It was my 20-year-old daughter who asked in passing if I’d heard about the women claiming to have been injected in a city-centre pub in Dundee.

They’d been ‘jabbed’ with sedative drugs, she told me.

The following day, I asked my students if they’d heard about this. I was surprised at their answers. It was und they all believed it.

After all, there were claims right across social media – and from up and down the country – of puncture wounds in arms and legs, of erratic behaviour and long periods of memory loss.

Out cold: Student Ilana El-baz, 20, filmed after an alleged spiking

Out cold: Student Ilana El-baz, 20, filmed after an alleged spiking

There were ‘horrifying’ reports in Nottingham, Exeter, Durham and Leeds. The wave of assaults had already affected thousands of students from Stirling, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

‘I was out last night,’ one woman wrote. ‘I have no memory after half 11… It wasn’t until later in the day that I noticed a jab mark on the back of my arm.’

In Dundee, where we live, the university emailed every one of its 20,000 students and condemned the attacks as ‘unacceptable, reprehensible, and ultimately life-threatening’.

They were afraid and confused. And why wouldn’t they be?

We have long been wise to the phenomenon of drink spiking, where sexual predators take advantage of clubs and bars to lace drinks with so-called ‘date-rape drugs’ such as Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), tranquillisers such as Valium or Rohypnol, or extra shots of stronger alcohol.

Some cases are said to be followed by assaults or rape.

It appeared that the tactic had changed: Potential rapists used syringes for drugs directly into their bloodstreams.

These claims became viral due to the popularity of social media. These women organized a boycott against nightclubs.

A petition demanding new laws to ‘thoroughly search guests’ on entry to nightclubs gained 160,000 signatories, and earlier this month the UK Parliament petitions committee discussed what it should be doing in response.

However, no one questioned whether this phenomenon really was happening.

It’s an uncomfortable truth, not least for the young women who sincerely believe that they are victims, but it’s entirely possible that there is no epidemic of needle spiking. The truth is that we are the ones responsible for what’s happening.

Student Sarah Buckle, pictured, says she awoke in hospital after a night out with a needle mark on her hand

Sarah Buckle (pictured) says that she was woken up in hospital by a needle mark on the hand after an evening out.

The core of this puzzle is a confusing question: Why would someone inject drugs when they can equally easily put them in drinks, which have less risk and are more likely to be denied?

Are there any ways to inject date-rape drugs into people?

You can easily find syringes here. You can buy them in pharmacies as well as online.

GHB can theoretically be injected. This is the most common drug associated with drink-spiking.

However, a friend of mine explained to me that to effectively drug someone in this manner would need a large amount of the substance.

This would require a large syringe with a large needle, which would then need to be under someone’s skin for long enough – at least 15 seconds – to dispense enough of the drug to make a difference.

The medic stated that it was important not to detect this complicated process. However, the victim would almost certainly feel it. The pain can be tempered with alcohol, but it will not disappear.

As John Slaughter, senior forensic toxicologist at Analytical Services International, told the Full Fact independent checking organisation: ‘If someone is jabbed with a syringe, then their reflex action is going to be to move away.

‘The opportunity for someone to actually inject enough drug from that syringe to have the effect is, I would think, fairly low.

Ms Buckle's hand. The student said she noticed a small pin prick on her hand, which later developed bruises and began to throb

Ms. Buckle’s hand. The student said she noticed a small pin prick on her hand, which later developed bruises and began to throb

I’m not saying that it’s absolutely impossible, I’m just saying that, in my opinion, it’s unlikely.’

Adam Winstock is the director of Global Drug Survey. He points out, for a drug to work, it would take at least half of a teaspoonful. ‘That hurts,’ he says.

Although alternative medications such as the benzodiazepines can be used in small quantities, they aren’t available in injectable form.

Although they can be made, it is difficult to do so by someone who doesn’t have specialist knowledge. It is better to add them to drinks.

All of the above is not proof. It is impossible to say with certainty that any of these incidents occurred.

