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Drink spiking

alcohol; attacker; amnesia; assault; date; drinks; drunk; driver; drugs; intoxicated; memory; police; date; rape; safe; sexual; spiked; offender;


The issue

Drink spiking is when someone adds a drug (an illegal or prescription drug, or alcohol) to someone else's drink without them knowing.

  • It is often done with the aim of sexually assaulting or otherwise taking advantage of the person while they are affected by the drug. This is sometimes called 'date rape'.

The most common way of spiking a drink is adding extra alcohol to a drink or putting alcohol into a drink that the person thinks does not contain alcohol.

Most of the drugs commonly used in drink spiking and sexual assault crimes have similar effects.

  • They leave the victim less able to fend off any unwanted advances.
  • They can even make it seem as though the victim is consenting, ie. allowing the sexual advances of their attacker.

Different drugs can take different amounts of time to be removed from the body (ie. by being broken down or passed in the urine).

  • After 72 hours there may be little if any trace of the drug in the victim's body. This can sometimes make it hard to prove that drugs were used in an assault.
  • In addition, these types of drugs may cause amnesia (a loss of memory), so that the person may not be sure what actually happened, making it tough to convict a perpetrator.

How often does this happen?

Some Australian research suggests that up to 19% of women have been sexually assaulted at some time. Although it is often assumed that this usually happens to women, many young men are also sexually assaulted.

  • Many of these assaults have occurred when the women or men were young and affected by alcohol or other drugs, including situations when their drink might have been 'spiked'.
  • Most of these assaults were by people they knew, and some by people they trusted.

Many young women and men who are sexually assaulted while they have been affected by drugs do not report that they have been assaulted, sometimes because:

  • they fear what else could be done to them
  • they know and had trusted the person who assaulted them
  • they think that they will not be believed
  • they don't really know what happened because their drink was spiked
  • they feel that it must have been their fault.

Even if there is a close and caring relationship with their parents or friends, many young people will not tell them because:

  • they feel guilty, as if they were responsible
  • they believe (probably rightly) that their parents or friends will be extremely distressed and angry with the person who did the assault, and this might cause more problems.

Being safe

The person who spikes drinks and sexually assaults someone is responsible for the crime. It is never the fault of the person who was raped or sexually assaulted. Drink spiking with intent to rape or sexually assault, or drink spiking followed by rape or sexual assault, is a criminal offence that can result in a jail sentence.

Drugs used to spike someone's drink can be colourless and tasteless, so you may not know that something has been added to your drink.

These crimes often happen in clubs, bars and private parties.

Here are some ways people can keep safer.

  • Do not accept drinks from someone you do not trust. However, you should not stop being careful just because you know someone. Eighty percent (80%) of rapes are committed by people the victim/survivor knows.  
  • Do not leave your drink unattended, not even for a trip to the toilet. Finish it before you go, or don't drink any more when you come back - pour it out to prevent someone else drinking it.
  • If someone is buying you a drink, go to the bar and watch it being poured.
  • Do not drink from a communal drink, like a punch bowl, or a container that is being passed around.
  • If you think your drink tastes funny, discard it. If you leave it lying around, someone else may drink it. Don't fall for lines like, "Oh that salty taste is just because it's an energy drink."
  • Try and limit how much alcohol you drink, and be wary of someone who is keen to buy you lots of drinks.
  • Don't judge a book by its cover. Sometimes people may feel they can spot a potential perpetrator, or a 'sleazy' or 'dodgy' person. However, many reports of sexual assault describe the perpetrator as good looking, charismatic and presentable.
  • Don't think that because you have been talking to someone for a while that they are safe and can be trusted.
  • Have a designated sober person. He or she could be the driver and could get help if something happens. They can also check on you and others to see if you are acting funny or out of character.
  • Other people can also do something about drink spiking. They can stop someone from spiking another's drink or they can warn someone that their drink has been spiked.

The Australian Red Cross has a website 'Save a mate - ClubSAM - have fun, party safe and look after your mates this summer'. 

What to do if your drink has been spiked

If you feel drunk but you have had very little to drink, or you have not knowingly had any alcohol - your drink may have been spiked.

