Looking after your drinks

Even though we think we are aware of drink spiking, we are not. This is a growing problem and shows no signs of slowing down.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

A Global Issue

I received an e-mail from Dean Sunshine in Australia giving information about his company Drink Safe Technologies.

He attached a couple of articles about his company which were very informative. I urge everyone to read them if you can.

Daily_Telegraph_3oct2003.jpg (image/jpeg), 506 K
The Australian 3rd oct 2005.JPG (image/jpeg), 986 K

An article in The Australian on October 3rd 2005 details that Mr Sunshine set up the company as his drink was spiked as a prank but understandably "didn't find it very funny". It writes that: "10 years on drink spiking is now a serious and growing problem across Australia, with 4500 people falling victim to the practice each year, of which 40 per cent are then sexually assaulted, according to a recent Australian Institute of Criminology."

Mr Sunshine developed the Drink Safe Coaster, a hi-tech card in the shape of a coaster that can detect the presence of drugs in drinks. Users splash a bit of their drink on the card and it changes colour if notorious date-rape drugs are found, such as GHB and Ketamine.

"My mission is to stop these crimes before they happen," Mr Sunshine said.

The coasters are stocked in pharmacies, 100 nightclubs, pubs and bars across the country. But quite rightfully Mr Sunshine believes that there is a long way to go in addressing drink spiking.

"Everyone knows about it, but people still don't think that it will happen to them."

The article in The Telegraph on October 3rd 2003 shows the influence of the coasters in the University of Wollongong. Between the months of January and March, before the coasters were available, there were 18 reported cases of drink spiking, of which nine were supported by medical testing. However six months on and with the coasters available to students, there have been no reported cases of drink spiking since.

The University of Wollongong Student Representative Council President Michael Szafraniec said 3000 kits had been distributed in the past six months and a handful of drinks had tested positive which illustrates the prevention.

In my eyes, if the coasters stop one person from being drugged and raped as a result then it is a success and it is doing so. Mr Sunshine's product is being heralded as a break-through in the fight against drink spiking and they are not wrong. In a society where there is a lot of talk, Mr Sunshine is definately walking the walk.


Monday, 19 March 2007

We can't even accept cigarettes?

Source: www.roofie.com

Last year a new danger occured in the date-rape crime. Cigarettes soaked in embalming fluid emerged as a new form of date-rape drug.

I researched this and found some information from the Roofie Foundation:

"Embalming fluid is usually alcohol (methanol, ethyl alcohol or ethanol), formaldehyde, and solvents. Smoking this liquid on the filter tip or within the tobacco will vapourise the substance and the smoker inhales the mixture into the lungs. From here it is absorbed almost instantly and it passes straight to the brain. The effect is therefore almost instant. However the effect will not be long lasting.

Formaldehyde is one of the ‘aldehyde’ compounds that is responsible for the hangover after an alcohol binge. It smells pungent.

Sometimes, the compound used in the "fry" cigarettes is PCP, or Angel Dust. This drug adds an incredible level of danger to the user--it can kill. According to a 1998 study by the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, those who smoke "fry" cigarettes experience toxic psychosis, hallucinations, delusions, and sometimes, unconsciousness.

One scenario is the administering of a fry to cause giddiness or nausea, so the victim will accept a drink without thinking of the consequences. "

As I already mentioned, and as you guys at city uni know (having probably seen me puffing on a fag), I am a smoker and thus find this really scary. With drinks we are at least a bit wary but I don't think any smoker will ever think twice about accepting a cigarette - especially penniless students like me! I haven't seen any warnings about this and to me this seems to be a lot easier to administer drugs than through drinks.

Men are victims too.

Source: www.planetout.com/health

I just realised that I haven't posted much on men falling victims to drink spiking. Studies have shown that 20% of drink spiking victims are male.
I've read an article by Ben Townley titled UK Study: Drink spiking hits gay scene which is extremely relevant and eye-opening. This was posted in September of 2004 which means it is a little dated but informative nontheless.

"A new survey has found that as many as one in five gay men in England believe themselves to be the victim of drink spiking, with many subsequently suffering attacks as a result.

The study, conducted for the Channel 4 program "Dispatches," questioned women and gay men across the country for the first nationwide survey of drink spiking and drug rape.While it found that women are much more likely to become victims of the modern phenomenon, gay men are also at risk, the program discovered.

The new study found that London and Cardiff were the drink-spiking hot spots of the country, although this relates more to attacks on women.

This is not the first time that gay men have been warned of the problems of drink spiking and sexual attacks. Last year, Graham Rhodes of the Roofie Foundation, which offers help and counseling for victims of drink spiking, said that reports of spiking on gay men were increasing.
He said 10-15 percent of cases reported to the group were from men, with 750 cases reported in the preceding 12 months. This number could be much greater in reality, he warned, since many victims do not report the incident.
He said that in male cases, there was also a "much higher proportion of gang rape."

