Police have received the equivalent of nine reports of needle spiking every day since September, according to official data.
In total, 1,382 reports have been made in less than six months, equating to 9.3 received each day, MPs were told on Wednesday.
National Police Chiefs Council drugs lead Jason Harwin told the Home Affairs Committee forces were aware of 14 secondary offences, including sexual assault or theft, they believe are linked to needle spiking.
The committee heard evidence from police representatives as part of its inquiry into spiking.
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Harwin, who is deputy chief constable of Lincolnshire Police, said needle spiking is a new phenomenon, with reports of incidents across the UK and some localised hotspots.
Asked if he could explain why he believes it is a “real thing, not just a media phenomenon”, DCC Harwin said forces have received an unprecedented volume of calls, and universities and student unions are also raising the issue.
He told MPs: “We’ve not seen that before – the scale of that before – we’ve never seen that before.”
He continued: “So in terms of prevalence, we clearly have got an issue here in the UK.
“Importantly, we recognise the impact it has on the victims and in particular those who have not got confidence to come forward.
“And we recognise the challenges sometimes about reporting the issues around spiking.”
Durham police and crime commissioner Joy Allen told the committee that the force had received 82 reports of spiking incidents between October and December.
Of these, around three in 10 (25) were thought to be injection-related.
DCC Harwin added the police recognise that the number of people being prosecuted “is not enough”, and that there is more forces can do to stop offenders, make them realise they are committing a serious offence and change their behaviour.
He said the “ideal ask” would be for a specific offence to be created for spiking.
“Longer term, we really do need… My personal view is we need a separate offence for it because it highlights the importance of this crime," he said.
"And secondly, for me importantly, it shows the importance that we’ve seen in terms of doing everything we can to stop it in the first place.”
On Wednesday, MSPs heard creating a separate offence for spiking “should be examined further”.
The Education, Young People and Children Committee at Holyrood held a one-off evidence session to discuss a recent spate in reported spiking, both of drinks and by injection, in Scotland.
A number of social media reports circulated in October of incidents in major cities with high student populations, but police say the number of reports have since decreased.
Kate Wallace, the chief executive officer of Victim Support Scotland, was among those who supported the move.
She said: “I think the conversation that we’ve been having around people feeling confident to report, feeling confident that they will be believed, and there will be an appropriate response both within a support system, and within the criminal justice system, I do think that looking at (creating a separate offence) would be helpful.”
Victims or witnesses of spiking can share their experiences through the Home Affairs Committee’s public survey, which is open until 31 January.
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