Feature: Needle attacks reportedly on rise in France, causes remain mystery-Xinhua

Feature: Needle attacks reportedly on rise in France, causes remain mystery

Source: Xinhua| 2022-06-12 04:28:00|Editor: huaxia

PARIS, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Justin Astruc, 24, is a victim of needle spiking -- a syringe attack in which the victims are being injected against their will.

Astruc, a student in Rennes in western France, told Xinhua that he was spiked while attending a concert on May 21 in Rennes. He was standing in the "pit," the area closest to the stage, when an unknown substance was injected into his thigh.

"At the concert, everything was going well. Two days later, while I was in the shower, I realized I had a strange mark on my thigh. I had seen pictures on social media and I straight away realized that there was a problem. I compared the mark with the pictures and they matched," he recalled.

Astruc said that to his surprise he did not feel anything during the concert.

Since February, several cases of needle spiking have been reported in nightclubs, concerts and music festivals across France.

French television BFMTV has reported 319 such cases in nightclubs alone. Police complaints have been filed by 275 victims.

Men and women can equally fall victim to needle spiking, and -- according to social media -- people have been spiked in different parts of the body.

On social media, French nightclub and bar victims relate their stories using the hashtag "call on your bar," Leila Chaouachi, a pharmacist at the Addictovigilance Center in Paris, told Xinhua.

"The needle spiking phenomena started in Britain in September 2021 before being observed in France," she said.

In France, "we know little about this phenomenon, what kind of needles are being used, whether they are followed by injections of substances or not, and if so, what substances are used," Chaouachi said.

She added that the motives behind spiking continue to raise questions as in the vast majority of cases the victims reported no assaults coupled with spiking.

Chaouachi said the perpetrators of spiking attacks are very difficult to identify because they usually occur in crowded environments.

Occasionally, people get arrested at such events for carrying syringes, but a commonly heard excuse is that they are for personal use, French media reported.

"A syringe can be considered a weapon and spiking can be considered a premeditated act," lawyer Marine Durillon said.

According to her, perpetrators face a minimum prison sentence of three years and 45,000 euros (about 48,000 U.S. dollars) in fines, provided that no harmful substances were injected.

If harmful substances were injected, the prison sentence can range from five to seven years and the fine can be 75,000 euros. The punishment for recidivists is even tougher.

"There is also an emotional shock for the victim to consider," Durillon said. "In a psychological level, there is no structure in place that can accompany the victim and that is being worked on."

Pulmonologist William Lowenstein, president of the association SOS Addictions, told Xinhua that the needle spiking cases reported in France remain a "mystery."