Social media claims often include photos that show the victim with puncture wounds, such as on the back or upper arm. Some reports suggested that the jabs may have penetrated clothing.

Yet, there are very few accounts that can be verified and this is true even if the cases have been solved.

Police in Nottingham confirmed that they have reviewed 15 cases of needle-spiking reports. But in only one of those cases did the police believe the injury was ‘consistent with a needle’.

Two men, aged 18 and 19, had been arrested ‘on suspicion of conspiring to administer poison’ but not specifically in connection with any reports of needle spiking.

The investigation has been completed and they were released.

It was discovered that three of the women suspected in Exeter had been spiked by needles were in fact clean.

A case had been investigated by the police of St Albans in Herts. They found no evidence that there was a crime.

Then, if you look at reports of drink spiking – generally accepted to be a widespread phenomenon – a remarkably similar picture emerges.

Surprisingly, statistics show a more serious problem than reports about needles.

BBC obtained figures that showed more than 2,600 cases of drink spiking in England and Wales between 2015-2019, according to BBC.

As fewer victims are willing to speak out, it is likely that the real figures will be even higher.

A survey by campaign group SOS (Stamp Out Spiking) UK claimed that 98 per cent of people don’t go to the police because they fear they won’t be believed.

According to data from the Somerset and Avon police, they recorded 486 incidents of drink-spiking since 2016. This led to 27 arrests.

There have not been any successful prosecutions. It seems that not one arrest was made in 2018 (the year with the most incidents, 122).

Police Scotland reported in 2018 that they received 74 reports regarding drink spiking. However, no charges were filed for more than five years.

New figures from the English and Welsh police show that only 19 of 839 allegations of sexually motivated drinking have resulted in criminal charges in England and Wales.

Is drink-spiking also exaggerated

Wrexham Maelor Hospital doctors discovered something interesting in 2012 when they looked at women who thought they’d been drugged.

Most of them, they established, had been rendered helpless not by ‘date-rape’ substances, but by binge drinking.

Although there was no evidence of any women seeking emergency medical help having been spiked with drugs, one fifth tested positive for marijuana.

The research was limited to one location and not done nationwide. Yet if it’s representative, we have to ask how we reached this state of terror.

Why do we see ‘spiking’ everywhere we look?

These profiles may be the clues to the cause, which could include young people, and especially young adults who have just started university.

Each year there is an increase of reports about drink-tampering at the beginning and end of the fall term. That is when students socialize with thousands.

However, there could be more. Dutch criminologist Hans Boutellier talks about young people’s ‘safety utopia’.

They feel free from their parents’ control, and often, for the first times, both fearful and liberated. So, new forms of unity emerge, even though school, home, siblings, parents, and other family members are missing.

Young women might experience shared anxiety about strangers. This can lead to a sense of understanding and mutual respect for the world.

I’m also concerned about the stories that we choose to tell ourselves, however.

A form of ‘victim feminism’ has evolved in recent years – a harmful by-product of #MeToo – which elevates the idea that women and girls are automatically ‘at risk’ from male violence and from men.

Maleness is problematic in some circles. Bad men are everywhere. Young females, on the other hand, are vulnerable and must be protected.

Perhaps that is the reason those in authority are unable to be rational. Instead of seeking out evidence of needle spiking, they simply accept outlandish claims as true – one more nasty threat to add to the charge sheet of nasty threats posed by men against women.

I am struck that we live in an ever more risk-averse world, one which judges ever more facets of human behaviour – from causing offence to not wearing a mask – to be crimes that must be stamped out.

This is a growing and dangerous trend. How long before simply asking someone to ‘man up’ becomes a criminal offence?

This isn’t to suggest that women don’t feel distress. This is true.

Our institutions, including politicians, police, and universities, fuel panic, which destroys all sense of perspective.

We are all aware that many young men have been demonized, and even portrayed in the role of potential rapists.

This is not only wrong-headed, misanthropic, and irrational. It’s a new form of bigotry.

Dr Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer at Abertay University in sociology/criminology is currently the author. He’s currently working on a book called The Criminalisation of Everything.