Mamamia Investigates: Drink spiking is still a huge problem. We spoke to 50 people about what happened to them.

Content warning: This story mentions sexual assault and may be distressing to some readers. 

All names have been changed for privacy reasons. 

Nicole was in a nightclub with a friend in South Australia.

Tess was at a wedding in Queensland.

Simone was in a corporate lounge in New South Wales.

All three began feeling unwell, ended up in hospital and later discovered their drinks had been spiked. 

Drink spiking remains an ongoing issue that continues to happen in venues across the country. 

In New South Wales reports of drink spiking hit a five-year high last year. 

According to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, police recorded 219 cases of drink or food spiking in the state in 2022, up from 154 cases in 2021. 

To shine a light on drink spiking, Mamamia spoke to 50 people who had their drink spiked to find out how easily it can happen and what needs to change to prevent it. 

What is drink spiking and how common is it?

Drink spiking occurs when drugs are slipped into someone's drink without their knowledge. Despite what many people might believe, the most common drug used is alcohol. 

This could look like "adding alcohol to a non-alcoholic drink or adding extra alcohol to an already alcoholic drink", Dr Nicole Lee, a professor at the National Drug Research Institute told Mamamia. 


"Most drink spiking is actually friends pranking each other. They might add an extra shot of alcohol to see their mates get drunk quicker. In a smaller number of cases drink spiking is intended to harm someone, like for sexual assault or theft."

Other drugs used in drink spiking include depressants or sedatives like ketamine, Rohypnol, and gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB). 

"These drugs are colourless and don't have a strong taste or odour, so are easily concealed," says Lee.

"They make you feel relaxed at lower doses but at higher doses make you feel very sleepy and can sometimes cause unconsciousness, blackouts, and loss of memory. Sometimes people find it hard to move or speak."

As for how common drink spiking is in Australia, the data remains limited. 

"We don't really know because most of it goes unreported… A research study a few years ago estimated a few thousand cases a year across Australia," says Lee. 

When Mamamia surveyed 50 people who had their drink spiked in Australia, only 24 per cent had reported it to police or a medical professional.  

28 per cent of respondents also said they had been spiked on more than one occasion and 92 per cent of respondents said they knew of at least one other person who has had their drink spiked.  

How many times has your drink been spiked? Image: Mamamia.


The reality of drink spiking in Australia. 

Of the 50 people Mamamia surveyed, 30 per cent of respondents had their drink spiked in the last five years, with half of the respondents spiked between the ages of 18-21.

However, drink spiking can happen to people of all ages and gender. 

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, one-third of drink spiking incidents can also lead to sexual assault.

"We receive a steady number of calls related to drug or substance facilitated assault," Tara Hunter, Director of Clinical and Client Services at Full Stop Australia, a national domestic violence and sexual assault counselling hotline, told Mamamia


"It occurs in public settings but can also occur in private homes/parties and can be facilitated by friends and acquaintances."

Here are just a few stories that highlight the reality of drink spiking in Australia. 

'I have brief flashes, feeling lost, holding on to a fence. The next day, the bruises started to appear.' Jessica, drink spiked in SA. 

"It was Christmas Eve at my hometown bar. It was a tradition to go for a drink and catch up with everyone who lives away… After ordering a glass of wine for me and my friend, I consumed that drink and have no further memory until the very early hours of Christmas Day. I have brief flashes, feeling lost, holding on to a fence (which happened to be barbed wire, I just couldn’t feel it at the time), feeling the most intoxicated I had ever been, and a feeling of determination to get home. I apparently waved down a car on a remote country road and was nearly hit, thankfully it was a local who drove me home. 

"I start to remember at the point of getting home, I crawled to the bathroom and got into the shower… My sister and mum helped get me into bed and were furious at me for being so drunk on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t until just before lunch that some people came around to return my phone that I realised I was missing it…. Then the bruises started to appear, finger marks over my arms, scratches on my body and bruises on my torso and neck. Together, my family and I pieced together that I must have had my drink spiked. It was terrifying as I only remember locals at the pub and the fear stopped my socialising for a very long time. I couldn’t trust anyone while out, so I just abstained."


'A bouncer found me slumped over in a corner.' Emma, drink spiked in NSW.

"I was at [a club] with a group of friends. We were having a good night and I bumped into a guy that I knew. It’s very patchy. I remember sitting down talking to him and then I woke up in the hospital. Apparently, a bouncer found me slumped over in a corner, with my mate nowhere to be found. I went to message him a few days later to find out what happened and he had blocked my number and all of his social media accounts. I ran into him a few years later and he turned around and bolted."

