The morning after a night out will greet each person with the individual symptoms of a hangover, whether that includes headaches, dehydration or general nausea amongst other indicators.
Waking up on this fateful Sunday morning after visiting Nottingham Trent SU I immediately felt violently sick and struggled to stay on my feet without feeling faint. A few hours later after further rest, having shrugged it off as a freak occurrence, I decided to get some lunch from the local corner shop. When reaching the counter for payment I noticed that my debit card was missing and assumed it must have been back in my room. An extensive search led me to the obvious conclusion that I must have lost it the night before. I called up my bank to declare it lost: after answering many of the routine questions I nonchalantly told the operator when prompted, that as far as I remembered there was around £900 in my bank account remaining. I can still to this day recall the hesitation in her voice as she corrected me and said that I was in fact £600 in the red. Putting the phone down I swiftly checked my account online and saw for the first time the details of what exactly had transpired the night before with payments ranging from £129 at PC World to an amazing £487 in B&Q: all on that Sunday morning whilst I was asleep.
When summoning the image of your typical drink spiking victim you would be forgiven – regardless of age, looks or colour – for assuming they would be female. Never before had it occurred to me that I could be a target for drink spiking. According to the Roofie Foundation, which actively campaigns for increased recognition in the dangers of drug rape specifically, around 600 cases of drug rape are reported each year with a staggering 84% of victims failing to report the crime. Unfortunately, instances of drink spiking without sexual assault are not recorded although the foundation admit that the number of cases reported rises into the thousands when taking that into account. Something that surprised me was that as much as 10% of the crimes reported involved a male victim.
Immediately after this appalling discovery I reported the crime and began the daunting prospect of recovering the £1600 I had lost. Having contacted the police and obtained a crime reference number I was instructed to personally visit my bank the following day and was interviewed by the bank’s fraud department to ascertain the details of the crime. Throughout all this I was initially very grateful for the help and support provided by the bank who reassured me that I would soon be reimbursed with the money stolen. However, having been completely honest with all my experiences, the fraud department concluded a fortnight after the event that there was not sufficient evidence to accept my claim and that there was every chance I could have spent the money myself and attempted to make a quick couple of thousand pounds through cheating them. The bank then immediately ceased co-operation with me and explained that the only way I stood any chance of recovering the money was to hope that the police could catch the criminals. Despite the full support of the Nottinghamshire police they informed me that it was impossible to review the CCTV footage due to a policy implemented by a majority of companies who recycle their footage every two weeks meaning any potential clips involving the criminals would have been deleted. With this crushing news I was forced to come to terms with the fact that I will never see the money again.
The most common drugs used when spiking a drink include Rohypnol, Amma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and Ketamine, which are all depressants used to dull your responses and instincts and will cause you to lose control over your actions. Many of the drugs used can be legally prescribed to cure anxiety and insomnia but when taken unknowingly can leave you vulnerable just five minutes later. Symptoms include drowsiness, difficulty concentrating and difficulty communicating or slurred speech, which can last for up to 7 hours. The fact that these drugs are generally mixed with alcohol may also create a powerful anaesthetic effect resulting in unconsciousness for prolonged periods of time leaving you as easy prey for spikers. Surprisingly, an increasingly more common form of drink spiking is alcohol itself; with people prowling on unsuspecting drinkers and ensuring double portions instead of single. I was found by friends back in our halls at around 5am, three or four hours after last being seen, stumbling around outside talking complete gibberish and acting incredibly strangely. To cry wolf and claim drink spiking at the merest sign of foul play has probably become all too common. For someone who drank their usual proportions and became far drunker than they’d expected it is an extremely easy way out of confronting the embarrassing tales of your behaviour. Although I will obviously never have this confirmed my devastating financial situation leads me to only one obvious conclusion.
In ensuring that your drink does not get spiked there are kits available online which can be used to test your drink for the major groups of drugs. These include products such as the ‘Drink Detective’, a card with three separate tests for the three major groups of drugs used on it. There is also the ‘Top Stoppa’ invented by the father of a 25 year-old man who was found unconscious after having his drink spiked. This device is tamper proof and lets you know if someone has fiddled with your drink by containing a ring pull, which must be removed before anything is added inside it. Whilst these devices are useful and fairly effective they are simply impractical on a night out, especially in a club when there is always a push to ensure you are served as quickly as possible. The best way to ensure you do not become a victim is to never leave your drink unattended, never accept a drink from a stranger, keep an eye out for your friends and travel in large groups. Another strategy I have used ever since I became a victim is to leave my debit card at home and to take out a little more money than I normally would have done. Yes, it may mean you spend a little more than average on nights out but at least it will not cost you your student loan and the whole of your overdraft! Another strategy my friends have employed is to create a separate bank account with no overdraft and only a little money inside it and to take that card only on nights out: ensuring that if money is lost it will be kept to a minimum.
In the last month I have been told by my bank that I will need to repay the overdraft from the account in the next couple of weeks or risk being taken to court over the matter. I am currently receiving support from the Students’ Union who have been incredibly helpful and supportive in helping me rebuild a case against the bank to ensure that the money I must repay is kept to a minimum. My lesson has been learnt: leave your debit card at home, keep an eye on your drink at all times and never trust bankers who will find any reason to ensure their profit margins remain just a few extra pounds higher.