What is drink spiking?
Drink spiking occurs when a person deliberately adds alcohol or another drug to a drink without the knowledge of the person who will be drinking it. This means the person could become intoxicated unexpectedly.
Drinks are spiked for a number of reasons. These include amusement or to facilitate sexual assault, rape or theft.
How common is drink spiking?
There is currently no way to determine the exact number of drink spiking incidents that have occurred in Australia. Incidents of drink spiking are under-reported mainly due to:
The Australian Institute of Criminology suggests that between 15 and 19 suspected drink spiking incidents occurred per 100,000 persons in Australia during 2002‒20031.
Alcohol is the most commonly used substance in drink spiking. This occurs when a person is given a stronger drink than expected, either through substitution or through adding additional alcohol to their drink.
Apart from alcohol, the drugs most commonly used in drink spiking are central nervous system depressants such as GHB and Rohypnol®. These drugs can change a person's behaviour, causing anything from a loss of inhibition to a loss of consciousness.
Increased media attention in recent years has led to the belief that spiking drinks with substances other than alcohol is becoming more common. However, there is not much evidence to support this2.
Why is it happening?
Most drink spiking incidents are considered to be 'prank spiking', with the motivation being fun or amusement. This practice ignores the potentially serious physical and mental health risks related to drink spiking.
Sexual assault is also commonly linked with drink spiking. Estimates suggest that one-third of drink spiking incidents are associated with a sexual attack2.
Who are the targets?
Reports show that drink spiking victims are usually women, with as few as one in five victims being men. About 50% of victims are under the age of 24 years2.
Despite these figures, there is no typical drink spiking case. It can happen to anyone.
A drink spiking scenario
Tony and Cassie are out on their first date at a new nightclub in the city. Tony is drinking beer and Cassie rum and cola. Tony is getting the drinks from the bar and, unknown to Cassie, instead of ordering single shots of rum he is ordering double shots of rum. Even though Tony thinks his actions are harmless and a bit of fun, he is in fact committing a crime.
There is evidence to suggest that an increasing number of drink spiking incidents are occurring when a friend or acquaintance buys double or triple shots of spirits when the victim believes they are drinking single shots. Generally, these people do not think they are committing an offence.
Is it illegal?
Drink spiking is illegal in all Australian states and territories. Penalties include fines and imprisonment ranging from two to 25 years.
Victorian legislation makes the spiking of another person's food or drink an offence. The offence is committed even if the food or drink is not consumed or if the spiking does not harm the person3.
How will I know if my drink has been spiked?
If your drink has been spiked you may not be able to see, smell or taste it. The drug or extra alcohol may be colourless and odourless and may not affect the taste of your drink.
Warning signs include:
What to do if your drink is spiked
How to avoid drink spiking
When out at a pub, club or party, watch your drinks.
Drink spiking is serious: In an emergency, telephone triple zero (000) or the nearest police station.
For information about sexual assault, or for counselling or referral, call 1800RESPECT 1800 737 732, Australia's national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.
1. Lievore, D. (2003). Non-reporting and hidden recording of sexual assault: an international literature review.
2. Australian Institute of Criminology. (2004). National Project on Drink Spiking: Investigating the nature and extent of drink spiking in Australia.
3. Higgins, C. (2008). Crimes Legislation Amendment (Food and Drink Spiking) Bill 2008. Melbourne: Parliamentary Library
Last updated: 29 June 2016