Okanagan College students target drink safety

Drink Safe campaign launched in Penticton with information coasters used to raise awareness of drink spiking

Drink Safe team Natasha Di Iuorio (left)

Drink Safe team Natasha Di Iuorio (left)

If there was time to put a coaster on top of your drink unnoticed, just imagine what else could have gone in there.

That is the message that some Okanagan College students are trying to convey in the Drink Safe campaign they launched last weekend at The Mule nightclub in Penticton.

“People responded really well. A lot of people were watching their drinks a bit more and everyone was really positive about it,” said Natasha Di Iuorio, services director of the Okanagan College Students Union. “It seemed to have spread some awareness already.”

Drink Safe is a campaign against drug-facilitated sexual assault. In particular, the campaign targets drink spiking. This is the act of putting alcohol or other drugs into a person’s drink without their knowledge. Di Iuorio said she has heard too many stories of this happening in Penticton and the Okanagan.

“We felt it was a problem in the community that is an ongoing one so we wanted to address that. Some people have experienced sexual assaults, some just went home and didn’t even realize they were drugged. There have been a range of scenarios I have heard of,” said Di Iuorio.

It is why Di Iuorio and Jessica Combs from the Okanagan College Students Union and Amberlee Erdmann from the Okanagan College Women’s Resource Centre applied for a Youth Initiative Grant.

The funding provides up to $1,500 for projects where young people are creating positive and lasting changes in their communities. Di Iuorio said they used the funds to have 2,000 drink coasters made that they plan to distribute at The Mule, with the assistance of the nightclub staff, over the next three months. The coasters provide information on symptoms of being drugged, including drowsiness, feeling confused or disorientated, temporary loss of body sensation and others.

If it is successful, the college students hope they can expand it in the future. The grant program is sponsored by Telus, Interior Savings and United Way.

“Unfortunately, drink spiking is something that is widespread at all clubs, bars and restaurants. We wanted to take a stand and help spread awareness,” said The Mule general manager Steve Parker.

Staff at the nightclub will carry the educational coasters with them and put them on top of drinks when they see them unattended.

“When the person comes back to their drink, it will hopefully give them the thought to be more careful,” said Parker.

The general manager said The Mule already has a number of security measures to hold people accountable for their actions, including surveillance cameras and the treoscope system at the door which scans identification. He said staff are also educated on what to look for, whether that is symptoms of over-intoxication or a person that has been drugged.

“This is just another measure to make sure everyone is partying in a safe environment,” said Parker. “Security of people is our No. 1 concern.”