Additionally, Edinburgh police warned gay men last year that a gang was targeting those on the city's gay scene."

However, men do not have to be gay to become victims of drink spiking. As previously mentioned, peoples drinks are spiked for a number of reasons, and it doesn't have to for sexual gratification. Men can have their drinks spiked for robberies and violence.

Smoking ban to increase Drink Spiking?

I have just read an article which has worried me.

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/yorknews/display.var.1250747.0.smoking_and_spiking_fear.php

It states that since the smoking ban came into effect in Scotland, drink spiking has increased by 20%, and that this is set to be mirrored across England when the ban is enforced in on the 1st July. This is because when people go outside or to the designated place to smoke, they will not be allowed to take their drinks with them.

This means that people are going to have to be more aware of where they are leaving their drinks or who they are leaving them with. This to me seems to hand predators opportunities on a plate and as a smoker who is hating the smoking ban, this is rubbing salt in the wound.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Safeflo

Please look at Safeflo's website, it is very informative and has very good products
www.safeflo.co.uk

“The best way to support a victim of drink spiking is to stop them becoming a victim in the first place. This product is about personal protection. It locks your drink away from spikers and gives drinkers the freedom of a carefree night out.”

I spoke to Peter from the Safeflo company to discuss their product, their successes and difficulties. Peter was very helpful and in the 5 minutes I spoke him I found myself in awe of his tireless campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of drink spiking. His dedication means that he has given out 2 million caps free of charge.

The caps sell at £2.00 for 6, and although this isn't not out of reach for most people, the unaccessability of the product means that they are dangerously underused.

Peter believes that they should be free and should be available in student bars and pubs/clubs up and down the country. But to do so means that they have to be sponsored. Big banks and big phone companies have shown an interest in sponsoring, but some have a hidden agenda. Phone conmpanies want 'Text to Win' placed on the caps and nussl www.nussl.co.uk (the student union body) wouldn't allow this to go ahead as they cannot be seen to encourage students to get into debt.
As soon as this was relayed to me, I just thought: how dumb do people think we are? We see text and we just have to do it! Yeah right!

Peter went around the country and spoke to 50 welfare offices in universities and gave 10,000 bottle caps free of charge. All came back and said how fantastic the product was and wanted more. On average, each university said that they would get through 25,000 a month. There are 600 student bars in the country, thus 30 million a year are needed.

When asked about whether he has ever been approached by the Government, Peter told me of how he met Charles Clarke when he was Home Secretary in Liverpool. He agreed that the product should be free and far more widespread and even took some samples to investigate. However, nothing else has been heard from him.

“You put your seat belt on when you get in the car, you put a crash helmet on when you ride a motorbike and you ensure your money is kept close to you and out of sight. Basic safety precautions we take every day without giving them a second thought. Safeflo protection has to become a ‘good habit’ in the same way. It puts you back in the driving seat.”

The Prevention?

I have seen lots of websites advertising drink testing equipment with testimonials saying how they have worked and how they should be a lot more widespread. These products seem to me to be tucked away out of sight and not promoted in the way they should be.

I am going to contact one of the companies SafeFlo http://www.safeflo.co.uk/ to find out the success with their products and investigate whether they have ever been approached to become affliated with a drink or pubs to create more awareness. And if this hasn't happened, why not and should it?

Please comment on whether anybody has used these products or this is the first you've heard!

Are the Government doing enough?

I have just got off the phone with the newsdesk at the Home Office press office. Why is it that as soon as you mention the word student people think they can just fob you off? Nevertheless I managed to squeeze some information out of them.

I started by saying that I have hit a brick wall since reported cases of rape hit an all-time high of 12,000 in 2004 and drug rape was in the headlines. And after the conversation I am still banging my head on it.

I was told that in 2001 the FSS (Forensic Science Service) carried out research into the involvement of drugs in rape cases and they found that only 2% were date rapes. I have looked on their websites and see no evidence of these stats so I have left a message to get the information from the horse's mouth and will report my findings.

Secondly, I was advised to look on the statistics website www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds for more up-to-date information. I found nothing on drink spiking but I did see that recorded rapes increased by 3% in 2005/6. An article in the Guardian by Maggie O'Kane www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story0..1300086,00.html which is very relevant, states of how there are no Home Office statistics for drink spiking. The Guardian carried out its own survey with 750 people in 16 cities. The results came out that 1 in 4 women have had their drinks spiked, who went on to get raped is not known. It was shown using this survey that 30 women a week have their drinks spiked. A bit different to what the governent are leading us to believe.

The information that the I have seen on the Home Office website is all very superficial as the government don't seem to delve deeper into drink spiking or sexual assault issues because of their complexity. But how long can they hide behind this? Surely they can see that this is real. One infomercial in 2000 as a part of the Millenium project does not provide sufficient awareness into the dangers of drink spiking.