2,100 complaints filed in 2022, a psychosis of a few concrete cases

For Katherine Pierce*, 27, and her sister, there is no longer any question about setting foot in a nightclub. “I still have nightmares. A guy is trying to strangle me. He has a syringe. People around me on the dance floor do nothing.”, as you say. The two women filed a complaint after an evening at the end of August at the Bordeaux Foundation. “I was dancing. I felt a scratch in my shoulder and my sister felt like a needle. We preferred to leave. The next day my sister started to feel pain in her arm.” Then she discovers red spots on her body while Catherine has a small wound on her wrist.

>> Certificate. The secret of nightclub bites: “I suddenly felt a rather sharp pain in the arm”, a captivity victim

Such cases, the Home Office recorded more than 2,100 at the end of September, compared to more than 800 at the end of June. For the music festival only, we registered 80 complaints, in addition to about twenty complaints during the Bayonne festivals. in summer, The phenomenon continued quietlyExplains Leila Chaouachi, a pharmacist at the Center for Addiction Control in Paris who analyzes these cases at the national level. 66% of these belong to young women with an average age of 20 years. They were first identified in the southeast and in Brittany, and then in the Paris region. “Complaints are widespread throughout the territory. They mainly concern nightclubs, festivals and a handful of issues in public transport. Places are always crowded, which makes investigations very difficult”identifies Camille Chase, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior.

One third of the victims do not show symptoms. Two-thirds have symptoms such as hot flashes, vomiting, and malaise, and 15% have memory loss. “This is a fairly common symptom and doesn’t tell us much about what substance they may have been given.”, explains Emmanuel Boucharczyk, chief of the Poison Control Center at Nancy University Hospital. Suspicion prevails more because anesthetizing a person by injecting a product with a syringe is not easy. According to the annual survey on the delivery of chemicals conducted by the Agency for Medicines, ANSM, in general, drugs are found in the victim’s food or drink. “Sometimes there are instances of chemicals going through a vein, but a person has to allow that to happen, so it’s more when they are actually restrained or sedated.”Dr. Laila Chaouachi, an expert at ANSM, outlines this.

In fact, most analyzes of bite victims reveal nothing. “rape drug”GHB, classified as an anesthetic, like its derivative GBL, widely consumed in the evening, has not been detected in the blood or urine of victims. Anyway not at the rates that show the victim has been drugged because we all naturally excrete GHB. “GHB or GBL are not good candidates for these stealth picks. They will not work as a small amount at the end of the needle”, says Emmanuel Bucharczyk. It could contain very strong opioids or even some type of insulin, but again, analyzes of the victims revealed nothing. However, this result should qualify, because in some cases, if samples are not taken quickly, they become ineffective. Some drugs stay in the blood for only six to eight hours, and in the urine for 10 to 12 hours. “When the victims call after three days, they are told that there is no point in carrying out the analyzes,” says Magali Labadi, head of the Poison Control Center at CHU Nouvelle-Aquitaine in Bordeaux. We can also look at poetry a month after the incident. But there, too, the analyzes did nothing.

Since May 2022, in Nancy, Dijon and Bordeaux, the centers have implemented protocols so that analyzes are performed quickly. But there is another element that sometimes deters victims. “You should know that it is the public prosecutor who decides whether to conduct the analyzes or not, because it costs more than 1,000 euros. If the public prosecutor does not want to sue, it is the victim who must pay”Majali Labadi explains. On top of that, there have been so many complaints that labs are struggling to keep up. Thus, in September, the Montargues attorney general was forced to re-release his requests for analysis after three complaints filed in mid-July. “We’re on a three-month deadline over three weeks.”acknowledges a toxicologist from a lab working on behalf of Justice. “I hope it calms down, as it drowns out the real cases of chemical rendering.”

When the material appears in the analyses, doubts may persist. In Châlons-en-Champagne, mild anxiolytics were found in the blood of a victim who said he had not consumed them. Often after investigation, doctors realize that the plaintiff has taken medication. “There is a syrup called Apetamin, which is not sold in pharmacies, but it contains antihistamines”, Lauren Duvett, MD, a forensic pathologist at Hôtel Dieu’s forensic medical unit explains in AP-HP. “When we find it in the analyses, and we ask people if they’ve taken it, they tell us yes, but they didn’t view it as a medicine.”.

