Hundreds of people across Europe and the UK have reported being stuck with needles in nightclubs or concerts, a recent trend that has many worried.
- More than 300 cases have been reported in France in recent months
- Leading doctor says there are fears victims could contract HIV from the attacks
- Needle spikes have also been reported in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands
In recent months, more than 300 people have reported being bitten by needles in France, and police in Belgium and the Netherlands are also investigating scattered cases.
In the UK, the government is currently investigating a series of “needle stick” incidents.
Tomas Laux, 18, attended a rap concert in Lille, France on May 4.
He told The Associated Press he felt dizzy and had a headache the next morning before noticing a strange little skin prick on his arm and a bruise.
The symptoms persisted, prompting Mr Laux to visit his doctor, who advised him to go to hospital. Doctors confirmed evidence of a needle stick and Mr Laux was tested for HIV and hepatitis – which came back negative.
“I’ve given up on going to concerts since it happened,” Mr Laux said.
Hundreds of miles away, Leanne Desnos recounted a similar experience after visiting a club in the city of Bordeaux, in southwestern France, in April.
Ms Desnos, also 18, passed out the next day, feeling dizzy and having hot flashes while at a fast food restaurant. When she returned home, she realized that she had an injection mark on her arm. After seeing reports on social media about the mysterious bites, she went to a clinic to get tested for infections. She is still waiting for the results.
Residents of Paris, Toulouse, Nantes, Nancy, Rennes and other cities in France have reported being stuck with a needle without their knowledge or permission.
The people targeted, who are mostly women, show visible injection marks, often bruising, and report symptoms like feeling drowsy.
The French national police say 302 people have filed formal complaints for such needle sticks.
Several police investigations are underway in different regions, but no suspects have yet been arrested, no needles have been found and the motive remains unclear.
No victims reported sexual assault; one of them said to have been robbed, in Grenoble in April, according to the newspaper Le Monde.
Although there have been two cases of people testing positive for GHB, a strong anesthetic used by predators in sexual assaults, Dr Emmanuel Puskarczyk said the drug was more likely to be fortified in a drink and that the main concern was that people would get HIV.
“We have not found any drug or substance or objective evidence that attests to … the administration of a substance with an illicit or criminal intention,” said Dr Puskarczyk, head of the poison control center for the city of Nancy, in the ‘east of France.
At the Nancy hospital, a specific procedure has been created to optimize the care of victims.
Patients with symptoms like dizziness are being treated and blood and urine samples are being kept for five days in case anyone wants to complain.
A French police official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said there were few similarities between the attacks.
“The only similar thing is that people are getting injected with a needle in a festive context in different places in France,” they said.
In the UK, Parliament published a report in April on the consumption of drinks and needles in pubs and nightclubs after a sudden increase in incidents last year.
He said police reported about 1,000 needle-injection cases across the country around October 2021, when many students returned to campuses after COVID-19 restrictions eased.
However, the Parliament report said there was a lack of data to judge the seriousness of the problem.
“No one knows how widespread doping is, whether by alcohol, drugs or needles, and no one knows what drives perpetrators to do it,” the report said.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests the practice is widespread and dangerous.”
In Belgium, the Brussels public prosecutor’s office opened two investigations following complaints from women who said they had been stung during a parade in the city center of Brussels.
March organizers said in a statement they had been made aware of several cases and urged potential victims to seek medical attention at hospitals.
As investigations continue in France, rapper Dinos interrupted his concert in Strasbourg this week to warn his fans of the risks.
“It has to stop,” he told the crowd.