‘Drink spiking epidemic’ prompts nightclub boycotts nationwide

The recent “drink spiking epidemic” in nightclubs across the country has prompted an uproar at many universities, with students demanding better security measures at nightclubs. 

The backlash started after multiple women reported being spiked with needles at clubs in Exeter and other university towns. For instance, University of Nottingham student Zara Owen reported blacking out at a Nottinghamshire club after allegedly being pricked in the leg with a needle. 

According to a Freedom of Information Act request, investigations of drink spiking in England and Wales have more than doubled in three years, with an estimated 25 reports every week. An independent investigation led by the BBC reported 2,650 drink spiking incidents in England and Wales between 2015 and 2019. Women have alleged that club staff and bouncers have been unhelpful during spiking incidents, often mistaking date-rape drug symptoms for inebriation

Additionally, a parliamentary petition calling for comprehensive security checks at nightclubs has been created, gaining more than 150,000 signatures. The UK Parliament is set to debate the matter in the coming weeks. Home Secretary Priti Patel has also urged police chiefs to investigate drink spiking by needles to gauge the scale of the issue. Clubs in Leeds have responded to the boycotts by announcing enhanced security checks and the provision of drink covers

University students across the nation have responded by calling for nightclub boycotts on multiple dates throughout October and November to bring further attention to the issue and protest the acquiescence of the clubbing industry. 

The LSE Athletics Union (AU) has called for a boycott of the Wednesday sports night at the Zoo Bar and Club on 27 October. In an email to the AU Clubs committee members AU President Patrick Claxton said, “This is a great chance to start discussions about recent events and how we as a Union can help to shape the response.”

However, even with augmented security at clubs, the threat of spiking at house parties and university halls persists. According to a survey conducted by American Addiction Centers, approximately half of victims reported being spiked at house parties, whereas less than 13 percent reported being spiked at clubs

For instance, a student who lived at LSE’s Carr-Saunders Hall last year suspects being spiked during a gathering in her room. According to her, many strangers ended up joining the small gathering, where she passed out after only one drink. The next day, after periodically vomiting throughout the day and suffering from heart palpitations, she started questioning whether she may have been spiked. She said, “I’ve become so paranoid about drinking ever since. The scariest part is that it happened in my own room.”

The LSE Students’ Union has instituted mandatory “Consent.Ed” training workshops for all students this year. Hannah Brown, one of the workshop facilitators, believes the campaign has a lot to offer in addressing drink spiking. She said Consent.Ed’s emphasis on “bystander intervention” teaches students to “look out for one another and intervene when necessary” during such incidents. The LSESU Women’s Officer Sibylle Xatart also pointed to the HandsOff campaign led by the SU to tackle such issues around safety. 

An LSE spokesperson also issued a statement on the issue, encouraging students to reach out for help as needed: “Drinks spiking is a serious crime and if you suspect it has happened to you, you should report it to the police as soon as possible. In addition, you can access LSE safe contacts for support. These trained members of LSE staff can confidentially signpost you to the help available at the School.” Students can access LSE safe contacts on the school website

Note: This story was published in The Beaver’s Issue #914 in November 2021.

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