Expert warns festival goers of hidden danger this summer

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A pharmaceutical expert has shared a warning for anyone heading to a festival this summer. Dr Jamie Winn PharmD, a consultant pharmacist based in the United States, has urged people to be on the lookout for the hidden dangers of spiking while at festivals.

According to data from the National Police Chiefs’ Council , around 80 per cent of spiking incidents occur in public places, especially places where people go to enjoy themselves such as festivals and live music events. With that in mind, Dr Winn has shared a number of important tips to help prevent drink spiking, and what to do if you believe either yourself or a friend has been spiked.

Dr Winn, from Universal Drugstore, said: “The effects of having a spiked drink can vary significantly depending on the substance used, the amount, individual tolerance, and interactions with alcohol. But there are some common symptoms that people might experience the day after their drink has been spiked, such as hangover-like symptoms, drowsiness, anxiety, and confusion.

“Many substances used in drink spiking can cause memory loss or blackouts, leading to gaps in memory or the inability to remember what happened during a certain period. These types of drugs can also cause physical weakness and lack of motor control in the body.

“When physical and mental symptoms carry through into the next day, it can be scary and overwhelming, so it’s important to seek advice from medical professionals and support from friends or family during this time.”

Drink spiking prevention advice

  • Look at your drink’s appearance, taste and smell - If you feel something is off with your drink, such as it tasting or smelling strange, or even how it looks, stop drinking it immediately. If you start feeling unwell or dizzy, seek a safe environment with someone you trust.

  • Stay calm - If you are at a music festival, it can be quite overwhelming and frightening to feel the onset of spiking. Try to stay calm and focused and communicate with a friend or a member of festival staff who will be able to help and support you.

  • Seek medical attention - If you suspect that the person you are with has been drugged, and appears seriously unwell, get one of the medical and first aid staff members right away or take them to the emergency tent. It's important to get medical attention if you have any concerns, and they can ask you questions about the individual symptoms and advise if further treatment is needed.

  • Treat post-spiking symptoms - After the effects of the drug have subsided, some people experience symptoms similar to a hangover, such as headache, nausea, fatigue, and dehydration. You should stay hydrated, or even consider an electrolyte replacement drink, especially if you have been vomiting. You can also take paracetamol or ibuprofen for the headache.

  • Get some rest up - It is common to have difficulty remembering parts of the night after being spiked. You may feel excessive drowsiness or tiredness the next day too, even after a full night’s sleep. It’s advised to get as much sleep and rest as possible to allow your body to recover from any effects of spiking.

  • Get support - Experiencing a drink being spiked is distressing, and some people might find themselves feeling increasingly anxious, or even experience panic attacks, or heightened emotional distress. Spend time in a safe environment and communicate your feelings to loved ones. You may also consider a support helpline, or counselling if these feelings remain over time, these services are usually on hand at festivals.

  • Monitor prolonged symptoms - Other physical symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, weakness, or unusual sensations might persist into the next day. These symptoms should subside on their own, but if they continue for more than a few days, seek medical help.

  • Report it - Report the incident as soon as you can. If the police feel it’s appropriate, they can suggest a non-invasive urine sample, which is the most effective way of finding out whether you have been spiked while the drug is still in your system.

For more information and advice on drink spiking, visit Drinkaware.