'The bartender put ketamine in my drink.' Kirsten, drink spiked in VIC.

"I was [out] for my uncle's 60th. The bartender put ketamine in my drink and I didn’t know. I felt unwell and went to the bathroom. I fell on the floor in the cubicle and couldn't get up. My legs wouldn’t work and I couldn’t speak as coherently as usual. Someone came in and then went and got my mum, [who] took me home. [It was] lucky I went to the bathroom and not outside to get air as the bartender was waiting, lurking, outside for me. The next day I went to the doctor and they ran some blood tests. There was ketamine in my system and I've never taken drugs in my life. It was so scary and the thought of what could have happened haunts me."

'There was a black Texta mark on my shoulder. Doctors believe whoever spiked my drink used it to identify who they targeted.' Nicole, drink spiked in South Australia. 

"It was around 10pm and I went and got myself and a girlfriend a drink [at a nightclub]. After that I don't remember much but I ended up collapsing inside the nightclub and the security basically dumped my body in a side alleyway. My friends rang an ambulance and I ended up spending a few days there. There was a black Texta mark left on my shoulder and the doctors believe it was marked by who ever spiked my drink to identify who they had targeted later in the evening. The same thing happened to me at the same club about 12-18 months later. I ended up in hospital and this time, I had violent outbursts. It is all still so vague to me but has significantly impacted me ever since."


'I was talking to a guy at the pub and then woke up in his bed.' Sarah, drink spiked in WA.

"[It] was in a small county town [and I was] a teacher. I woke up with no clothes on [and] no memory of what happened. I was 27. I was at the pub with friends, taking to this guy and then woke up in his bed. Sex, he told me happened. I told no one as I couldn’t comprehend how it happened. I also felt ashamed, I wish I had taken it further and still think about taking action… I feel so mad when I think about [how] he got away with it!"

'I was at a wedding and quickly became unresponsive.' Stephanie, drink spiked in Victoria. 

"I was at a wedding with my now ex-husband… He had gone to have a group photo taken. It was warm inside and he left while I went outside into the garden with two male acquaintances I'd met at our table but felt totally comfortable with. It wasn’t a large wedding and I wasn’t at all drunk. The photos took far longer than expected and at some point I excused myself to use the bathroom. I’m guessing that was when my drink was spiked. Very soon after speeches started, my ex-husband came to collect me and things went down quickly. Luckily my ex-husband recognised very quickly that I was not okay and was quickly becoming unresponsive."

'I was in a corporate lounge in 2023. I did not think this happened anymore.' Simone, drink spiked in NSW. 

"I was in a premium corporate lounge in 2023 in my thirties. Some other patrons invited me to sit with them and got my wine from the open bar. I have zero recollection from 3pm to 10pm when I woke up in the hospital. Thankfully, my partner noticed this wasn’t too many drinks, this was something completely different. He called an ambulance when I was unresponsive and convulsing. I woke up with the most horrid bitter taste in my mouth. It was truly jarring and I did not think this happened anymore, let alone in such a grown-up exclusive environment, I guess that’s easy prey when you feel safe.


'I was on a uni cruise and believe it was likely the bartender.' Jessie, drink spiked in VIC.

"I was on a uni cruise and thankfully surrounded by many friends. I believe it was likely the bartender, I only had one drink which never left my side and his behaviour before and after (recalled by my friends) pointed to him. I only remember the beginning of the night (boarding the uni cruise, chatting and getting that first drink) the next thing I [knew] I was in the bathroom at home and calling my boyfriend not remembering a thing, [and] texting my friends madly. Thankfully, they had realised something was up and took care of me all night, then got me home safely once we docked."

'I locked myself in a bathroom and was there until I came to.' Tess, drink spiked in QLD. 

"I was at a wedding at a venue. I don’t remember much, I locked myself in a bathroom and was there until I came too enough to get out of the venue. Passed out again on the street and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance."

'I remember waking up in a strange room.' Nikki, drink spiked in NSW and QLD. 

"The first time was at a nightclub in Brisbane. My friend and I both had our drinks spiked and completely blacked out. I remember being carried out of the venue by two security guards as I couldn’t use my legs. I blacked out, then came to getting out of a stranger's car at a friend's house. The second time was at a bar in Sydney. I was dancing on the dance floor and the next thing I remember is waking up in a strange room being raped. I blacked out again then woke up in the morning and left. I still have no idea who he was or what happened."


'After two drinks I was incredibly sick.' Kelly, drink spiked in NSW. 

"I was at a BBQ with friends, [and] friends of a friend were also invited. These men were horrible to most of the girls there, including their own girlfriends. After two drinks, I was incredibly sick and felt like I’d had two bottles of wine. Another girl had the same experience. She was raped. I got off luckily and still feel guilty to this day."

