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Updated on August 25, 2023
5 min read

What is Drink Spiking?

Kelly Brown
Elena Borrelli M.S.PAC
Written by 
9 Sources Cited
Kelly Brown
Written by 
9 Sources Cited

Drink spiking is more common than most people realize despite it being illegal. There are a variety of health risks that come from drink spiking, which is why it’s essential to be aware of this act and its consequences.

What is Drink Spiking?

Drink spiking occurs when someone puts alcohol or any other drug into someone else’s drink without their knowledge. This act is a crime.

It’s often done with a desire to inebriate someone and commit sexual assault or robbery. However, drink spiking also occurs as a prank or without further criminal intention.

Examples of drink spiking include:

  • Adding alcohol to a non-alcoholic drink
  • Adding extra alcohol to an alcoholic drink
  • Adding a prescription or illegal drug to any drink

What Substances are Commonly Used to Spike Drinks?

The most common substance used to spike a drink is alcohol. Often, colorless and odorless alcohol, such as vodka, is chosen.

Drinks can also be spiked with drugs. Drugs commonly used to spike a drink include benzodiazepines (like Rohypnol), GHB, Diphenhydramine, and ketamine. These drugs do little to change the drink's color, taste, or smell.

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What are the Symptoms of Drink Spiking?

Symptoms of alcohol-spiked drinks include the usual signs of drunkenness. These include:

  • Slow and/or poor judgment
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Vision problems
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of balance
  • Slurred speech

Drinks spiked with drugs cause drowsiness and might cause blackouts. 

Can Memory Loss Be Connected to Drink Spiking?

Most date rape drugs used for drink spiking, including Rohypnol, can cause memory loss when given in high doses.

What are the Legal Ramifications of Spiking a Drink?

Spiking someone’s drink is a crime, with laws varying from state to state and country to country. However, drink spiking is illegal everywhere.

You can be charged with a crime if you spike drinks. The convicted perpetrator can serve jail time and pay a fine that varies based on the location of the crime and a variety of other factors.1

The degree to which someone can be charged depends on the type of substance and where the offense occurred. Adding a legal substance like alcohol without the drinker’s knowledge is a lesser offense than adding a Schedule I or Schedule II substance unless the victim is under 21. 

In either case, someone could be charged with Consumption by Fraudulent Means and Second Degree Assault. The perpetrator could also face additional charges if they commit another crime after spiking the drink.

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What Should You Do If You Suspect Drink Spiking?

If you believe a drink has been spiked, you can take action by following these examples:

  • Stop drinking (the less you’ve consumed of a drink spiked with alcohol or drugs, the better).
  • Contact someone you trust to help you get to a safe place.
  • Go to the emergency room, especially if you’ve been sexually assaulted or feel unwell.
  • Contact the establishment and tell the manager, security, or staff what occurred.
  • Seek psychological support to help you cope.
  • Contact the police as soon as possible.
  • Ask for a drug test from your doctor or at the hospital (Urine or blood tests can pick up traces of certain drugs up to 24 hours later).

How Can Venue Staff Help in Cases of Suspected Drink Spiking?

The venue or bar staff can help someone involved in a suspected incident of drink spiking by:

  • Staying with them and talking
  • Contacting emergency support, especially if their condition deteriorates
  • Preventing them from leaving alone
  • Preventing them from leaving with someone they don't know or trust
  • Not serving them more alcohol
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How to Avoid a Drink Spiked with Alcohol or Other Drugs

Several things can be done to avoid becoming a victim of drink spiking. You can take the following precautionary measures listed below.

  • Keep your drink close to you or in your hand at all times.
  • Never leave your drink unattended.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
  • Watch as the bartender makes/pours your drink.
  • Don’t sip from anyone else’s drink.
  • Discard your drink if it tastes unusual.

The Role of Friends and Acquaintances in Preventing Drink Spiking

Friends and people in your group can help prevent drink spiking. If you must leave your drink, ask someone you trust, like a close friend, to watch your drink. 

Remember, an unattended drink means there’s a risk of it being spiked. The only way to know if your drink is unspiked is to always keep it with you to be aware of its contents.

Common Questions About Drink Spiking

How Do You Check If Your Drink Has Been Spiked?

Signs that a drink was spiked include a change in fizz, a change in taste or color, a foggy or cloudy appearance, and/or sinking ice.

Some spiked drinks don’t look, smell, or taste any different. There are test strips that detect certain drugs.

What Happens When a Drink Has Been Spiked?

Consuming a spiked drink can trigger any effect, from fuzzy thinking to poor judgment to blackouts. People feel confusion, shame, guilt, and anger even after the immediate effects disappear.

Are the Effects of a Spiked Drink the Same for Everyone?

The effects of a spiked drink vary based on the substance used. If a drink is spiked with alcohol, the effects are based on how much alcohol was used. 

How Long Can the Effects of a Spiked Drink Last?

The duration of a spiked drink’s effects varies. The length of time depends on the substance used. For instance, some people can feel the effects of rohypnol for up to 12 hours.2

Alcohol’s effects has a shorter duration and the disorienting effects tend to wear off after a few hours.3

Factors that affect the duration of the effects include age, weight, other substances in their system, etc.

Summary

Drink spiking occurs when someone puts a substance into someone else’s drink without permission. Doing this is a crime, whether or not illegal drugs were used. 

Other crimes, including sexual assault, sometimes accompany it. This is why some drink-spiking incidents are linked to date rape drugs.

Anyone who’s been a victim of drink spiking should seek support. Visit the nearest emergency department and follow up with victim support if you were a victim of physical assault or were given a date rape drug.

Updated on August 25, 2023
9 sources cited
Updated on August 25, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. 18 U.S. Code § 1365 - Tampering with Consumer Products.” Cornell Law School, 2002. 

  2. Student Research on Rohypnol.” National University of Natural Medicine, 2019. 

  3. How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?” Cleveland Clinic, 2021. 

  4. Bouranova, A. “Do You Think Your Drink Was Spiked? How to Recognize the Symptoms and Take the Right Steps.” Boston University, 2023.

  5. Mills, K. “More Than A Myth: Drink Spiking Happens.” American Psychological Association, 2016.

  6. State Government of Victoria. “Drink Spiking.” Department of Health, 2020.

  7. Hughes et al. “A Study of Patients Presenting to an Emergency Department Having Had a “Spiked Drink”.” Emergency Medicine Journal, 2007. 

  8. Greene et al. “What’s Being Used to Spike Your Drink? Alleged Spiked Drink Cases in Inner City London.” Postgraduate Medical Journal, 2007.

  9. U.S. Justice Department. “Your Drink Is Drugged | Just Think Twice.” Drug Enforcement Administration.

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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