Skip to main content

We use strictly necessary cookies to make our site work. We would also like to set optional cookies (analytical, functional and YouTube) to enhance and improve our service. You can opt-out of these cookies. By clicking “Accept All Cookies” you can agree to the use of all cookies.

Cookies Statement and Privacy Statement

If you are aged 68 or 69 you can now register to get a COVID-19 vaccine

Drink spiking is when someone puts drugs or alcohol into your drink without you knowing. The drugs used are mind-altering substances that affect how you behave.

So-called 'date rape drugs' may be used to spike a drink before a sexual assault. They are the most common drugs used to spike drinks. Date rape drugs can come in powder or liquid form. They may not have an unusual taste or smell.

There are many reasons why someone might spike a drink.

The most common reasons are:

  • to carry out a sexual assault or rape
  • to carry out a physical assault
  • to carry out a theft
  • for amusement

Drink spiking does not only target females. Anyone can be targeted.

Drink spiking is a crime whatever the reason it is carried out for.

Date rape drugs

Date rape drugs are depressants. They work by slowing down your nervous system and dulling your responses. They make it harder for you to resist an assault.

Some date rape drugs are legally prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. But when taken without knowing, these drugs leave you vulnerable to danger.

Date rape drugs will affect your behaviour and the messages that you give out to other people. You will not be fully in control of yourself and someone could take advantage of you.

Date rape drugs can start to take effect within 5 minutes of being taken, or up to an hour afterwards.

Symptoms of drink spiking and date rape drugs

Most date rape drugs take effect within 30 minutes, and symptoms usually last for several hours.

But if you pass out, it'll be hard to know the full effect. You may still feel some of the symptoms of a date rape drug after a night's sleep.

Although your symptoms will depend on which substance has been used, they usually include some of the following:

  • lowered inhibitions
  • difficulty concentrating or speaking
  • loss of balance and finding it hard to move
  • visual problems, particularly blurred vision
  • memory loss (amnesia) or 'blackouts'
  • feeling confused or disorientated, particularly after waking up (if you have been asleep)
  • paranoia (a feeling of fear or distrust of others)
  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing or touching things that are not there) or having an 'out of body' experience
  • nausea and vomiting
  • unconsciousness

Most common date rape drugs

Alcohol

Alcohol is the most common date rape drug. It can be added to a soft (non-alcoholic) drink without you knowing. Or double measures can be used instead of singles. If you have had a drink already, you may find it harder to tell how much alcohol you are drinking.

The effects of alcohol will depend on how much you drink and if you have been drinking already.

Gamma-hydroxybutyrate and gamma-butyrolactone

Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) usually comes in the form of a slightly oily, colourless liquid. It also comes, less often, as a powder.

Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) is a more basic form of GHB. It is another possible date rape drug. It comes in liquid form and is found in some household products. After entering the body, GBL changes into GHB.

Only a very small amount of GHB is needed to have an effect. It can be dissolved easily into other liquids. GHB has an unpleasant taste and a weak odour. But, you are unlikely to notice it in very small doses or when it is mixed with a strong-flavoured drink.

Tranquillizers

Tranquillizers come in hundreds of different forms. The most common are called benzodiazepines. They normally come as a tablet.

You may hear of these as:

  • valium
  • rohypnol
  • roofies
  • benzos

They are sometimes legally prescribed to treat anxiety or insomnia. Tranquillizers work by slowing down your body. They relieve tension and making you feel very relaxed.

Ketamine

Ketamine, sometimes called K, is a powerful anaesthetic. It is used for both animals and humans. It's a liquid in its legal form. Illegally, it is normally a grainy white powder or a tablet.

How to avoid drink spiking

If your drink has been spiked, it's unlikely that you'll see, smell or taste any difference. Some drugs, such as GHB, may taste slightly salty or smell unusual.

If you start to feel strange or more drunk than you should be, get help immediately.

The following steps may help prevent drink spiking:

  • Never leave your drink unattended, and keep an eye on your friends' drinks.
  • Do not accept a drink from someone you do not know.
  • Consider sticking to bottled drinks and avoiding punch bowls or jugs of cocktails.
  • Don't give out your address to someone you have just met.
  • If you think your drink's been tampered with, do not drink it – tell a trusted friend or relative immediately.
  • Before going out, let someone know where you're going and what time you expect to be home.
  • Make plans for your journey home.
  • Avoid taking expensive equipment with you or anything that could be a target for thieves.
  • If you're travelling abroad, be aware of the local area and where you can find help.

What to do if your drinks been spiked

First, tell someone you completely trust, such as:

  • a close friend
  • a relative
  • a medical professional
  • the police

If you are not with anyone, call someone you trust and get to a safe place. Ask to use a phone if yours has been stolen.

If you need urgent help, call 999. Be wary of accepting help from a stranger and do not leave with someone you do not know.

If you feel unwell, someone you trust should take you to your nearest emergency department (ED). Tell the medical staff that you think your drink's been spiked.

Arrange for a trusted friend or relative to take you home and stay with you until the drugs have fully left your system.

Report it to the police as soon as you can. They may ask you to provide blood and urine samples.

Most drugs leave the body within 72 hours of being taken. The date rape drug GHB leaves the body within 12 hours, so it's important to be tested as soon as possible.

If you're abroad, get help from a travel representative or local medical services, or ask a bar or hotel manager to call local police.

If you have been sexually assaulted, you should get medical attention as soon as possible.

You may need tests to determine if you have any sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or if you're pregnant.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

page last reviewed: 23/04/2020
next review due: 23/04/2023

Slaintecare logo

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.