10 signs your drink could have been spiked as EastEnders tackles topic

EastEnders are running a storyline on drink spiking. (BBC)
EastEnders are running a storyline on drink spiking. (BBC)

EastEnders is to run a spiking storyline in order to raise awareness of “alarming rates” of the crime in the UK.

The storyline will see Anna Knight, played by Molly Rainford, spiked while on a night out, but the incident initially goes unnoticed as her friends believe her erratic behaviour is actually down to alcohol.

The episode will air on July 16, and then viewers will be able to gain further insight in a five-part mini-series accessible via a QR code, which aims to show viewers the internal warning signs to look out for when spiked.

Additional footage from the perspective of Anna’s friends will showcase the outward effects the drugs have on her behaviour.

The soap has worked with spiking charities Stamp Out Spiking and WithYou in order to ensure the storyline is portrayed as “accurately and as sensitively as possible”.

“With incidents of spiking rising at alarming rates across the UK in recent years, we chose to explore this issue with Anna Knight who represents the demographic most affected by spiking," EastEnders executive producer Chris Clenshaw says.

Clenshaw says he hopes the storyline will raise awareness of the warning signs and symptoms to look out for after an individual has been spiked.

According to Dawn Dines, CEO and founder of the charity Stamp Out Spiking drink spiking is a hugely under-reported problem that affects people the world over.

"It’s impossible to get exact statistics for drink-spiking," she tells Yahoo UK. "From our national survey we found that over 97% of cases aren’t even reported to the police, but it is increasing year by year according to UK police forces."

Dines says the results, from a series of Freedom of Information requests, show a 108% increase since 2015 in the number of reports to police forces, which include both the words ‘drink’ and ‘spiking’ or ‘lacing”.

But currently, there is no official offence code for drink spiking.

"We are campaigning to have the legislation changed to reflect this crime accurately so that statistics can be gathered and also to represent the seriousness of the crime," she adds.

Dawn Dines is the founder of charity Stamp It Out. (Stamp It Out)
Dawn Dines is the CEO and founder of charity Stamp It Out. (Stamp It Out)

Dines says 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," she adds. "You may still feel some of the symptoms of a date rape drug after a night’s sleep."

Although 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 aren’t there) or having an 'out of body' experience

  • nausea and vomiting

  • unconsciousness

Drink spiking. (Getty Images)
Drink spiking cases are on the rise in the UK. (Getty Images)

Abie Wilson, lead clinical pharmacist at WithYou says it can be really difficult to know if someone has been spiked.

"Often, the substances used have no taste, odour or colour. In addition, how someone who’s been spiked may behave or appear can vary from person to person, and will also depend on the substance used," she adds.

“That’s why we urge people to trust their instincts."

Dines recommends trying to keep an eye out for your friends on a night out.

"Never leave a mate alone if they are not acting normal," she says. "Get them somewhere safe and don't leave them with anyone you don't know well.

"Keep checking in with each other when out for an evening," she continues. "If someone goes from seeming ok to suddenly slurring words or acting as if suddenly drunk within a short space of time act on it.

Dines also suggests looking out for others who may not be in your party.

"If you see someone in a club and they are not acting quite right - go with your instincts - speak to them, find out who they came with and make sure they are ok," she says.

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

"Immediately tell someone you trust," she advises. "If you need urgent help, call 999. Be wary of accepting help from a stranger and don’t leave with someone you don’t know.

"If you feel unwell, someone you trust should take you to your nearest A&E department," Dines continues. "Tell the medical staff that you think your drink’s been spiked."

Dines also recommends arranging 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," she continues. "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."

There are some potential warning signs to look out for with spiking. (Getty Images)
There are some potential warning signs to look out for with spiking. (Getty Images)

While this responsibility should never be down to the individual, as everyone should be able to enjoy a night out without worrying about their safety, Wilson says there are some tips to be aware of when it comes to spiking.

“These include not leaving your drink unattended, using spikey bottle-stoppers, and staying with people you know and trust," she advises.

"That said, if you or someone you’re with gets spiked and you didn’t do these things, it is not your fault. We want to stress that spiking is never the fault of the victim.”

Dines has one final word on the subject: "There are no circumstances in which spiking is acceptable," she says. "Whether it’s an extra shot of alcohol or something more dangerous, it doesn’t matter: it’s wrong and everybody has the right to know what they’re putting in their body."

Being spiked can be an awful thing to experience, but help is out there.

Depending on the circumstances you may be offered support via the police or healthcare service and victims can also reach out to Stamp out Spiking, Victim Support (08 08 16 89 111), The Samaritans or a Rape Crisis Centre for advice and someone to talk to. There may also be local specialist support services that can listen and support.

Additional reporting PA.