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Students are regularly drugged

When your drink gets spiked

Having your drink spiked with GHB; half of all students know at least one person this has happened to, an UKrant survey shows. 
By Anne de Vries en Paulien Plat

An UKrant survey among 293 Groningen students showed that 3 percent of students have been given drugs without their knowledge. Another 4 percent suspect they might have fallen victim to drugging. Of the first group, 66 percent is female. Of the second, 83 percent. 

Half of the respondents know at least one person who was drugged at some point. It happened in a pub, at a festival, or on holiday. Most of them (56 percent) were between eighteen and twenty-four years old when it happened. Respondents name pubs like De Negende Cirkel and ‘t Golden Fust, as well as student associations, as places where their drinks were spiked.

Most of them ended up in their own beds, with a bad case of amnesia. Friends took care of them and took them home. Several male respondents write that they were robbed and can’t remember a thing. ‘Everything went hazy and I lost a few hours. I can’t remember anything. Four hours later, I suddenly found myself on the Vismarkt with my bike. It was locked, but the chain was undone. My keys and backpack were gone’, one of them writes.

Victim stories

The amnesia alone can be very disorienting, says associate professor Judith Daniels, who specialises in trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Not knowing what happened can eat at you and make you feel unsafe. These feelings are only intensified when something traumatic happened. Getting professional help will aid in processing the experience. But, says Daniels, many people manage to get over the experience on their own.

A high dose will make you act like you’re tipsy or drunk

Narcotic effect

Various drugs are used to incapacitate people, among them flunitrazepam, ketamine, and GHB. These medications all have a narcotic effect, although the physical symptoms vary. GHB is the most popular drug of choice: as a liquid, it can be easily poured into a victim’s drink. 

How do you know if you’ve been drugged? ‘A low dose will make you feel relaxed and calm. The feeling of intoxication is similar to that of alcohol’, says Rob Otten, addiction expert at Verslavingszorg Noord-Nederland (VNN). ‘A high dose will make you act like you’re tipsy or drunk. It’s very close to an overdose, which makes you fall asleep.’ Other symptoms of GHB are confusion, dizziness, nausea, tremors, fatigue, and sexual arousal.

GHB is also very salty, which means you should be able to taste it in high dosages. But, says Otten, ‘if you’ve already drunk a lot of alcohol, your sense of taste decreases as well.’ A mix of GHB and alcohol can have even more severe effects, he says. ‘But if you fall asleep after an overdose, GHB won’t give you a hangover’, says Otten.


Because the symptoms of being drugged with GHB are so similar to those of drinking, people tend to doubt themselves: was I unable to hold my liquor, or did someone spike my drink? Of the respondents, 67 percent turn out to not be familiar with these symptoms, or just barely familiar.

Of the students who thought they’d notice if they’d been drugged (37 percent), two thirds were unfamiliar with the symptoms, or only knew of a few of them. After reading about the symptoms, twelve respondents amended their answers to say they might have been drugged, while eight of the twelve respondents who already thought they were drugged now withdrew that answer.

Four percent of respondents say they still aren’t sure if they were drugged. ‘I suddenly felt unwell and everything went dark. The next thing I knew I was on the floor. But I’d only had two drinks’, one respondent says. ‘I had been drinking, but not so much that I would forget the whole night’, another says. 

According to the Sexual Assault Centre (CSG) in Groningen, many people have difficulty taking that step of going to the police. The centre coordinates with the police vice squad and general practitioners to ensure victims get proper help. ‘We’ve seen that people who are drugged during a night out rarely go to the police’, says Peter Strijbosch, who, when UKrant spoke to him, was a process coordinator at CSG. He currently no longer works there. ‘They feel like they encouraged it somehow. They think they shouldn’t have been drinking so much.’ 

He thinks this means the CSG doesn’t have a good overview of how many victims there really are. Nevertheless, the centre receives at least one report of drugging a week, and Strijbosch thinks they’re getting more. 


According to the CSG, victims have to jump through way too many legal hoops to report a drugging, and they say the police will discourage victims from reporting it if they think the case will be dismissed anyway, like when the victim willingly went with the person who drugged them, or if they’ve been drinking. ‘It becomes a matter of their word against their attacker’s’, says Strijbosch. 

The CSG specifically aims to ‘de-blame’ people; their approach is different than that of the police. ‘When a victim feels like they’re a victim, we will treat them as one’, says Strijbosch. Fetzen de Groot, current process coordinator at CSG, confirms this. ‘People already tend to doubt themselves so much, so we believe them without reservations.’ 

One respondent writes how she suppresses her experience of being drugged, because people didn’t take her story seriously. ‘My friends acted like I’d simply drunk too much, and I didn’t want to think about it, so I suppressed it. I’m still doing that. It’s like it never happened. I do talk about it sometimes, but it feels like it happened to someone else.’ 

Have you had an unwanted sexual experience? Do you need immediate help? Are you doubting yourself or do you have questions? The Sexual Assault Centre is available 24/7. You can call or chat for free: 0800 0188.


The survey was held just before pubs and clubs closed down in March because of the corona crisis. 

293 people took the paper survey that was handed out on the street. The same survey was disseminated online via UKrant’s Facebook and Instagram pages. This elicited 81 responses. A separate Instagram poll was answered 262 times. The total sampling consisted of 636 Groningen citizens. We were unable to check whether the same people filled out the survey more than once.

More than 90 percent of respondents said they were a student at the UG, but the survey has also been filled out by students and staff at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. 

The results from the paper and online surveys and the poll were largely similar, with one exception: when asked if they’d ever been drugged, 9.5 percent of respondents to the Instagram poll and 16 percent of people taking the online survey answered in the affirmative, as opposed to 3.1 percent of people who filled out the paper survey. 

We think this might be a case of participation bias; it’s possible the online respondents specifically took the online survey because something had happened to them. Since the paper survey was taken by the largest random sampling of students, we’ve mainly based our findings on these results.


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