Drink Spiking in Clubs

Kevin Murtagh


As everybody knows and is familiar with drink spiking, it has not been in the forefront of international news headlines as much as the past few days at the time of writing. It is a topic that needs no introduction but needs to be addressed and promoted wisely through education and awareness to try and rid the nightlife industry of this awful stain that so many people wish did not exist. 

In the past month, distressing cases have been flooding in across the UK and Ireland about young women who have unfortunately been the victim of a relatively new form of spiking with the use of needles. Cases have been reported in places such as Nottingham, Leeds, Edinburgh, Liverpool and in my home city of Dublin, where the nightlife industry has just reopened, yet again to another challenge to which swift action must be taken to protect the welfare of people who want to enjoy a night out with no worries. 

Nottingham – October 2021: Zara Owen, a 19-year-old student in Nottingham reported to police that she awoke the next morning after being at a nightclub with a “sharp, agonizing pain in my leg” and “almost zero recollection” of any of the previous night's events. She commented that she found it a struggle to walk for the day and that she found a “pinprick”, which lead to the realization that she had been spiked. Nottinghamshire police said that it had received a total of 15 reports of alleged spiking with a sharp object in October, the majority of made by women, in venues across the popular university town. These events have now shifted to the offensive, resulting in numerous boycotts of venues and nightclubs for action to be taken.

The nightclub boycott on Wednesday, October 27, organized by the Girls Night in Nottingham group, aims to encourage clubs and bars to take spiking seriously and protect women in the city. This new campaign which aims to increase security measures and raise awareness about the dangers of getting spiked, has garnered more than 12,000 followers on its Instagram page and is run by a group of 14 university students. 

The organizers said that the boycott, which they say is scheduled for one of the busiest nights out in Nottingham, was needed to raise awareness of the urgency of the problem. A spokesperson for the group said: "The increase in spiking is a very scary thing and has been in the back of people's minds after so many stories were shared from across the country”. Such a response so quickly is amazing to see and hopefully other cities and locations that are affected by this problem will follow in these footsteps.

Ireland – Present Day, in a time where nightlife begins to reopen, and people start to frequent our many nightlife venues, this problem has unfortunately been brought with it. Starting with universities, student unions and college reps have been warning students to be extra vigilant during nights out, especially during this period of fresher's week and with the reopening of nightlife. In the south, a number of Munster Technological University students in Co. Kerry were reportedly spiked during freshers’ week last week, while police in the North are appealing for information about a similar spate of incidents in Derry in recent days.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Síona Cahill, former president of the Union of Students in Ireland and a board member for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said drink spiking was nothing new but there had been “some level of growth in it” in recent years. “Ahead of the weekend, people are absolutely delighted, so excited to get back on to the dance floor, but unfortunately there are a limited number of people who want to take advantage of that,” she warned.“Obviously there should be a zero-tolerance attitude to any kind of behavior like that in our nightclubs, in our friend groups or anywhere else.”

As for Dublin city, Gardaí are investigating an incident where a woman was reportedly spiked with a needle in earlier this week. There has been an increase in cases of drink and needle spiking in bars and nightclubs as the country’s nightlife reopens, and gardaí are asking victims to come forward and report these assaults as soon as possible. Gardaí in the city are now looking into a report from a young woman in relation to an alleged spiking incident, where she noticed “physical bruising possibly caused by a needle prick.” 

It is good to see that campaigns have already started to form around Ireland in response to this issue within the nightlife industry, as we have seen with the Student's Union at University College Dublin, which is warning students to be aware of the potential risk of spiking as nightclubs reopen. The Union has heard reports from students of possible spiking instances as young people begin to socialize again. 

Welfare Officer, Molly Greenough said: “It’s incredibly disheartening to see the rise in reported cases of spiking across Ireland and the UK. She said that “It is vital to emphasize that the onus never lies on the victim to not be spiked, but rather on the perpetrator to not commit such a heinous crime and that it is important that students are equipped with the knowledge to better help them protect themselves and look out for their friends. While these can be tough conversations to have, it’s important for those in a position of privilege to safely call out peers on unacceptable behaviors when you see it happening—we can all play a part in developing a culture of consent, compassion, and community.”

In Ireland going forward, myself along with everybody else within the music, nightlife and events industry must come together and rise to the task in order to combat the seriousness of this challenge which stands in front of us to help the vulnerable and at risk feel safe and protected within a space, at a time where people are beginning to enjoy the freedoms of the nightlife industry once again