'I found out it was the bartender who had spiked our drinks.' Lillian, drink spiked in Victoria.

"My drink tasted odd but my friend and I had the same drink and they tasted the same…. They had both been spiked. I felt dizzy, lightheaded, really drunk, with really fast blurry vision and decreased inhibitions. We knew it was spiked as it was only our second drink of the night. Luckily we were with male friends and they took us home. I don’t remember much at all after leaving the pub. [I] found out it was the bartender who had spiked them."

'I woke up the next morning when the club was empty and it was broad daylight.' Laura, drink spiked in NSW.

"I was out with a friend and bumped into my boyfriend at the time in a club in Sydney. I had had two drinks all night and started to feel unwell so I excused myself and went to the bathroom. All I remember is barely being able to lock the cubicle door. I didn't wake up until the morning, eight hours later, when the club was empty and it was broad daylight. My friend that I was out with had assumed I'd gone home with my boyfriend... and my boyfriend assumed I had continued on with my friend. No one came to look for me."


"When I woke I had no phone or wallet and walked to the nearby police station at Darling Harbour as was suggested by the cleaner in the club. When I got inside the police station, the policeman wasn't very interested in helping me. He said I could use the phone but I was unable to remember my home landline or even my street address. I had lived there for almost 10 years. I was so affected by whatever I had been drugged with that I was suffering very real and very scary memory loss. The policeman told me there was nothing else he could do. I stumbled out cold and confused and ended up getting in a cab to a friend's house as I could remember where she lived by direction but not address and asked her to pay the fare when I got there. I was unwell for at least 48 hours afterwards."

"The chef offered to buy my friend and I a drink.' Amy, drink spiked in NSW.

"I was at the local pub and I had two glasses of wine. The chef from the pub offered to buy myself and my friend a drink – we accepted, then we [didn't] feel right. [We were] very drunk despite not having too much to drink. We left quickly and I couldn’t stop vomiting. She ran home and I can't remember getting home."

'I had no control over my body.... It was the most degrading feeling.' Lauren, drink spiked in Queensland. 

"I was at a piano bar on the Gold Coast celebrating my mum's friend's 50th birthday. I had two drinks and was lining up for the toilets and started spinning and my body went numb. Luckily, the woman in front of me recognised I was in trouble and lead me to a cubicle. I started vomiting and couldn’t keep my head up. I was thinking relatively ok but I had no control over my body. I ended up in the hospital where I was told I had my drink spiked. It was the most degrading feeling, and I knew straight away it was a bartender."


'The second time I was spike, my ex-husband made me one drink. I woke up a few hours later on the floor of the shower.' Louise, drink spiked in Victoria.

"I was at a busy restaurant in a well known Melbourne dining precinct. The restaurant owner had overtly showered my friend and I with attention and a bottle of wine, which we shared. Before leaving, we were brought a cocktail. My friend didn’t like strawberry, so she left hers and I proceeded to enjoy mine without any hesitation. We got up to leave, thanking him for our dinner, night and the gifted dessert and drinks. The owner encouraged us to stay, relax in the private lounge upstairs before closing, and he and some other owners would take us to a nearby exclusive club. 

We were friendly, but declined. His mood changed instantly and we uncomfortably left the restaurant. Walking to our transport, I started to joke that I couldn’t feel my face, we’d clearly laughed so much… but I quickly felt the same bizarre ‘numbness’ start to spread to my legs and arms, and I couldn’t stand up within the half hour. I had two glasses of wine and a cocktail over several hours, so I was sure I wasn’t intoxicated. I progressed to feeling like I couldn’t swallow properly and feeling lightheaded. I don’t remember the next couple of hours and the ones that followed after are a messy blur. However, my friend was completely unaffected, and she had not taken the cocktail – whatever had affected me was clearly in that drink. 

The second time I suspected it happened was my ex-husband. He made me one drink and although I didn’t finish it, I woke up a few hours later on the floor of the shower with the water running cold. He had gone to bed. We were in the process of separating. I have no idea what happened that night. 


'I saw photos later the next day and felt sick to my stomach.' Toni, drink spiked in NSW.

We were at a house party, it was my boyfriend's best mates 19th. Some of the teens were still under 18, myself included. The birthday boy's brother was in his mid-twenties and he had a few friends with him, most of us (females) avoided them, they always made us feel uncomfortable without doing or a saying a word. The last thing I remember is the older brother handing me a drink out of the Esky. The rest of the night is a blur, my boyfriend said that I was incoherent and he called his dad to pick us up early because he was worried about me. I saw photos later the next day and felt sick to my stomach, I had flashes of memories of the older brother trying to take me upstairs. That's all I remember. I never went back."

