Spiked drink at the bar. Two experiences

The article was written with the aim of talking about sexual crimes in Estonia, more specifically about the danger of date rape. The article explains what to do if you suspect that you or your friend may have been drugged, and also shares information where to seek help.The story draws attention to the fact that foreigners in Estonia are in a particularly vulnerable state. Apart from the locals, they should also better understand what sexual violence and rape are and be able to react effectively if necessary. Two people share their experience and a comment from a police representative is attached. The article is published in both Estonian and English.

“Date rape” refers to forcing someone, against their will, into sex during the course of a romantic date. Although this is stereotyped as a meetup in a public bar with drugged alcoholic drinks, many of these scenarios occur in home settings, even without the involvement of narcotics. Associated terms among date rape include “roofies” and “spiking” a drink – both referring to how a criminal adds drugs like GHB or Rohypnol to their victims’ drinks to stealthily incapacitate them. Because both of these common date rape drugs will effect their user within 30 minutes, the following will explain how to detect date rape scenarios and give control back to the victim.

Drugged drinks are difficult to distinguish from normal alcoholic beverages, because the typical date rape drugs do not change the taste of the drink too much. Although there may be warning signs, such as a dissolving pill causing unusual bubbling in a drink, the best practice for preventing date rape is to keep your drink within your sight to watch for anyone adding foreign substances. There are also wearable devices, such as the Nightcap hairband, which prevents drugging by forming a seal between your drinks’ lid and its drinking straw.

Two anonymous contributors to this article have added their experience; their experience occurring in the same public bar Möku in Tallinn at different times.

The first experience

“I visited the bar for a Latin dance night and was happy to see my friends’ band perform all evening. My drinking habits in public settings are to have no more than a few units of alcohol, to keep control of myself and conscience. This night I was having a great time meeting strangers in the crowd, and alcohol was sold and served in the same room as the dance floor. I am an heterosexual male and refused sexual advances from the same gay a few times that night. It was annoying, but I didn’t feel threatened. I know that I only had three beers that night, but I felt much drunker. I have no further memory of that night past the initial two hours – according to the friend who found me asleep outside in the rain, I was incapacitated – I couldn’t talk, move myself, and only want to sleep and snore. I was really weak but not in pain at that point. Hearing about this still worries me because if it weren’t for my friend and his wife saving me from the bar, anyone could have convinced the bar staff that they are rescuing me, but actually rape me outside of the bar.

It’s not my character to take drugs or become outrageously drunk in public. I’m strongly convinced I was drugged – but because I have no memory of the moment I became incapacitated, all I could learn from this experience is to be vigilant when I am out dancing and have alcohol. Although I later told the bar staff what happened, they couldn’t recall that I was drugged on the dance floor or even recall the person I suspect drugged me. I am disappointed that the bar staff wasn’t responsible enough to help me when I was asleep in the cold rain immediately outside of their bar.”

The second experience

“On the night of 29th May I went to a bar called Möku with some friends. There was a friendly event and it sounded like a fun event to dance. We had a small gathering at my friend’s place, chatted for hours. While others were enjoying lots of prosecco I had only one light beer, I didn’t feel like drinking much, also I had a family event for the next day planned. We grabbed a taxi and left my friend’s place minutes before midnight. When we arrived at the party we got ourselves drinks and sat outside smoking and chatting. After some time we felt cold and decided to go in and dance.

We had fun with our own small group, made fun of each other while dancing to really bad remixes. At some point a woman I did not know started to talk to me, saying that we knew each other 10 years ago and seemed to flirt quite a bit with me. I did not recall her at all and politely rejected her. Went on dancing with my friends and didn’t think much about her after this. I finished my first cider and decided to get my last drink of the night. I got my cider and went dancing with my friends. For the whole time I was dancing with my cider in my hand but I wanted to do more crazy dancing and decided to put my bottle on the low windowsill of the bar, my friends did the same. Some people had their handbags and jackets put there too. The music got better and we had lots of fun, drank my cider, talked with a girl I didn’t know, flirted with her for some time, danced a bit with her and decided to go outside to catch some air. After getting outside we sat down and I didn’t feel good. Excused myself and went to the bar’s bathroom. I felt sick. I didn’t throw up in the bathroom but I realised that something is really wrong, suddenly I felt really dizzy and weak, with every passing minute I felt how I’m losing control over my body. I went outside to sit down and luckily my friends saw me and asked what’s up. The next moment I started throwing up and I knew this wasn’t from alcohol. I have been quite a heavy drinker and never been throwing up from alcohol. I was almost sober in that moment. I have tried to make myself throw up with toothbrushes and whatsoever but nothing. And only time when I have been throwing was when I got a stomach illness from a trip to Asia.

