PARIS — Across France, more than 300 people have reported being pricked out of the blue with needles at nightclubs or concerts in recent months. Doctors and multiple prosecutors are on the case, but no one knows who’s doing it or why, and whether the victims have been injected with drugs — or indeed any substance at all.
Police and club owners are working together to increase awareness. A rapper interrupted his concert to remind concert-goers of the dangers associated with surprise needle attacks.
It’s not just France: Britain’s government is studying a spate of “needle spiking” there, and police in Belgium and the Netherlands are investigating scattered cases too.
Tomas Laux was 18 years old when he attended a Lille, France rap concert. He had smoked marijuana during the show and also drank alcohol. When he came home, he told The Associated Press, he was feeling dizzy and had a headache – and he spotted a strange little skin puncture on his arm and a bruise.
The next morning, the symptoms didn’t disappear and Laux went to his doctor, who advised him to go to the emergency room. Laux was diagnosed with HIV and given a test for hepatitis by doctors. His results came out negative, like other victims’ so far.
“I’ve given up going to concerts since it happened,” Laux said.
Leanne Desnos, a woman hundreds of miles away from Bordeaux recounted an identical experience in April after she went to a club there. Desnos (18) fell asleep at the restaurant and experienced dizziness and hot flashes. After she arrived home she discovered she had an injected mark on her right arm. Following witness testimony from others on social media, she decided to go to a clinic and get checked for infection. Still waiting for results.
Parisian residents from Toulouse and Nantes as well as Rennes have been reported to having their needles inserted without their consent. The majority of those targeted are women and show signs such as bruises or feeling lightheaded.
France’s national police agency says 302 people have filed formal complaints about such needle pricks. Multiple police investigations continue in various regions. However, no suspects have been arrested, and no needle has yet been located. The motive is still unknown.
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According to Le Monde newspaper, no victims reported being sexually assaulted. However, one victim claimed he was robbed in Grenoble, April.
According to a national police official, two people were tested for GHB. They might have consumed the drug through a drink. According to the official with the national police agency, GHB can only be detected in urine after 12 hours.
Official and doctor involved in the investigations expressed doubt that GHB was present in the nightclub needles.
“We didn’t find any drugs or substances or objective proof which attest to … administration of a substance with wrongful or criminal intent. What we fear the most is people contracting HIV, hepatitis or any infectious disease” from the jabs, said Dr. Emmanuel Puskarczyk, head of the poison control center of the eastern French city of Nancy.
A special process has been developed at Nancy Hospital to improve the care of victims. For those who have symptoms such as grogginess, blood and urine samples can be kept in the Nancy hospital for up to five days.
A group of youths walks along the Quay Des Anneaux, near the Warehouse club on May 18, 2022 in Nantes (western France).
No common pattern is evident in attacks
“Each case is different. We see injection marks, but some people don’t have symptoms. When potential victims have symptoms like discomfort or black holes (in their memory), they are not specific,” Puskarczyk said.
The police official, who was not authorized to be publicly named according to national police policy, said: “At this stage, we can’t talk about a specific modus operandi. There aren’t any similarities between the cases. The only thing similar is that people are being injected with a needle in a festive context in different places in France.”
The French Interior Ministry started a nationwide awareness campaign after clubgoers expressed fear via social media and the increased anxiety caused by media coverage. Clubbers are being given leaflets by police and club owners are being consulted about prevention strategies.
After a surge in needle-spiking incidents in nightclubs and pubs last year, the U.K. Parliament published an April report on drink and needle spiking. According to the report, police had reported around 1,000 needle-injection cases in the United Kingdom between October 2021 and December 2021 when students returned to campus after coronavirus restrictions were lifted.
The parliament report stated that there is not enough data available to assess the severity of the problem. It’s not clear whether anyone has been prosecuted for needle spiking, or how many victims were injected with a drug or other substance.
“No-one knows how prevalent spiking is, whether by drink, drug or needle, and no-one knows what causes perpetrators to do it. Anecdotal evidence suggests the practice is widespread and dangerous,” it said.
In neighboring Belgium, there have been several similar cases in which people were pricked with needles during nightclubs and soccer games as well as at the Belgian Pride Parade. Last month, the Brussels prosecutor’s office opened two investigations following complaints from women who said they were jabbed during the pride parade in downtown Brussels. The march organizers stated in a statement that they were aware of multiple cases and advised potential victims to seek treatment at hospitals.
Back in France, as investigations continue with no perpetrators found, rapper Dinos interrupted his concert in Strasbourg this week to warn his fans about the risks, and insisted: “This has to stop.”
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