Spiking is giving someone alcohol or drugs without them knowing or agreeing. For example, in their drink or with a needle.
Giving someone more alcohol or drugs than they were expecting and consented to is also spiking. For example, giving someone double shots instead of single ones.
Spiking can happen to anyone anywhere – no matter their age, gender, sexuality or ethnicity. It can be carried out by strangers or by people you know.
Spiking is illegal and carries a sentence of up to ten years in prison. If a robbery, sexual assault or other crime took place, the sentence may be even longer.
Spiking is a difficult topic to talk about. You might have doubts or concerns about talking to teenagers about spiking. It is not always easy to decide what or when to tell them.
The information on this page aims to help you talk to teenagers about spiking. We use the term ‘your teenager’ on this page. But of course, the information is not only for parents. It is for anyone who is talking about spiking with a teenager.
All adults want to protect children from the hurt and anxiety of someone spiking them. You might feel that they are too young for that conversation. You might also worry about giving them ideas or causing unnecessary worries.
Being open and honest is almost always the best way with children. Talk to your teenager about what spiking is and the different forms in which it can occur. Explain that spiking is unacceptable and criminal behaviour, not a joke.
We need to tackle from a young age those who develop ideas and behaviours that they are entitled to treat other people this way.
The best way to do this is by making any kind of spiking part of the conversation as soon as possible.
Spiking can happen to anyone, regardless of their sex, gender, age or ethnicity. But women and young girls are more likely to be the victim of spiking.
Spiking can be part of a culture of toxic masculinity among teenagers. Talking to teenagers about attitudes towards women and girls is important. It can help counter any negative attitudes they may pick up from friends and social media.
You can talk to teenagers about the need to respect women and young girls, but also about consent. Consent means everyone agreeing to what's happening by choice and having the freedom and ability to make and change that choice. Giving someone alcohol or drugs without their knowledge or consent is spiking.
It should not be necessary to tell women and young girls not to leave their drink unattended on a night out. Or to always be alert to the risk of someone spiking them. But the sad reality is that some people get spiked by strangers or even their friends.
Talking to teenagers about spiking means that they can be better prepared if they or a friend ever does get spiked. They'll know what actions to take for their safety and wellbeing.
Teenagers may notice that some of their friends are boasting about spiking others. They may not see this behaviour as spiking if it feels like a joke to them.
You can also tell them how to challenge a spiking offender safely if any of their friends are spiking others. It can be daunting, especially if it’s a group of teenagers that is spiking others. They may feel scared or think that it’s not their responsibility to stand up for others who are being spiked.
If it's discussed amongst their peer group, they could:
say something (if they feel safe), for example, 'this is not funny' or 'this is not okay'
divert, for example 'let's go to…' or 'look at this TikTok'
If they see it happening, they could:
tell someone, for example a staff member or bar staff
offer support, for example by asking the victim if they’re okay, by filming the situation on their phone (if safe) or by offering to wait with someone until they're ready
It can also help to talk to you or another adult they trust.