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Dublin: 14 °C Friday 19 July, 2019

Drink spiking: 'I was ashamed. I felt like I had done something wrong'

There are no reliable statistics on how many women have their drinks spiked but anecdotally it appears to be an issue, writes Shauna Bowers.

Shauna Bowers

ONE MINUTE I was dancing, I was with friends and was really enjoying myself. I remember thinking to myself: “Wow, I’m a bit dizzier than I was two seconds ago but I haven’t had that much to drink.”

I thought it was just dehydration and stopped drinking immediately. I had only had three drinks over the space of at least 6 hours. Two of those had more 7up than alcohol in them. I had poured them myself before we went out.

I had eaten a big dinner beforehand and I wasn’t on any medication that could react with alcohol.

Blacking out

My vision began to blur. It was like the part of my brain that comprehends the images in front of me stopped working. I was beginning to lose my balance.

That’s when I realised that something was not right. Nausea decided to show its ugly head and my legs were beginning to give out beneath me. My friend helped me to bathroom because I thought throwing up would make me feel better.

It didn’t. I ended up going unconscious and that’s what scares me the most. One minute I was throwing up, the next, I was in this big armchair and a fluorescent yellow, reflective vest was obstructing my vision.

I can’t remember

I can’t remember getting from the bathroom to that chair. Apparently I was on the back of a security guard because I could not walk myself.

Luckily I had great friends with me that night. They contacted my parents who came to collect me.

I was convinced that my parents would think that I got drunk and that’s why I was in this state, but even they could tell that this was something other than overindulgence in alcohol.

shutterstock_30929878 Source: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

It’s impossible to get hard statistics on how common it is

With the festive season quickly approaching, there are Christmas parties and other events involving alcohol.

We don’t know how many drinks get spiked in Ireland because the majority of incidents go unreported. However, from speaking to other women, a lot of them have experienced, or know somebody who has experienced drink spiking.

US research

There was a study conducted in America by Suzanne Swan from the University of South Carolina. She looked at survey data from 6,064 students from three different universities.

Some 462 students reported 539 incidents in which they said they had been drugged. Another 83 people said that they had drugged someone or know somebody who drugged another person.

Although this survey was conducted on American college students, it is still applicable here in Ireland. When I started telling people about what had happened to me, the majority of people could relate.

Victims of drink spiking

More than a few of them said: “My friend was spiked when she looked away from her drink for two seconds. She was still holding it but she wasn’t watching it, obviously.”

Others said: “My friend said she was spiked but I think it was just too much alcohol.”

While I understand that some people could use spiking as an excuse for getting drunk, we also must remember that we can’t expect people to come forward and report these incidents if they are greeted with doubts and accusations instead of support.

Ireland’s hidden epidemic?

In May of this year, Gary Bates, a businessman from Derry, invented a product that can test a drink for date-rape drugs. He too saw that drink spiking was on the rise, especially among students.

Drink spiking has become a huge epidemic in recent years and sometimes it is done just to see how people react. Sometimes it’s to steal from people and other times it is for rape.

Some people deem it to be “funny” to see a person’s inhibitions lowered to that extent. From personal experience, I can assure you that it is not funny.

Many people believe that date-rape drugs are the most common means of spiking but very often alcohol is the substance of choice, according to Using alcohol as a way of spiking someone’s drink means that if you get blood or urine tests done then it will seem like you just drank too much, rather than proving that your drink was, in fact, spiked.

Anybody can have their drink spiked

When I woke up the next morning I was still lightheaded, disoriented, nauseous and exhausted. Most of all though, I was ashamed. I felt like I had done something wrong and I know now that I did not. This was not my fault.

I never found out what was put in my drink. I didn’t even try. I was so ashamed and embarrassed that I just wanted to forget about it.

I’m a careful, responsible adult but that doesn’t matter. Drink spiking can happen to anyone.

Shauna Bowers is a journalism student in DCU and the Features Editor of The College View – DCU’S student newspaper.

Support for €1.50 date rape drug test kit to be sold in pubs>

A group of Cork students have designed an app that tells if a drink has been spiked>

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About the author:

Shauna Bowers

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