Staying safe on a night out

29th November 2021
A stock image of drinks being served at a bar.

We’ve been incredibly concerned about the recent rise in reports of drink- and injection-spiking incidents in nightlife venues across the UK, and are doing everything we can to help and reassure our students during this time.

With calls for police and venues to take action to crack-down on these crimes, we wanted to raise awareness of the main symptoms of spiking to be aware of, and what to do if you think you or a friend have been spiked.

Symptoms of spiking

‘Spiking’ means putting alcohol or drugs into someone's drink without their knowledge or permission, making the victim more vulnerable for a variety of motives, including theft or sexual assault. There have also been recent reports of people being ‘spiked’ with needles/syringes containing drugs.

The effects of drink spiking vary depending on what you’ve been spiked with, but UK-wide alcohol education charity Drink Aware has listed the main symptoms to look out for, so that you can act quickly if you or a friend are a victim of this crime.

  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Loss of balance
  • Visual problems
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Unconsciousness

Think you’ve been spiked?

If you think you’ve been spiked by drink or a needle, act quickly, and follow these steps provided by national anti-drug advisory service Frank:

  • If you start to feel strange, sick or inexplicably drunk, seek help from a trusted friend or the venue management. Make sure you can trust the person you ask for help. Don’t go anywhere with a stranger or acquaintance.
  • If you think you’ve been spiked, get a close friend to get you out of the place as soon as possible and take you home or to hospital (if seriously unwell). Or ring a friend, relative or partner and ask them to come and pick you up.
  • If you feel unsafe, vulnerable or threatened, you can ask for help by approaching venue staff and asking them for ‘Angela’. This code phrase indicates that you need help, and a trained member of staff will then support and assist you.
  • Once safely home, ask someone to stay with you until the effects of the drug have worn off, which could be several hours.
  • Don’t hesitate to call for medical help if you need it. And do tell the police what happened.

These steps also apply if you notice someone is showing symptoms of spiking. Stay with them and don’t be afraid to call 999 if their condition deteriorates.

Staying safe

We want to stress that it’s never someone’s fault if they’ve been spiked – but these tips can help you be on your guard on a night out.

 Drink Aware suggests the follow tips to avoid your drink being spiked:

  • Never leave your drink unattended, whether it’s alcoholic or not. Some clubs are introducing drink covers, and you can also buy your own.
  • Don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know.
  • Avoid drinking too much by sticking to the UK low risk drinking guidelines.

And here are some general tips for staying safe when you’re on a night out:

  • Plan your night out, including your journey there and back.
  • Charge your phone before you leave.
  • Download a safety app such as BSAFE, and use it with your flatmates. Users can activate the SOS button by touch or voice, and your key contacts will get a sound alarm with your location.
  • Put your keys, ID and other valuables somewhere you won't lose them.

And most importantly, stick together with friends, and look out for each other.

A group of students walking on the pavement laughing with each other

What we’re doing

Here at Sanctuary Students, we’re committed to making sure our students are as safe as possible. We understand that the current reports are concerning, and want our students to know that we’re here for you.

We pride ourselves on our safe and supportive living environment. Our on-site teams are on hand 24 hours a day, to make sure everyone in our student community is happy, healthy and safe. We have 24-hour security staff and emergency helplines, secure entry and CCTV.

We also offer professional support to help you with any problems you may face – our Student Advice Line from our partners at Health Assured is open day and night, 365 days a year, and is available in many languages. Everything you discuss is kept confidential, so there’s nothing to worry about. Call the freephone number on 0800 030 5182 – we’re here as often as you need us, for as long as you like. Visit our well-being page to learn more about Sanctuary Students well-being services.