Boston Police Warn St. Patrick’s Day Revelers About Drink-Spiking

The city's mysterious roofies crisis continues, with BPD officials receiving 25 reports of contaminated drinks so far in 2023.

Boston Police advise St. Patrick’s Day partygoers to be vigilant about their drinks. / Photo by Peter Cade via Getty Images

In anticipation of Boston’s busiest drinking weekend of the year, the Boston Police Department issued a community alert yesterday, warning revelers to be cautious about spiked drinks on St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

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Over the past year, Boston has become a hotbed for drink-spiking incidents, with the BPD receiving at least 116 involving contaminated, or “roofied,” drinks in 2022 alone and city bars and venues taping warning posters to the inside of bathroom stall doors. (See “Inside Boston’s Mysterious Drink-Spiking Crisis” from our March 2023 issue.) So far in 2023, the BPD has received 25 reported incidents, according to the department’s Sergeant Detective John Boyle.

Since drink-spiking allegations became widespread last spring, the BPD has periodically issued community alerts, but Thursday’s message comes just before more than a million spectators are expected to attend Southie’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, and thousands more participate in bar crawls across the city for the holiday weekend.

The BPD’s March 16 statement warns against the use of the most common date-rape drugs such as Rohypnol, colloquially known as “roofies,” GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) and Ketamine—the likes of which can cause confusion, disorientation, and unconsciousness, amongst a host of other debilitating side effects. It encourages the public to look out for each other and form a “buddy system” when out in social settings, as well as: accepting drinks only from bartenders, not strangers; watching drinks at all times; keeping drinks covered, whether with your hand or another device such as protective drink covers; and proactively responding to uncharacteristic behavior from friends.

In January, a sign posted on the back of bathroom-stall doors at Boston bar JM Curley warned patrons about drink spiking. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

As this issue of drink spiking remains prevalent throughout Boston, residents and city officials alike have called for stricter safety measures in bars and licensed premises, and increased training for police officers responding to these incidents, and expanded access to date-rape drug testing. On February 28, City Councilors Gabriela Coletta, Ruthzee Louijeune, and Kenzie Bok held a working session to discuss the issue. Over Zoom, Lieutenant Richard Driscoll of the BPD’s sexual assault unit noted that as of the working session, the BPD had received 14 reported incidents of drink-spiking in 2023. Since then, a mere sixteen days later, the BPD confirms the number has increased to 25.

On social media—where victims are largely heading to share their stories and experiences with drink spiking in the city—the most common claim among those who did go to local area hospitals is that they were denied access to date-rape drug tests because they were not sexually assaulted. As of late January, State Senator Paul Feeney introduced a bill that would, among other things, establish a uniform testing protocol for victims when they arrive at a hospital believing they have been drugged even if they weren’t assaulted.

During February’s city council working session, city officials discussed proposals for government funding for venues to install cameras, providing testing kits to venues and hospitals, establishing a public way to collect and collate data so that it can be accessed by the public, and increasing training for licensed premise staff based on recommendations from the city’s Licensing Board, which were in development at the time of the meeting.

Throughout St. Patrick’s Day weekend and beyond, the BPD urges victims to report all drink-spiking incidents to the police. “We’d rather things be overreported than underreported,” Boyle told Boston in January. “Every little pebble in an investigation helps.”