‘I thought I was going to die’: student’s freshers spiking warning after pal spiked her drink as ‘a laugh’
Gillian Reilly was spiked by a friend who “thought it would be a laugh to put something in her drink”.
When Gillian Reilly finished her first year at university, she headed to the Students’ Union bar to celebrate with her peers.
It was meant to be a night of fun, drinking and dancing with friends, but things started to take a turn for the worse very quickly.
“I started to feel really dizzy at first - but then I got these sharp pains in my stomach, and I started to feel violently sick,” Gillian, who was studying nursing, explained.
She initially thought she was just too drunk, but as the night went on, she realised something was very “different” about the situation.
Thankfully, Gillian, now 29, managed to get home safely - but her symptoms continued for days. She told NationalWorld: “I felt so unwell I honestly thought I was going to die.”
What was revealed next was what shocked Gillian the most. She had been spiked by a friend who “thought it would be a laugh to put something in her drink.”
“It’s scary to think that it’s not just strangers you need to look out for,” she commented. “Sometimes, it’s people you know.”
Spiking can have huge impacts on victims - not just in terms of the health dangers, which are severe, but also in how it affects the mental wellbeing of victims, and how they feel about going out again.
These impacts were thrown into the spotlight this time last year, when universities saw something of a spiking “epidemic” - with many perpetrators targeting student society socials.
The Alcohol Education Trust said spiking cases always surge during the first term of the new academic year, but that suspected incidents had reached frightening new levels - with the National Police Chiefs’ Council revealing there were 198 spiking incidents, 24 via injection, across the UK in just two months.
As for how the experience at the University of Stirling SU impacted Gillian, she admitted she feels “anxious” going out nowadays - and has become much more “protective” of her drinks.
She is returning to university this year, this time to study drama and performance at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, and said the recent news of injection spiking has “definitely made her nervous” for Freshers’ Week.
Gillian said: “Starting university is supposed to be exciting - you don’t want to have to think about these things happening.
“You’re meeting lots of new people and you want to think these people could be friends, but it’s not necessarily the case. You may meet people who do this to harm you, or in my case, people who think it’s funny to spike people.”
What are universities doing to prevent drink spiking?
Considering the spike in cases last year, a number of UK institutions have introduced measures so students are better protected for the coming academic year.
The University of Reading told NationalWorld they would be implementing enhanced bag and ID checks on campus, supplying “drinks protectors” to students, and increasing security patrols inside and outside venues.
Meanwhile, the University of Exeter has made spiking detection kits available for collection from student halls’, which include drink safety test strips, and Nottingham Trent University is putting on bystander intervention training for staff in night-time city venues.
A University of Bristol spokesperson told NationalWorld: “We work with students all year round to help educate them about the dangers of drinks being left unattended in clubs and bars, and how to seek help if they, or a friend they’re out with, becomes unwell after being potentially spiked.
“We are also very mindful of the longer-term impact [spiking] may have and we encourage students to reach out to our support/wellbeing services so we can make sure they are OK and ensure they have the right help and advice.”
The university, which is working closely with Bristol City Council on their ‘Safety in the Night Time Economy Strategy’, is also giving out drinks protectors in its residences and operating the ‘Ask For Angela’ scheme at all campus bars.
A University of Nottingham spokesperson told NationalWorld: "Nobody should feel unsafe on a night out. We want Nottingham to be a place where everyone feels safe and welcome, regardless of their gender, sexuality, race, faith, nationality or identity.
"Drink spiking is a dangerous practice that can have grave consequences for those who are targeted. The university will not tolerate this behaviour by anyone in our community.
“Where evidence is found, we will support the police in their investigation to ensure those responsible feel the full force of the law and will not hesitate to take swift action to address the matter under our Code of Conduct, which in the most serious cases can include suspension and exclusion."
Alcohol Education Trust recently found that more than 1 in 10 young adults have been victims of spiking, with the research also suggesting that around 35% of spiking cases happen at private parties, and 28% occur in nightclubs.