“I noticed a bump on my leg. I was in denial about it”- as nightclubs opened back up, Jessica Viola investigates the spiking crisis in Dublin…
Having closed their doors in March 2020, there was a buzz around Dublin now that clubs and nightlife had reopened a year and a half later. For young people, the pandemic has taken away precious years of dancing to ABBA in a crowd full of excited and drunk strangers on the dance floor. However, with the (possibly temporary) return to nightlife, there has been a new spiking epidemic in Dublin City.
Spiking is not a new concept for young women to watch out for; I was taught from a young age to never leave my drink alone, but as clubs have reopened, spiking through injection has unlocked a new fear for me. I thought the only pricks we had to worry about were the guys we might meet on nights out, but the spiking epidemic has made me wary of a different kind altogether. I had the opportunity to speak with two young women, Laoise Murray and Aoife O’Dwyer, who were victims of spiking in Dublin.
“I was just like, these things never happen, so why would they happen to you,” Laoise Murray, a 22 year old nursing student from South Dublin, told me. “You always think it’s just something in the media and now I feel awful about it.”
On the eve of Halloween, Laoise went out with some friends to a nightclub in Dublin City and was spiked by injection on her thigh. “I didn’t notice the needle when I was spiked. The first time that I noticed it was on Sunday morning after I had been out on Saturday.” She continues, “I noticed a bump on my leg, and I didn’t think that it was a needle prick. I was in denial about it.”
“My initial reaction when I was spiked was that I honestly didn’t know, because I didn’t have any symptoms or reaction. I just concluded that there was nothing else that this could be.” Although Laoise did not show any symptoms, her leg was bruised in the shape of a circle and in the centre was a tiny pinprick.
Soon after this discovery, Laoise immediately went to the emergency department at her local hospital to get treated for her wound. As it stands now, Laoise has to take HIV preventative medication and antiviral medication for four weeks as it is unknown if the needle was sanitised. She is also waiting on the toxicology report to see if anything inside the needle entered her bloodstream.
“I told the friends that I was out with to make sure that they could check their bodies too and make sure that there was nothing there. So, if there was something, there was still a 72-hour window open for them to get their medication.” The HIV preventative medication was prescribed to Laoise because she was injected with a foreign needle and they do not know how many times the same needle injected different people that night. Due to the small time frame, it is important to always check your body for needle marks after a night out.
“After this incident, I don’t want to go out for a good while anyway; I’m a bit too scared.” Thankfully Laoise did not show any dramatic symptoms from the spiking. However, based on recent reports, it is now clear that violence against women on nights out is a very real problem.
On an isolated occasion within the same week, another UCD nursing student named Aoife O’Dwyer claims that she and her friends were spiked at a City Centre bar.
“We were sitting where you first go through the doors so, the bar itself was near enough to us. I did notice that on the night we went there were all male bartenders.”
Aoife is a frequent drinker at this bar as they are known for their drink deals, which suit her student budget. “We ordered the first two drinks, and we were all completely fine, so we ordered more. Normally with this place, the cocktails are not very strong because they do drink deals, so there’s nothing in them usually.” Along with Aoife were her three friends from her course who would all be regular drinkers.
“In between finishing our first two cocktails and ordering the other drinks, it all went very downhill very fast.”
She explains, “I left the bar, I don’t know why. When I left, one of my friends was asleep at the table, and I only knew that because it was the last photo on my camera roll.”
“Then, I went onto South William Street on my own and these guys who I had never met before, put me in a taxi home, which thank God, they were normal and nice.”
She continues, “ I don’t really remember getting home, but I briefly remember leaving. The last thing I remember saying to them was ‘my name is Aoife and I’m a nurse’.”
Aoife recounts how the the rest of the evening played out for her friends. “All four of us had thrown up, and I know if people go out, you can drink a lot but it was just weird that all four of us were getting sick. I briefly tripped but nothing bad happened when I first left, but the three girls all fell quite badly, really cut themselves and hit their heads.”
“They do not remember anything at all. They stayed out for ages and were chased by the guards who put them into a taxi, so that should give you the explanation of how they were.”
Following this incident, Aoife shares her thoughts, “After that, I will never go back to that bar. I thought it was kind of okay to still go out, but then when my friend Laoise got spiked in a club within the same week, obviously now I’m a bit more wary.”
She also comments on the spiking crisis, “Obviously this whole needle thing is like a step further, I suppose Dublin has become more dangerous.”
Less than a month into nightlife reopening in Dublin, there were multiple accounts of young people being spiked through both injection and lacing in drinks. Additionally, from September to October, there have been 198 reports of drink spiking and over 24 accounts of spiking through injection across the UK and Ireland.
Nightlife was created as a way for many to relax and celebrate, but has now become a new threat to young people due to the risk of being spiked. Aoife states, “I don’t feel like actively in danger when I’m out, because it’s just stuff that you don’t really see, you know. But here, now it’s happened to your friends, it makes you think it is a lot more dangerous than it seems.”
*all names have been changed to protect identities[/restrict]