The fact remains that biting a person can cause health problems. After an evening in a nightclub in Rouen at the end of May, Sarah had to take regular tests for three months, fearing the possibility of contracting HIV or hepatitis: “I had to go to the hospital for regular blood tests, come back with results, and be careful when having sex with my wife”says the young woman. In this case, no infection was detected. “The AIDS virus is very fragile and will not survive on the tip of a needle, reassured Dr. Laila Al-Shawashi. As for hepatitis, there is a recommended preventive treatment.”

In Paris where a hundred complaints have been filed, Prosecutor Laurie Piqueau wants to keep all investigations open because she believes they may lead to results at a later time. As proof, she wants what happened when the hashtag “#BalanceTonBar” was broadcast on social networks in October 2021. Victims then explained that they were drugged or harassed in night establishments. A year later, the butler of the pub in the 5th arrondissement of Paris was finally identified. He is much wanted because he made a young woman drink and tried to attack her. “These cases are a symbol of what’s called chemical vulnerability. Predators detect alcohol victims for their abuse,” The attorney general explains.

Police check customers of a nightclub in Rouen after filing dozens of complaints for injections, May 14, 2022 (PHOTOPQR LE PROGRES - Rémy PERRIN - Maxppp)

However, in the case of stings, only about a dozen complainants also report thefts or attempted assault after the sting. The police arrested only a few dozen people. In most cases, suspects were released due to insufficient evidence. Only four remain in pre-trial detention, including two men in their 30s, after a complaint from a young girl at a nightclub in Six-For-Les-Plages in the Var. “They were identified by video surveillance. Investigators found syringes and injectable products in one of them.”Explains the prosecutor in Toulon. The suspect, who did not confess the facts, says that these products belonged to his nurse wife.

In Nancy, a 35-year-old homeless man was identified as the owner of the syringe, by three witnesses during a music festival. Syringes were found in his belongings with cocaine. But there was nothing in the analyzes of the victims, and again, the man did not recognize the facts. Finally, in Toulon, during a concert for a TV show, on June 3, witnesses accused another man in his twenties of trying to prick them with a syringe (which has not been found). He admits that he joked with them, but denied that he stung them.

So there seems to be a disparity between the number of complaints and the number of cases resolved. We can make the same observation in the United Kingdom where the phenomenon began only a year ago, after the start of the school year. The British Parliament’s Home Office committee wrote a report this summer that offered some possible explanations. “Some members of the committee noted that these complaints occurred right after the closure. Young victims were sometimes going out for the first time. They may not have been sure they could use drugs or alcohol, and they panicked thinking they had been harmed,” Rosa Silverman, of The Telegraph, explains. Political discussions then took place as to whether it was necessary to create a special offense for the provision of injectable chemicals, or to withdraw the license of the bars in which one had registered so many complaints. There are 1,800 in the UK today.

But if we take a step back, we realize that these cases are not really new. Already in 1819, more than 400 cases of stinging attacks were recorded in France, mainly in Paris. Young girls were bitten in the evening in the Grand Boulevard crowds in particular. Police arrested a man: Auguste Marie Bezol, a 35-year-old tailor who denied the facts during his trial in 1820. “We will have to wait for the advent of sexology at the end of the nineteenth century to conduct clinical case studies of buttbiters, Emmanuel Forks, Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Paris Creteil explains. Then they are seen as bloodthirsty ones who take pleasure in harming their victim, or upon seeing spilled blood..


The academic compares these “times” to the rug-cutters of two centuries ago that are sometimes in the news. In his article, The Story of Urban Fear: Injecting Women Under Restoration, the historian notes that these diverse realities sometimes occur when power is in difficulty. This is the case in 1820. “The left accuses the royalists, the right denounces the Jesuit plot. We also accuse the police of creating a perversion on these issues, so that the press avoids talking about a very liberal electoral law that must be put into practice.”. This shows that conspiracy theories have been around long before social media. And that the authority sometimes took advantage of some news to distract the public. However, this has not happened in recent months. It is the media and social networks that have fueled psychosis. However, some hope that this incident has at least one virtue: a warning of so-called chemical submission, that is, drugging a person without their knowledge of their abuse.

*Name changed

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