lancaster SU owns and runs The Sugarhouse, its own nightclub off-campus. A spokesperson for the SU told The Tab it has policies including a dedicated and fully-stocked welfare room; a dedicated SIA licensed FGH Welfare Supervisor, who is fully first aid trained, working every night to offer support; and free drink testing kits. It will soon also have drink covers.

Lancaster SU’s Sugarhouse

Leeds SU told The Tab it has added more frequent “staff walk arounds” in venues, trained staff and invested in drink protection bottle stoppers. It also runs a safe taxi scheme.

Within its own premises, Aberdeen SU is training staff and considering additional safety measures. It said it is also communicating with local nightclubs.

Oxford SU told The Tab its VP for Women has ordered drinks covers and facilitated bystander intervention training, as well as speaking to local clubs about safeguarding policies.

Sussex SU partners with Brighton Pryzm for Wednesday student nights. Pryzm says it has a number of measures including CCTV cameras throughout the venue as well as body cameras for security staff and medics (there are two fully trained medics per shift), anti-spiking drinks lids, extra training for staff, drug testing kits and metal detectors. The Pryzm Wednesdays nights will now be student-only events, where attendees will need to show student ID.

Sussex campus

Brookes Union has launched a campaign to ensure the culture at Brookes is safe for everyone, and it is already working on a number of initiatives as part of these including education about sexual consent. It works with groups such as the police, uni and NHS, which it says includes action on drink spiking and wider issues of student safety.

Aaron Campbell, Welfare Officer at UEA SU, told The Tab the Union is taking a number of steps including increased searches and bag checks, anti-spiking devices at the bar, training for staff and an “alcohol impact crew” at all nights and St Johns first aiders at their busiest and biggest club nights. It is also looking into new methods such as testing strips.

Warwick SU has implemented additional measures including increased door staff who have been specifically briefed about spiking and sexual misconduct, messages to club and society social secs, and relaxed its “no drinks” policy in the smoking area. Going forward it’s looking into a number of policies including introducing anti-spiking devices, and reviewing whether current staff training is sufficient.

In the next few weeks, UCL SU is giving additional training to staff and increasing the number on security staff and supervisors on busy nights. It will join the Good Night Out accreditation scheme, and will be providing free drink lids, bottle stoppers and spiking testing kits. It already has a number of measures in place including bag searches and asking for student ID.

Following two reports of spiking by needle on Halloween weekend at Birmingham Guild, it is working with the students involved, the uni and West Midlands Police. It has put in place additional measures to protect students from spiking, including increased bag searches, increased personal searches on entry to venues (including with metal detector wands), and a trial of passive drug detection dogs. It also held an open meeting for students to voice concerns around safety and to highlight any additional measures they would like.

The Tab has also contacted Students’ Unions at Queen’s Belfast, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Durham, Exeter, Glasgow, Imperial, King’s, Leeds Beckett, Leicester, LSE, Loughbrough, Manchester, MMU, Newcastle, Trent, Royal Holloway, Sheffield, Hallam, and York for comment. 

Related stories recommended by this writer:

There were 56 reports of spiking by injection across the UK in the last two months

‘I went from sober to throwing up in five minutes’: Young people’s stories of being spiked

Over 2,600 young people believe they’ve been spiked already this term