On Halloween, it’s expected to be scared of ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night. What you shouldn’t be afraid of is getting your drink spiked. Unfortunately, it does happen — and far more often than any run-ins with the supernatural. This is especially true at Halloween parties where dim lighting and costumes can provide an extra level of anonymity.
Drink spiking is most often associated with date rape, but friends can also spike each other’s drinks. In fact, a recent Alcohol.org study found that half of women reported having their drinks spiked by a stranger, while 42 percent of men said their drink had been spiked by a friend. No matter the source, Ruchi Dhami, director of Market Insights and Development at American Addiction Centers, says drink spiking is “dangerous and, in some cases, can lead to death.”
In a perfect world, it would go without saying that you should never spike another person’s drink, but movies like The Hangover have a tendency to make drink spiking seem glamorous and adventurous. This is a big problem, especially on college campuses where Halloween parties abound and half of spiking situations occur, according to Alcohol.org. “It might be ‘funny’ to see your friend slurring their words or acting odd but mixing drugs like Rohypnol or ‘Roofies,’ MDMA, LSA, or anything else out there on the market with alcohol is something we strongly discourage,” Dhami explains. “Not only could doing so lead to death, but it also makes your friend vulnerable and can potentially lead to them being taken advantage of without their consent.”
Bottom line: Don’t spike people’s drinks. Ever.
On the flip side, it’s never your fault if your drink gets spiked. It’s important to know that, but it’s just as important to know these 5 safety tips that can help prevent drink spiking when you go out this Halloween (and every other night).
1. Know that drink spiking can happen to anyone, regardless of gender.
While drink spiking might seem like a rare occurrence, Dhami says, “Spiking is common and affects both men and women.” In fact, Alcohol.org’s study found that 56 percent of women and 44 percent of men unknowingly consumed spiked food or drinks. “The first safety tip is to be aware of that reality,” he says. Being informed about the risks allows you to be better prepared to prevent them.
Still, even if you take the utmost precaution, you can never 100 percent prevent yourself from consuming a spiked drink. “When a victim has had their drink spiked, it’s important to look at what could have been done to prevent the spiking but spiking is ultimately a reflection of today’s predatory culture,” Dhami affirms.
2. Familiarize yourself with the signs of spiking.
These include loss of balance, euphoria, extreme drunkenness, and slurring of words. “If something starts to feel off, alert your friends and who you are with so you’re protected and looked after,” Dhami advises. When you know what you’re looking for, it’s easier to spot and, consequently, easier to handle.
3. Go out with people you trust.
This is true every time you’re drinking in a public place, but especially on Halloween, when you’re more likely to encounter strangers on top of the increased tendency to binge drink. Dhami encourages people to go out with friends they trust. You may even want to use the “buddy system” within your larger friend group so everyone has a specific person they can look out for and rely on if spiking happens. This will also ensure that no one gets left behind with someone who might try to take advantage of them if they become incapacitated.
4. Don’t leave your drink unattended.
You’ve probably heard this saftey tip before, but it’s worth repeating. “Spiking is so common and often undetectable, so anyone who is consuming alcohol publicly should stay alert,” Dhami said. One of the best ways to do this is to keep your drink in your hand at all times, while being mindful of your surroundings at a bar or a Halloween party. Stay alert if/when those surroundings change, especially if someone nearby suddenly makes you feel uncomfortable. That’s the moment you need to “safely remove yourself from the situation,” Dhami encourages. You can do this by excusing yourself to go to the bathroom and, if needed, dumping out your drink there. While you’re in the bathroom, text your friends to let them know what’s going on and how to proceed.
5. If your or a friend’s drink does get spiked, report it.
Despite your best efforts, your drink could still get spiked. (Again, that is never your fault.) If that happens, Dhami says you should first get to a safe place with people you trust and then immediately alert law enforcement. “Many people hold the belief that law enforcement won’t act [62 percent of women and 52 percent of men surveyed by Alcohol.org],” Dhami says. “But when spiking goes unreported, they aren’t able to act, so report it.” In fact, he urges people to report a spiking incident to the police because while they may not be able to catch a specific perpetrator every time, if they don’t know it happened, it becomes more difficult to prevent future spiking incidents.