So there I was, throwing up and not being able to stand up. My body was paralyzed, I couldn’t keep my head up.  I told my friend this isn’t right, this can’t be from alcohol and she agreed – she knows me for 15 years and we have partied like hell and never seen me like this. She grabbed a barman for help and they called an ambulance. I couldn’t stand up on my own, I was held up between the barman and my friend, unable to move. When the ambulance arrived they took me in, asked for ID and what happened, told them I had two drinks and felt sick, throwed up like crazy and I can’t control my body, I feel dizzy and disoriented. They told me to go home. Grab a taxi or ask a friend. I begged them isn’t there anything they could do because I cant move, I cant keep my head up, I need help. The medics kept telling me that I am adequate and just go home. I told them I have never ever felt like this, someone has roofied me for sure. They didn’t hear me and kept telling to go home. My friend was next to the ambulance arguing with the medics that I need help. Police arrived and they told that they can take me to the jail and spend the night there if that helps. My friend was furious and I was panicking because I needed help, not a cold and dirty cell to lay down helplessly. I decided it’s not making any sense to argue with the police and medics because they weren’t backing down with their story. I told them that okay, I will try to take a taxi with my friend and spend the night on her floor because I was unable to move and I was scared. The next moment I stepped outside of the ambulance I collapsed and then the medics decided to take me to the hospital. The whole ride I cried like a baby because I was scared of what the hell was going on with my body. 

At the hospital they drew urine and blood samples, I got an IV and was told to lay down. The only possible position was to lay curled up in a fetal position on the hospital bed while the IV was dripping. I was shaking and cold, asked for a blanket and cried. I couldn’t sleep, I felt so sick and the whole room was spinning around. This was my new reality for a couple of hours. After some hours one of the nurses asked me how was I feeling- a bit better than when I was brought in but still shitty. She told me that I have been poisoned but they really don’t know from what. After spending over 4 hours in the hospital I was released, ordered a taxi and went home. It was early, around 7.30-ish. I got home and tried to drink water but that made me sick so I tried to sleep. Woke up during 12 and my situation wasn’t any good. Took a shower, tried to drink water but still the room was spinning and I felt like collapsing. It was a weird feeling one moment I was dizzy and disoriented, the next moment I had a short period of feeling normal. 

For the next 6 days I was unable to work, sleep or just exist. I felt confused, I couldn’t remember things, I couldn’t move properly – every step took me out of breath and I stumbled on every piece of furniture I own. Taking stairs felt scary and dangerous. Driving my car was impossible, I was a threat to myself and other people. I reported my “tiny adventure” to the police, claiming my tests that I got something in my drink. The diagnosis was “unclassified psychotic drugs”, so it wasn’t GHB because I was told that GHB is identifiable. The police investigator called me to his office to discuss the matters about what happened. I told him the whole story, sent the hospital analyses and they got access of the camera recordings of the bar from that night. The investigator heard me out and directed the whole conversation to the point where it could have been my fault because I am using antidepressants and they might not go well with alcohol. I told him I asked my doctor beforehand and she assured that my pills don’t cause this kind of side effects. Moreover I have been drinking heavily while on those pills and the worst that has happened is a regular one-day hangover. We wrapped this conversation up and the investigator told me to get back to me whether they find something on the tapes of the security cameras or not. 

