Tis’ the season for drink spiking

17 Dec 2018

BY MPHO KUHLMANN

Last December, Thuli Moemedi who works for Metropolitan Life woke up after a night out with friends not remembering a single detail about the night before. “I remember having one drink with a bunch of friends, anything after that is a total blur.”  As she pieces together the night’s details, her stomach drops as memories flood her, she recalls a male friend assisting her into his car. “Luckily he didn’t harm or take advantage of me. He had noticed me in my vulnerable state after having one drink. It really could have been worse. I couldn’t open a case because I had no evidence,” She says many spiking attacks are not reported. Most victims don’t report their cases because there is no concrete evidence that their drinks had been spiked.

December is a time for letting our hair down, but sadly criminals are at their busiest too. The festive season is a time when everyone is in a mood to be jolly and will most probably be attending year-end functions, braais and be out and about with friends.

Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University Of Botswana says a lot of people think drink spiking is a myth when it actually isn’t. “Spiking drinks is a crime, a crime with which someone may go to prison for up to 10 years, especially if another serious crime was performed or planned. In addition to drink spiking being illegal, by spiking a drink you place the person at a great health risk. Some people may have serious reactions to these drugs, in some cases these types of reactions have resulted in death. Anyone can be a victim of drink spiking, there are certain situations which may make you more vulnerable.. Most of the time, women are victims of drink spiking, although men are not immune from this crime. Many people do not think they are at risk of drink spiking and do not consider it a common occurrence. Some people may no longer consider an unknown person to be a stranger after talking to them for a while; they are then more likely to accept a drink from them. A stranger may strike up a conversation with you and offer you a drink. As the drink is passed to you, the person keeps you engaged while spiking the drink; a bartender may pass you a drink and let you know it is from another patron. This may seem flattering but may be sinister. Assuming that your perpetrator could be a total stranger is a mistake - more often than not it is someone in your friendship circle.”  She says this festive season; friends need to look out for one another to ensure that others in the group are safe.

Drinks are not only spiked at pubs and clubs, but also at private house and school parties. Victims are often between the ages of 16 and 24 and although males are also at risk the majority of victims are females, A drink is spiked when a mind-altering substance such as alcohol or drugs have been added to a person’s drink without their knowledge. Any drink can be spiked, including alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, juice, cool drink and even water. Spiking a drink is illegal and potentially life-threatening to the person who drinks it. People spike drinks for a number of reasons: the most common motivations include wanting to sexually assault, rape or rob the person, wanting to see the effect it will have on the person, wanting to play a practical joke or wanting to liven up a party. There are certain drugs that are used to spike your drink – the most common being Rohypnol aka the roofie. The drugs of choice in the streets are regular eye drops as well as brake fluid which is smeared on the rim of the glass. Like the other drugs, eye drops have no smell and are clear, but one would need to ingest a fair amount for it to have the same effect that a relatively small dose of Rohypnol would .There is another, more frighteningly mundane culprit, something as simple as vodka in white wine. People forget that alcohol is still by far the most commonly used drug in this context.

There are three categories of spiking. Category one involves an individual or group who wants to experiment with alcohol and drugs. This is normally done at a house party without any supervision and they are usually uninformed about the effects it will have. Category two is the drug or date rapist. The spiker targets a specific girl and tries to render her unconscious in order to take sexual advantage of her. In most cases the victim knows the perpetrator. This spiker usually has knowledge about drugs and their effects – unlike the victim. Often times the drugs used as date rape drugs include Benzodiazepine which is in the sedative family, they are mainly prescribed for insomnia or/and anxiety disorders. GHB or liquid G as it is popularly known is a central nervous depressant. GHB is typically found in a clear liquid form. It is odorless and tasteless, making it virtually undetectable in a drink.  or Ketamine which is an anaesthetic. Women have been warned to never leave their drinks unattended whenever they are out and to always either open a drink themselves or be present when it is made when someone offers them a drink. Accepting an open drink can be a setup. Date rape drugs such as liquid G are said to make a drink taste soapy or salty but one might not be able to feel a difference after a few drinks. Drugs used to spike drinks cannot be seen, smelt or tasted. If your drink has been spiked, symptoms will depend on which drug was used, your body shape and size, age and how much alcohol, if any, you drank. Common symptoms include: dizziness and difficulty walking, nausea or vomiting, tiredness and fatigue, slurred speech, blurred vision, feeling drunk after having a small amount of alcohol.

Thebe Lebotse who works at Haskins Gaborone says contrary to popular belief, men get their drinks spiked too. “Prior to it happening to me I never believed that men can get drugged. I was out on one Friday which also happened to be month end. I was buying drinks for everyone at the bar which must have caught the attention of my spiker. Till date I still don’t know if it was a male or female. I remember being amidst a large crowd of people drinking and being merry then staggering towards the bathroom, everything else after that is a blur. I woke up the next day with my phone and money all gone.” He says the festive season is almost upon us. It is better to be prepared for a night out and know how to keep yourself safe as far as possible.