Spiking happens more at house parties than in clubs, so why does no one talk about it?
‘If I can’t expect to be safe at house parties with my friends, how am I meant to be safe going out?’
Earlier this term, second year uni student Becca threw a house party. After just two or three drinks, she began going in and out of consciousness, losing her vision, and having panic and terror episodes. She knew everyone who was at the house party, but Becca believes she was spiked there. It took her days to physically recover, and she is still dealing with the repercussions on her mental health. She says she felt traumatised and detached, distrustful of people, and her uni work has also been impacted.
When many people imagine spiking, their first thought is of horrible strangers lurking in dark corners of nightclubs – but the most common location for spiking is actually house parties rather than clubs. Research from the Alcohol Education Trust has found that among those who have been spiked, over a third (35 per cent) of these cases happened at private parties, compared to just over a quarter (28 per cent) in a nightclub.
The Tab spoke to two university students who believe they’ve been spiked at house parties this year, which had been full of people they thought were their friends. For some of those who have experienced having drugs secretly put in their drinks at parties, it is instead veiled as a “joke” or “banter” – but these incidents still take a serious toll on the victim. One student told The Tab he found out he’d been spiked “just for laughs”, saying it’s made him feel “used” and unsafe.
92 per cent of those who have been spiked in any situation didn’t report it, with many people thinking they wouldn’t be taken seriously or there wouldn’t be enough proof. Data shared with The Tab by the Alcohol Education Trust shows those who are spiked at private parties are even less likely to report it – with 95 per cent saying they would not.
Speaking to The Tab, Helena Conibear, CEO of the Alcohol Education Trust, says people who get spiked at house parties often don’t report it as they’re worried about getting the party host and or their friends into trouble. People list shame or embarrassment as another reason for not reporting being spiked, as well as some saying they simply didn’t realise they had been spiked until some time after.
Both students The Tab spoke to spoke of the “mental toll” it has had – the detrimental impacts on their mental and physical health, uni studies, and feelings of safety:
‘The mental health was the biggest toll of them all’
“We knew everyone there, it was all friends or friends of friends”, Becca says about her house party. She wasn’t drunk but after just two or three drinks, her friends had to take her to the toilet because she was feeling sick. “In the next 20 minutes, I completely deteriorated,” she says.
“I couldn’t see properly. I was wanting to be sick but nothing was coming out, really bad tummy pains. I was in and out with consciousness. Obviously, I only remember parts of it but the worst thing was I had panic and terror episodes. So when I did come back into consciousness, I’d just be screaming for five minutes straight.” Becca believes she was spiked at the house party, and says one of her friends also believes he was spiked at the same party.
The whole situation was incredibly distressing, Becca says, and it lasted for about four or five hours during the middle of the night. When she started to feel better, Becca’s friend took her to A&E but the wait time was “about 10 hours”. The next day she got an emergency appointment at the doctor’s and gave a urine sample – she heard back from them a week later, but they couldn’t find anything.
“For the next few weeks afterwards I was quite mentally traumatised by everything, I felt quite just detached from everything. I think the biggest thing was that everyone at the house party I knew, or friends knew and were close friends with them. So definitely after that I just didn’t really trust anyone who came that I didn’t know properly.”
For four or five days after, Becca says she couldn’t stomach to eat anything. “But the mental health was the biggest toll of them all, and I’m still recovering from that.”
‘They told me they’d done it for laughs’
Uni student Jake, whose name has been changed, says he’s been spiked multiple times – the first of which being at a house party earlier this year. He says after only an hour at the party and two beers, he moved on to his usual drink of a spirit and mixer. “I took probably half of the glass. And then the next thing I remember really after that was being on the bed in one of the rooms having sort of little seizures, because it had been the first ever time I’ve experienced drugs so it really really scared me,” he says.
Jake was told by friends at the party that some other friends he knew there had spiked him for a ‘joke’, although he says he’s “never followed up on it” or really spoken to them since. “People who I knew, they’d not just done it to me but they’ve done it to other people at the party as well. And they’d just done it for laughs type of thing, to see the reaction.”