  • Tell someone you trust straight away that you are worried.
  • Consider calling the police.
  • Get to a safe place, but do not drive.
  • Seek medical help. Call an ambulance (000) or get someone to take you to a hospital as soon as possible. The sooner you go the more chance you will have of getting the medical attention you need in order to recover from the effects of the drug(s).
  • People react differently to drugs. The effect is dependant on age, weight and other factors - such as whether the person has also been drinking alcohol. If in doubt seek medical attention.
  • If you wake up in a strange place and cannot remember what has happened to you, try to get to safety as soon as possible.

If you have been, or suspect you have been, raped or sexually assaulted, it would be a good idea to contact the police or a sexual assault service.

If you are 16 years of age and over (South Australia)

The following resources can help in cases of rape and sexual assault.

  • South Australia Police - Sexual Crimes Investigation Branch (24 Hours) - Contact via 131 444. The police in this branch are specially trained to assist victims of rape, incest, child sexual abuse, and other serious sexual assaults.
  • Police Attendance (24 Hours) - Tel: 131 444
  • Emergency (24 Hours) - Tel: 000
  • Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service.
    2nd Floor, 55 King William Road, North Adelaide 5006
    24 Hours - Tel: (08) 8226-8787 (ring this number before going to Yarrow Place - they can guide you in working out what to do)
    Toll Free (country callers only): 1800-817-421
    • Yarrow Place offers free, confidential (within legal limits) counselling and medical services, for people 16 years or over at the time of the rape or sexual assault. Yarrow Place is not required to contact or notify police or parents but can support you if you do decide to contact the police.
    • If you are under 18 years of age, Yarrow Place is required to make a notification to Families SA. This does not mean that workers from Families SA will always follow up the report. However they usually become involved when your safety is further at risk, for example when:
      • the offender is a family member or acting in a care-giver role
      • the offender is a person in a position of power, for example, your teacher, priest or employer
      • the offender is likely to continue to have contact with you, for example, your neighbour, family friend or boarder.
    • Families SA will forward the information about the rape or sexual assault to the police. The police may contact you to discuss what you want to have happen.
    • Anyone can ring Yarrow Place anonymously without giving name or address and ask about rights and options in relation to a rape or sexual assault.
    • Yarrow Place also offers assistance and advice to people who are supporting someone who has experienced a rape or sexual assault.

If you are under 16 years of age

The following resources are available to help in rape and sexual assault cases.

  • Sexual Crimes Investigation Branch of the South Australia Police (24 Hours)  - Tel: 131 444. The police in this unit are specially trained to assist victims of rape, incest, child sexual abuse, and other serious sexual assaults.
  • Police Attendance (24 Hours) - Tel: 131 444
  • Emergency (24 Hours) - Tel: 000
  • Child Protection Units
    Counselling and/or medical support is available from the Child Protection Unit at the Women's and Children's Hospital (Tel: (08) 8161 7346), or at Flinders Medical Centre (Tel: (08) 8204 5485).


South Australia

  • The Youth Health Service
    - Central: 57 Hyde St Adelaide
    - South: 50a Beach Rd Christies Beach
    - North: 6 Gillingham Rd Elizabeth
    - West: 51 Bower St, Woodville
  • Side Street Counselling Service - Tel: (08) 8202 5871
  • Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia -
    • ADIS - Alcohol and Drug Information Service
      - Tel: 1300 131 340

Further reading


  • Save-A-Mate (SAM) is a program of the Red Cross. SAM promotes health and wellbeing of young people through peer education and support on issues such as alcohol and other drug use, and mental health.


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 'Personal Safety Survey' 2005

ADIN (Australian Drug Information Network):

Drug Prevention Network:

Gorin. T. (2000). Rohypnol - How the Hype Tricks Women: A Rape Crisis Centre View.' Canadian Women Studies.

Rape Treatment Center Santa Monica. . UCLA Medical Center 'Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault (DFSA)'

Morton, R. 'Spiked drinks: "I'm more worried about getting home on the train": A focus group study of young women's perceptions of risk and behaviours'. Youth Studies Australia. Vol 22 (3): 18-24.

Neame A. 'Beyond 'drink spiking': drug and alcohol facilitated sexual assault'. Australian Institute of Family Studies: 

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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