What needs to change. 

90 per cent of respondents agreed not enough is not being done to address this issue.  

Sarah Williams, the founder of NSW based sexual violence advocacy group, What Were You Wearing?, agrees.

"[Drink spiking] is a crime that is often forgotten about or not deemed as important as other crimes," Williams told Mamamia

"Because of the stigmas and how it can be seen as just someone too drunk, it’s often pushed to the side and not worried about."

Here are just a few of the changes advocates and those who have experienced drink spiking want to see.

1. More training for bar staff. 

One of the changes people who were surveyed would like to see is more training for bar staff to help identify the signs of drink spiking. 


In December, What Were You Wearing? launched a petition, which closes on May 25, calling for the NSW government to implement mandatory drink spiking and sexual violence training for security and bar staff.

"The NSW government needs to mandate drink spiking training for all bar staff and security guards to ensure that these people actually know how to respond. Our recommended way is adding a section within the RSA," says Williams.

"We also need signage around venues that demonstrate the symptoms and what to do if you think your friend has been spiked. Security cameras need to be checked regularly to ensure they are working, and venues need to report there reports to police."


Training for bar staff is particularly important, considering it can sometimes be the staff themselves, who are spiking drinks. 

Williams said around 25 per cent of drink spiking instances communicated to the advocacy group are "in relation to bar staff being the suspected perpetrators of this crime".

"We have also had bar staff come forward anonymously and admit to having done it before. This is easily done by adding three or four shots [into a drink] rather than one".

"Training will go into the legal ramifications of drink spiking which I believe if bar staff are informed of, will reduce rates of the crime. At the moment it is believed by a wide range of people that spiking doesn’t carry any legal issues or jail time."

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2. More access to testing kits. 

In an Australian first, WA Police announced they would offer drink spiking self-testing kits to anyone who suspects they may have had their drink spiked last year. 

The kits, which require a self-administered urine sample, can identify over 600 drugs and are time-critical as some drugs are only detectable in a person's system for 12 hours. 


WA Police Minister Paul Papalia said the state was "leading the world" by introducing the kits, which are available in the metropolitan area at any 24hr police station and at police stations in regional WA.

"The Sex Crimes Division has responded to a bit of a gap right around the world in how people address the concerns of victims who feel that they've been drink-spiked," he told reporters last year. 

If a test come back positive result, a person can decide if they want to proceed with a criminal offence report to police or seek counselling from other agencies.

Police said the tests will not be used to take action against anyone who may have taken other illicit drugs.


What Were You Wearing? have also taken it upon themselves to distribute self-testing kit cards in Newcastle, NSW, which help identify if your drink has been spiked.  

"You drop a drop of your drink on the two circles and smear it. If it goes blue after two minutes it’s been spiked by the listed three drugs," Williams explained.

Image: Supplied.


Unfortunately, these tests are limited because they can't detect if alcohol has been added to a drink and the group can currently only source them from the UK. 

3. Tougher penalties.

Respondents also called for tougher penalties on drink spiking, which is illegal in all states and territories and carries different fines and prison time. 

In WA, the penalty for drink spiking can range from 12 months to three years imprisonment, or a $12,000 fine. 

In Queensland, the crime carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. 

In NSW, it's even less, with penalties including fines and up to two years' imprisonment.

4. More education. 

Lastly, those who have had their drink spiked recognised more education is needed for those who find themselves in that situation. 

If you think your drink may have been spiked, Lee recommends "don’t finish the drink, tell a friend so they can look after you if you become very unwell. If you are at a venue, let the manager or owner know. If there is a first aid station, like St John Ambulance, go get checked. If you are feeling very woozy or unwell take yourself to the nearest emergency department or call an ambulance".


She also recommends calling the police if you can identify the person who spiked you.

There are also services such as 1800FULLSTOP (1800 385 578) which you can call for support. 

"If people ring somewhere like Full Stop we would ask them what their concerns are. Sometimes people are trying to make sense what is happening to them and understanding what their options are," said Hunter. 

"If people are concerned they have been drink spiked and think that they may be sexually assaulted, then I would encourage them to go to a sexual assault service or to their GP becuse we want them to make sure there's no concerns around unwanted pregnant or sexually transmitted infections... If they are a little bit aware about who [might have spiked them] and have some recollection, then we would talk to them about their options of reporting to police."

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

You can also call Full Stop Australia’s National Violence and Abuse Trauma Counselling and Recovery Service on 1800FULLSTOP (1800 385 578).  

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia. 

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