Whilst having seizures in the bed, Jake says: “I was struggling to be aware of anything and I was moving about quite a lot and I was unable to stand up, I just kept flopping over.” He was in there for three or four hours, before eventually being able to walk home with a friend. “Then when I got home, straight away I threw up everywhere,” he says.
Speaking about it, Jake says: “It made me feel a bit used. The big thing was it made me distrust a lot of people, it damaged trust a hell of a lot.
“If I can’t expect to be safe at house parties with my friends, with this [recent increase in reports of spiking] how am I meant to be safe going out? How am I expected to go out with friends and know it’s potentially them that’s gonna spike me? I’ve got potentially friends and random people who just want to damage other people as well.”
‘It was a place where I never expected to get spiked’
Like Jake, Becca says she’s had her trust damaged – and that one of the worst parts of what happened is the “trust issues” she’s had since. “I definitely started to then be suspicious of certain people, but I kind of had to stop myself from doing that because then I think, you know, I’d just feel completely uncomfortable around certain people and maybe they haven’t even done it.
“So I just kind of had to withdraw from a lot of people at the party who I didn’t really know very well for about a month just to kind of get my mental health and check into then be okay when I was around them in the future.”
In the last year or so, Becca, like many young people around the country, has become far more aware of spiking due to increased reports and social media posts about the issue. “Especially in clubs I’m always covering my drink or I don’t even get drinks any more,” she says. “But for a house party, it would have never crossed my mind until it happened.”
Jake agrees: “It was weird because it was obviously a place where I never expected to get spiked because I’m supposed to be with friends, I’m supposed to be with people who were all comfortable with each other, and then to have it happen to you, when you’re meant to be trusting these people it it made me obviously be even more aware when going out.”
Jake didn’t go to the doctors or A&E – after he’d gone home and thrown up he felt a lot better, “so there was no real need” he says. He says there had been some people concerned at the house party, but everyone thought he was “just really, really drunk”. “Nobody had really experienced it before, so nobody really had any idea what was happening to me,” Jake says.
Since the party, Becca isn’t going on to her university campus – she’s staying in her uni house. “I had to take a couple of weeks out due to mental health from the spiking”, she says. “And then from that it’s just a constant trying to catch up on work and I’m still in that period.” She says it has “definitely” affected her uni exams and coursework this term – because she’s had to catch up with so much, she hasn’t been able to focus on it. “It’s just, you know, getting the notes down and not being able to fully engage with my studies anymore.”
It’s affected Becca’s social life, too – she went to another house party shortly after but says she got “super freaked out” when she saw some of the people who were there and had to leave. “After that I stopped drinking for a while and stopped going out,” she says. “I used to go out clubbing pretty much every weekend, but it’s probably once or twice a month now.”
Speaking to The Tab, Becca says: “I would love to know who did it. I think I’m quite angry at that person. And I want to know why they did it. But I think it is something I’d never find out.
“Whether it was you know people just randomly spiking us or you know, we were targeted for whatever reason, still unsure.”
Since the house party Jake says he has been spiked more times, in clubs. “There was a period of two weeks [this year] where if you went out, you could guarantee that somebody had been spiked who you knew.” Jake says he now doesn’t go out alone or just with a friend, and is sticking to going out in groups – although he doesn’t really like it any more and is going out much more rarely. “It says a lot that I haven’t really drunk in a month now,” he says.
He would go to smaller gatherings and parties, “but when there’s big groups and it gets all confusing, it can feel a little bit unsafe. Especially if people turn up who you don’t particularly know.”
‘I thought, I’m not going to dob one of my friends in’
Becca says she considered reporting what happened to the police, but decided against it. “I think for the first two to four weeks afterwards, I just didn’t really want to talk about it. It’s just been in the recent weeks that I’ve you know, kind of gotten past it.”
Jake also didn’t go to the police. He didn’t find out who may have spiked him until some time after the house party. “So I didn’t really have anything to go by. I don’t like blood tests, so I didn’t want to have a blood test to see what I was spiked with.
“After I was feeling okay, so I just thought ‘I’m not going to waste police time with it, and I’m supposed to be friends with these people, I’m not going to dob one of my friends in I’m not going to do that.’ Probably should have done.” Jake says if something happened again now, he would tell the police.
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Featured image via Jacob Bentzinger/Unsplash