Ahead of freshers’ week at universities across the UK, thousands of spike incidents have occurred in England and Wales – with e-cigarettes now a target for spikes.
New data from the National Police Chiefs Council, viewed by The Independentshows that there were 6,732 reported needle spiking violations between May 2022 and May 2023 – including 957 needle spiking violations.
The figures show that an average of 561 crimes were reported per month during this period. The police department said the data also includes e-cigarettes and foods laced with additives.
Activists warn that these figures are just the tip of the iceberg, with victims not coming forward because they fear not being taken seriously or are too ashamed to come forward.
Rosie Smith, who studies at Manchester University, said she was stung in a nightclub last October while visiting her sister in Durham.
The 20-year-old added: “After just two drinks I lost all control of my limbs and the ability to speak. “I was trapped in my own body and powerless.
“My mental health was dramatically affected after the injection and I did not report the incident to the police as many other students I know were disbelieved or turned away.
“Spiking is a terrible and unfortunately common crime that has long-lasting effects on the victim, their family and their friends.”
She said the ordeal had “completely” changed her outlook on going out and explained that she was very worried about her friends.
“I don’t have the same inhibitions when going out now,” Rosie added. “I don’t feel so carefree. You start to doubt the people around you, which is really sad.”
Previous data from police forces in England and Wales shows that almost 5,000 needle and alcohol vaccinations were reported from September 2021 to September 2022, but this data did not include spiked e-cigarettes.
Helena Conibear, chief executive of the Alcohol Education Trust, a charity that distributes alcohol testing and information to students across the UK, said e-cigarettes and edibles were laced with substances similar to those found in soft and alcoholic drinks.
“Time and time again, victims tell us that bouncers or staff have left them outside, told concerned friends that the victim was drunk, or denied that spikes were taking place on their premises,” she said.
“Our other concern is how A&E handles spike cases, as there is no requirement for testing and victims are often simply sent home and told to report to police or victim services.”
Ms Conibear said studies show that most victims of binge drinking never report the incident and “feel let down by medical services”.
She added: “Between 70 and 90 per cent of those affected did not report it at the time because they thought they would not be believed or taken seriously.
“Thanks to the work of police, good venues and universities, there are now much better measures in place – including rapid urine testing, dedicated welfare and active spectator staff, safe spaces in venues and alcohol testing kits.”
David Sidwick and Joy Allen, joint director of addiction and substance misuse at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said: “Spiking is a vile crime that puts lives at risk. This freshman year, we urge university students to be vigilant and look out for their friends.”
It comes after a woman recently shared it The Independent about her experience with spikes and said she supports a lawsuit against the government by activists who claim not enough is being done to combat the crime.