Drink spiking and staying safe on nights out

close up of two people holding cocktails.
close up of two people holding cocktails.

There are thousands of reports of ’spiking’ incidents across the UK every year. We want you to have knowledge about spiking and know the support available to you so that you feel safe on a night out.

Trigger warning: this message contains references to spiking and sexual assault. 

Spiking is giving someone alcohol or drugs without them knowing or consenting. This happens usually by adding a substance to a drink but there are also instances where a substance has been injected directly into the body with a needle.  

It’s important to know that it is never your fault you have been spiked or sexually assaulted and you are not alone. If you are worried that you have been the target of this kind of crime, we will do everything we can to support you - please read through our sexual misconduct and violence webpage. Your safety and wellbeing are the most important things and you can access specialist support, if and whenever you feel ready. 

What are the signs of spiking? 

It only takes a few minutes, 15 - 30 minutes, to feel the effects of a spiked drink. The symptoms of spiking are often like having excess alcohol which can make it difficult to know if you have been spiked. Symptoms can also vary depending on what substance you have been spiked with. 

You may experience: 

  • feeling or being sick 
  • feeling ’strange’ or drunker than expected 
  • feeling confused or disorientated 
  • 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 

What can I do to prevent being spiked and stay safe?  

It is not your fault if you have been spiked however there are a few preventative steps you can take to lower the chance someone being able to spike your drink. 

  • Keep your drink covered and do not leave it unattended. 
  • Go out with your friends and not on your own.  
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers. 
  • Don’t drink from another person’s drink. 
  • Consider drinking a bottled drink. 
  • Always make sure you know how you are getting home before you go out.  
  • Be vigilant when talking to strangers.  
  • Look out for each other.  
  • Think carefully about whether you should leave with someone you have just met. 
  • Keep an eye on your drink and discard of it if you think it looks or tastes different to when you first got it.  

What do I do if I have been spiked? Can UCL support me? 

If you start to feel strange, more drunk than you thought you should be or if you suddenly feel sick, seek help from a trusted friend or a member of staff at the venue straight away. 

You can ask a friend to take you straight home or, if you are seriously unwell, ask them to take you to the hospital. If you are unsure if you need medical help, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

If you feel unsafe and need a discreet way to get home or to the hospital, a lot of venues now use, ’Ask for Angela’ where you ask for Angela at the bar and the member of staff will make sure you safely get a taxi.  

You can use the UCL SafeZone app to contact security in an emergency, if you need any urgent help, first aid assistance or wellbeing support. SafeZone can be used on campus or off campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you raise an alert off campus we will inform emergency services on your behalf and share your location. 

Once you are safely home, ask someone to stay with you until the effects of the drug have worn off - this might take several hours. 

If you feel able and comfortable to, make a report to the police as soon as possible. Some substances used for spiking can’t be detected after 72 hours or even 12 hours, so doing this as early as possible can help the police find out what has happened. UCL can also help support you in this process. 

UCL will support you 

Discussing an incident can be daunting, however, we want you to know that your safety and wellbeing are our priority so we will be here to support you in a non-judgemental space, if you would like that support. You can:

If you would like to speak to someone about how you are feeling, you can call the Student Support and Wellbeing Phone Line on +44 (0)20 3108 8836 during office hours.  

For 24/7 support, you can call the UCL 24/7 Support Line on +44 (0)808 238 0077 and speak with an adviser. If you are calling from outside the UK, you should call 00 353 1 518 0277. 

You can report the incident using the UCL Report + Support tool. This can be anonymous if you wish. The UCL casework team and dignity advisers (who provide an informal, confidential information service to staff and students on issues relating to bullying, harassment, and sexual misconduct) will provide support on how UCL can take the incident forward, in line with your preference.

You can book a same day appointment using askUCL. You will be offered an appointment to discuss wellbeing support, whether you would like the incident to be investigated by the UCL Casework Team , and any support you may need to study such as academic adjustments.  

This appointment is confidential and is available to all students. You can request that your adviser is a man, a woman or non-binary, and to have support in your own language (this may involve a slightly longer waiting time). 

If you would like to access some confidential support from the Disability, Mental Health and Wellbeing Team , your adviser can also help you to meet with UCL’s Crime Prevention and Personal Safety Office ; they can offer advice and support you if you wish to report to the Police. 

Staff across Student Support and Wellbeing, Crime Prevention and Personal Safety Advice and Casework are trained to handle sensitive disclosures, including sexual violence.

If you would like to access counselling, you can register with Student Psychological and Counselling Service (SPCS) . You can also access counselling from an external organisation specialising in sexual violation.

Support outside of UCL 

We understand you may not want to discuss an incident with us and there are a lot of organisations you can turn to outside of UCL.  

TASA is a youth-powered community that believes everyone deserves to have fun without fear. Their company is driven and run by the target audience; a group of analysts aged 18- 24 supported by a small number of advisors who are subject matter experts. 

SARC , the Sexual assault referral centre, is a well known organisation that works alongside the NHS to offer confidential medical and practical support to people who have recently been raped or sexually assaulted. 

Spike Aware UK is a charity that aims to build a movement to empower victims of drink and needle spiking crime.  

There are different ways you can report a spiking incident to the Police. Their website gives advice on how to report, the different ways to report and how you can get tested if you wish to do so. 

Stamp Out Spiking tackles the increasing incidents of spiking across the UK and Worldwide. The charity was founded by a team, with professional experienced in alcohol and drug awareness workshops, concentrating on welfare of young people. 

Useful links

  • University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000