‘People said I was just drunk after I blacked out on a night out – but I was spiked’

Ellen Baldwin believes she was spiked with a needle at a nightclub last month. The 19-year-old Criminology student and her friend were taken to A&E after completely blacking out and collapsing. But Ellen said she was told by medics that she would ‘have to come back when she was sober’. Here, in her own words, the Keele University student opens up to OK! magazine about her terrifying experience in Stoke-in-Trent in a bid to raise awareness of spiking. A doctor also advises on what to do if this happens to you…

“The night started out at the Student Union bar, but it was boring so we decided to go to a nightclub.

We’ve been there a few times so I felt perfectly comfortable walking in with my friends, including my boyfriend, Aedan, 20, who’s also a student.

It was just a regular night out, with the six of us. Making up for those long pandemic months of staying in.

I’d had a couple of vodkas at the Union bar, but I wasn’t remotely tipsy entering the club. It was moderately busy and I didn’t notice anyone looking particularly shady as we went to order at the bar.

READ MORE: Woman spiked by needle at Popworld says she ‘just thought it was a cut’

We had a couple of drinks and danced for a bit. Apparently I went to the toilet with my friend, Elle, and she says, while we were in there I threw my vodka and lemonade over the cubicle. Those drinks are £6 each – I would not be wasting them in normal circumstances!

I have almost no recollection of the rest of the evening. The next thing I remember is sitting in my bed at my dad’s house. I was totally confused and when I inspected myself I found a clear injection mark on my upper left thigh.

Later it would turn slightly yellow as a bruise does. I’ve had plenty of injections recently so I recognised it instantly as not just being a scratch – someone had roughly spiked something inside me.

My thigh length dress had no tears so they must have just pulled it up higher without me noticing.

I felt so invaded and shocked. I’ve had to piece together what happened from other people who’d been at the venue. My friends got me out of the club because I clearly wasn’t well, I was falling around all over the place and then I collapsed outside of the club.

I was taken to A&E with Aedan, and was put in a wheelchair as I couldn’t use my legs. I was also slumped over and I couldn’t communicate or hold my head up.

Ellen and her friend Elle Vickers (right) on a night out before the needle spiking incident

But despite my condition, the hospital just told Aedan I’d ‘have to come back when sober’. They simply assumed I was drunk. Aedan took me to my dad’s house ten minutes away, which is where I woke up.

Now, Aeden is wracked with guilt that he couldn’t stop this happening to me. He’s furious this happened and he couldn’t protect me. But I’m just grateful he was there to look after me and get me to safety.

It took me a few days to get my head around what had happened, but I filed a police report and I gave them a urine sample.

I also underwent blood tests at a health centre which specialises in these kinds of crimes, which I’m now sure was sexually motivated. I haven’t had the results back yet and all the doctor said was ‘there’s not much we can do.’

The nightclub is taking no responsibility for what happened; I think they need to be more careful with security on the door. I don’t know how long these drugs stay in your system so I don’t know whether the tests will prove anything – and I don’t expect the police will ever find the culprit.

I decided to try and go out last week to get back to ‘normal’ but just going into a very small club made my whole body shake, I felt like I was gonna throw up and cry and have a panic attack. I can’t imagine ever feeling comfortable drinking alcohol in public again.

I just want more women to know that this happens and to warn them to be aware of their surroundings and not drink too much, so you have your wits about you.”

Ellen found a needle mark on her upper thigh

Needle spiking is on the increase

Shockingly – Ellen is far from alone in her experience – there have been almost 1,400 incidents of needle spiking reported in the UK in just five months, and police warned last month there was a dangerous “new phenomenon” of needle spiking.

“Back in October we saw searches increase for injection spiking by 809% as the first cases were reported,” says Dr Sameer Sanghvi, Clinical Technology Lead at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor .

“Since then we’ve seen multiple women across the country come forward to say they believe they were spiked via needles, but because so many cases of spiking go unreported in general, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of just how many cases there are.”

Would you always be aware if you had been spiked?

“It is entirely possible, that someone could be spiked without realising it,” Dr Sanghvi says. “With the thinness of needles today, injections can feel like a small scratch – or potentially completely unnoticeable if someone has had a few drinks already – which is an incredibly dangerous situation for someone if they don’t realise they’ve been spiked before it’s too late.”

What drug are women being spiked with?

The general belief is that the drugs are the same used to spike drinks, the most common ones being Rohypnol ( sometimes shortened to roofie) and Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB). They’re both commonly referred to as date-rape drugs.

“GHB can give you a sense of euphoria, reduce your inhibitions and also cause sleepiness, whereas Rohypnol is a sedative drug that is often used to treat insomnia and anxiety,” explains Dr Sameer Sanghvi. “Rohypnol works by increasing the effect of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) in the brain which can strongly affect a person’s rational thought process and short-term memory.”

Other recreational drugs such as Ketamine, Ecstasy and LSD are also often used in spikings.

“All of the drugs have the capability of reducing bodily sensations and have varying effects ,” warns Dr Sanghvi. “Whilst ecstasy may energise you and make you more paranoid and confused, ketamine can leave you with memory loss, a sense of confusion or breathing difficulties, whereas LSD can cause anxiousness and your heart to race.”

Why is spiking via injection so dangerous?

“Spiking via injections is not only dangerous because of the drug used, but because it introduces the risk of what happens when needles are reused, opening up the possibility that someone could catch something from other people injected with that needle, such as HIV or hepatitis,” explains Dr Sanghvi.

“This new method of injections is increasingly hard for people to defend themselves against. However, the emphasis shouldn’t be on victims protecting themselves against spiking, but more being done to stop the spiking in the first place.”

What should you do if you believe you have been spiked with an injection?

If you suspect you or your friend has been spiked by injection, immediately tell the people you are with, as well as the staff. It’s crucial you get to somewhere you feel safe.

  • Clean the wound under running water and sterilise it with lots of soap

  • Then cover the wound with plaster or a dressing to ensure it doesn’t get infected

  • Don’t scrub the wound, or attempt to suck anything out of it, as neither of these actions will have the intended effect

  • Stay with the person who has been spiked and keep talking to them

  • You should never go home by yourself if you think you’ve been spiked and should not allow anyone to leave the venue with someone they don’t know or trust

  • Stop drinking immediately if you think you’ve been spiked, as the mix of drugs and alcohol could be dangerous

  • Be prepared to call an ambulance if your or your friend’s condition deteriorates

  • At A&E tell the medical staff what’s happened so they can conduct urine and blood tests to determine which drugs are in their system.

“If you’ve been spiked via injection, it’s crucial that you seek medical advice as soon as possible,’ says Dr Sanghvi. “We’d recommend you attend a sexual health clinic or A&E within 24 hours, so you can be fully assessed and considered for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) medicine, which may help prevent you from becoming infected with HIV. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) should be started within 72 hours of coming into contact with the virus for it to be effective.”

If you suspect that you have been assaulted, you can go to the police, a local GP or hospital. If you don’t feel ready to do that, you can also call the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre on 0808 802 9999.

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