Keeping Safe on a Night Out

Then a reminder not to leave your drink unattended with strangers!

Occasionally Safe Communities receives reports that a person’s drink was spiked. But how can you tell and what should you do if you suspect it has? More importantly, how can this be prevented?

Spiking of drinks has been around for a long time and occurs in many places around the world, particularly where there are nightlife establishments. 

As long ago as 2006, the police in Portugal reported it “as a very recent phenomenon almost always happening in bars and clubs, but also at private parties”, a Commander of the Criminal Investigation Division of the PSP reported. At that time, the PSP explained that sedatives were the most used substances, including antidepressants or muscle relaxants.

Since then, many new drugs have emerged internationally, such as Rohypnol and Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB).

What is a spiked drink?

A spiked drink is when alcohol or drugs have been added without your knowledge, making you feel drunk or drugged without realising why. You might pass out and be unable to defend yourself, or remember what happened afterwards. Drinks can be spiked as a prank or with the intent of robbing, hurting, or sexually assaulting you, so it’s imperative to know the facts about them. 

How would I know if my drink was spiked?

Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell, and for that reason, it is difficult to determine the extent of the problem. 

Often, if your drink has been spiked, it will not affect the colour, taste or smell of the drink, so it can be hard to notice. Some warning signs, however, include: feeling dizzy or faint, sick or sleepy, feeling really drunk or confused (even if you have only had a little alcohol to drink), or passing out.

In the same way that you would never entrust your smartphone to a stranger, you should never lose sight of your drinking glass when with strangers or even so-called “friends”. 

The PSP posted a warning again in March this year, but since then, we have heard of several reports that have been passed to the police of suspected “spiking” of drinks more common in late-night drinking establishments, such as in Albufeira, Lisbon and Porto, but maybe other areas as well. 


  • Be aware of any strange flavours and colours in your drink. 
  • Only drink out of bottles that are opened in your sight.
  • Don’t share drinks or accept them from strangers. 
  • If someone wants to buy you a drink, go to the bar with them to be sure what you get. 
  • Watch how much you drink. The more you have to drink, the less likely you are to realise that you’ve been spiked. 
  • Travel with friends you trust, and use the GOV.UK Travel Aware ‘Stick with your mates’ campaign to watch out for each other.
  • Remember, non-alcoholic drinks can be spiked, too, including tea and coffee.

If you think your drink has been spiked

  • Tell a friend, bar staff, security staff, or the police right away.
  • Try to tell more than one person, as you may not know who has spiked your drink. Ask them to stay with you and look after you.
  • You may need to go to hospital. The effects of a spiked drink can worsen very quickly, so make sure to get help immediately.
  • If you don’t feel well and someone tries to separate you from friends or takes you somewhere isolated, then resist as much as possible. 
  • Don’t accept help from strangers or someone you don’t feel comfortable with.

Have a safe night out.

David Thomas is the President of Safe Communities Portugal


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