Several days later I got an email from the police saying that they are not opening an investigation due the lack of evidence. The security cameras where too dark and it was impossible to identify that someone drugged me and perhaps it still was from my own pills. From a bureaucratic view I understand why they didn’t go further – you cannot open an investigation when you already know that it’s impossible to prove anything yet again you have to do something with that file. Also where medication is involved, it’s much more easier to blame on that, rather than in the year 2022 in a hipster bar some fuckwit is drugging people. 

I would have went with the police’s opinion that perhaps it was my medication if I would have felt sick for one or two days. But I was bedridden for 6 days, forcing myself to drink water and tea to get out whatever was in my body. I’m forever grateful for the nurses in the hospital taking my worry seriously. I’m forever grateful for my friends and family who offered to bring me food and find this bastard and tase that person for doing something so awful. And I’m forever grateful for my friend who helped me trough this situation before anyone else realised that something’s wrong with me, the person who stood up in front of the police and medics to protect me, the friend who got me tea and groceries and kept an eye on me until I got finally better. If it wasn’t her, I might have drowned in my own vomit or any predator could have just dragged me away and do what they please.”

The stories collected are anonymous and were shared voluntarily. Unfortunately, both stories happened in the same place, but date rape drugs can be used on anybody at any time or place, but is more commonly found  at bars or social gatherings settings.

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to avoid poisoning the drink. Only people who poison drinks can avoid this. But you can contribute to the health and well-being of yourself and others if you keep an eye on your drink and take care of your friends in case something happens to them. Photo: Unsplash CC

What to do incase you have been drugged?

It is better to practice safety than hold regrets later. While reporting suspected attempts of date rape drugs there is no need to surrender your passport nor ID to police while they assist you or others. 

If you believe someone with or among you in the moment is being drugged or forced into sex, call emergency services at 112. Pay attention to if the person’s health is deteriorating. If you are in public, simultaneously notify the staff working at your bar. Never let a victim of date rape go home alone, because along the way they may become incapacitated and quickly become more vulnerable than you last saw them.

The bar may assist you and emergency services in identifying the offender, as well as recalling the situation to police or providing available surveillance footage. When emergency services arrive at the victim, health conditions will be assessed, and the situation may proceed with an ambulance and/or hospital.

If taken to a hospital, you may choose whether a male or female gynecologist will perform the post-assault examination.This includes checking and documenting injuries (possibly with photographs), and collecting and retaining forensic evidence (sperm, blood, urine, the underwear). Testing for HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases is also available then; PEP, post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, is effective within 72 hours of exposure to the virus, and taken for 28 days. There is also help offered in preventing pregnancy; also within 72 hours of the assault, the “SOS pill” is provided to prevent pregnancy. In some hospitals it is free, in the pharmacy it costs 12–18 euros.

Hisko Vares, head of the Crimes Against Persons Service of the Northern Prefecture Criminal Bureau

 A situation where a person suddenly feels worse or loses control over their body is a very scary experience for everyone. Such stories, where people turn to the police with concerns that they have been drugged, come up from time to time during the year, but it cannot be said that these reports are somehow massive. We take reports of drug abuse seriously and collect evidence as we do with any serious crime against the person. Gathering evidence in such cases is made more difficult by the fact that, as a rule, these people do not remember very precisely where and with whom they communicated.

Although investigating such cases is difficult, we still encourage people to contact the police. Whenever you suspect that you or your friend have been drugged, the most important thing is to act quickly. Call 112 immediately and ask for a patrol to be sent there. If this is not possible for some reason, ask your friends to take you quickly to the nearest medical facility, tell your story and have samples taken, definitely an urine sample. In the case of narcotics, as a rule, substances are used that leave the body quickly, and every lost hour makes the proof more difficult – for example, the popularly known corked drink, or GHB, starts to disappear from the body after a few hours, and therefore a few days later it is no longer possible to identify whether and which narcotic substance may have been in the body to be.

In such cases this is the most difficult, because in addition to the victim’s statement, the police must collect additional evidence. If they cannot be found, the investigation must unfortunately be closed due to lack of sufficient evidence.


UK government in Estonia report on sexual assault

Rape Crisis Network Europe

A Guide to Keep You Safe Abroad, 2019

National victim support and conciliation service office

Estonian rape statistics over time

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