Bites in nightclubs: in the United Kingdom, questions still unanswered after a similar wave

Investigations have been opened in several cities in France after a wave of cases of stings in nightclubs and at concerts. A phenomenon already observed last fall in the United Kingdom.

The case has stirred the media sphere for a few months, over the testimonies and investigations opened in several cities in France. In Nantes, Rennes or Grenoble, the prosecutor’s office launched investigations after the complaints of a hundred people claiming to have been stung during evenings in nightclubs or concerts.

Attacks which, report the victims, give rise to various symptoms such as hot flashes or a feeling of discomfort. In some cases, traces of bites, sometimes even surrounded by bruises, have indeed been authenticated by the medical staff.

However, so far, none of the analyzes carried out has revealed the presence of GHB (known as the “rape drug”) or a similar substance in the body. Conclusion which always raises more questions about the origin of the symptoms and the motivations of the potential aggressors.

Many cases in the UK

The phenomenon is not new, however: the United Kingdom in particular observed a similar wave last autumn. Following cases reported in local British media as early as September, then mentioned by the national press, an excitement is created. The hypothesis of GHB injections using syringes then began to circulate.

“There have been a lot of prevention campaigns on social networks and on university campuses” in the United Kingdom, details Harry Sumnall, professor of toxicology at John Moores Univesity, in Liverpool, contacted on Monday by

The multiplication of cases worries even in the ranks of the British government. After a call to this effect from Interior Minister Priti Patel, Parliament is launching an inquiry whose aim is to bring together the information gathered during the various investigations and to draw recommendations for the prevention and treatment of problem.

1382 cases identified and no trace of GHB

And while the French investigators are still looking for answers to the many questions raised by the phenomenon, it is clear that the British investigations have also not made it possible to characterize a wave of injections of toxic substances by syringe.

The results of this parliamentary inquiry, published on April 26, detail that 1382 cases were recorded in the country between September 2021 and January 26, 2022, but that none of them gave rise to a positive toxicological analysis for GHB or a substance similar. To understand: the hypothesis of injections of toxic products through a syringe seems to be less and less convincing on the other side of the Channel.

“It is very difficult to administer drugs through a syringe in sufficient quantity to have an effect, especially in the context of a nightclub party. It would take time and require a great deal of needle”, adds Harry Sumnall.

“It could be any sharp object”

As in France, what gives the British police a hard time is the absence of elements – apart from traces of bites – proving that crimes have indeed been committed. While the authorities made a few arrests, none of the individuals arrested were ultimately charged.

Despite everything, there is still the question of the bite mark, noted by the medical staff in a large number of cases.

“It’s also a problem in the UK. If those marks look like what syringes might leave, that’s not necessarily the case. It could be any sharp object”, not necessarily filled with a harmful substance, says Harry Sumnall.

Fuzzy mobiles

Added to this is the question of the motivations of potential aggressors. In France, none of the cases identified has been associated with sexual assault or rape. Only one complainant, in Grenoble, reported having had his wallet and keys stolen after having the feeling of being stung.

Among the hypotheses mentioned in the British parliamentary report, that of an unhealthy game based on people’s fears. But again, in the absence of suspects and substances, it is difficult to say this with certainty.

Can we speak of “collective psychosis”?

Some are therefore beginning to express doubts about the existence of a real threat. Harry Sumnall, who prefers to remain “very careful”, evokes for his part the possibility of a confusion of the symptoms felt with the effects of alcohol or drugs taken intentionally.

As such, on April 21, the Nantes prosecutor also reported to that traces of these substances had been found in the blood of certain complainants. “In some cases, there is a massive presence of alcohol or narcotics,” said Renaud Gaudeul.

However, can we already speak of “collective psychosis”? “The term is too strong,” said Harry Sumnall. “But we can think that the phenomenon reflects the fears that members of a society have about their safety.”

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