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The Sunday Times
By Fiona Adolf, December 01 2002

Alarm call on drink spiking

DRINK-spiking in Perth bars and nightclubs has reached alarming levels, according to a top Perth doctor.

It is believed there could be as many as 15 spiking incidents each week – five or six times the number reported to police.

Most occur in Perth nightclubs.

The figures come from a recent assessment of calls from victims to a range of helplines.

Paul Quigley, an expert in emergency medicine and toxicology, said figures compiled since a police crackdown last month showed drink-spiking was much more common than previously believed.

A study revealed that for every case of suspected drink-spiking reported to police there were five or six reports to helplines such as the Poisons Information Centre, Health Direct and the Alcohol and Drug Information Service.

Dr Quigley said he believed the true extent of the problem had been hidden because many people did not know which service to phone or did not want the police involved.

Police said last month there had been 135 cases of drink-spiking in WA this year, compared with 66 last year. But Dr Quigley, a registrar at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, said the true figure was likely to be five or six times that.

Police, health authorities and the hospitality industry united to combat the problem with the drink-spiking awareness campaign launched on November 14.

The drugs most commonly used in WA drink-spiking are alcohol and a variety of benzodiazepines. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, loss of co-ordination, a lowering of inhibitions and unconsciousness.

"The most important thing to do if you think your drink has been spiked is to seek help while you are still drugged or at least within 12 hours," Dr Quigley said.

Sergeant Steve Guest, from the police alcohol and drug co-ordination unit, said the figures were a concern, though in some cases people mistakenly believed their drinks were spiked when they simply had had too much to drink.

He said there were three kinds of spikers, known by police as the "three Ps": Pranksters spiked drinks just for a laugh; Practisers were learning how much of a particular drug was needed for the desired effect; and Perpetrators knew exactly what they were doing.

Sgt Guest said it was a myth that only women were targeted. He had heard of a recent case in Victoria in which young men unwittingly starred in pornographic videos and photographs after having their drinks spiked.

There had also been nine cases in Perth in recent years in which middle-aged men were robbed by younger women after having their drinks spiked.




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