While traveling, drink spiking can serve as a tactic to divert attention for theft or to physically incapacitate individuals, making them vulnerable to robbery, unwelcome advances, or sexual assault. It’s crucial to note that men are also susceptible to such risks. Certain rapid-acting drugs can induce effects in as little as 15 minutes, leading to severe impairment of judgment, hallucinations, difficulties in movement, speech, and breathing, along with temporary paralysis. The state of incapacitation can persist for hours, and some substances additionally induce blackouts and memory loss. This further underscores why these drugs are employed to facilitate additional criminal activities. Travelers should remain vigilant and take precautions to safeguard themselves from such potential dangers. The beginning of this kind of nefarious action in recent history can be traced to a man named Mickey Finn.
A Mickey Finn refers to a surreptitiously drugged alcoholic beverage administered to someone without their knowledge. The term, synonymous with “slipping a mickey,” originated from the actions of Michael “Mickey” Finn, a late 19th-century Chicago bartender and pickpocket.
Herbert Asbury provided the initial widely recognized account of Mickey Finn in his 1940 publication, “Gem of the Prairie: An Informal History of the Chicago Underworld.” Asbury drew upon Chicago newspapers and the 1903 court testimony of “Gold Tooth” Mary Thornton, a Lone Star prostitute, as his references. Mickey Finn, before becoming a saloon owner, gained notoriety as a pickpocket and thief, frequently targeting inebriated patrons at bars.
Chloral hydrate, a sedative-hypnotic drug, was Finn’s weapon of choice, rendering victims unresponsive and with no memory of the events. Although the restaurant closed in 1903, over a decade later, more than 100 waiters were arrested for distributing “Mickey Finn powder,” a concoction of antimony and potassium tartrate. He even promoted a mysterious “Mickey Finn special” without disclosing its contents.
The term and its association with drink tampering endured, finding mentions in various cultural contexts, including literature, music, and slang. Today, a “Mickey Finn” remains synonymous with drugging someone’s drink for malicious purposes, often leading to robbery or sexual assault.
While chloral hydrate is still used medically, its reputation as a date-rape drug persists. Additionally, newer psychoactive substances, typically depressants, have emerged for illicit use, causing sedation and, when combined with alcohol, heightened risk.
Notable among these substances are flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), colloquially known as “roofies,” with a quick onset, prolonged effects, and challenges in detection. Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), another tasteless and odorless depressant, can be easily added to drinks, affecting inhibition, senses, and potentially facilitating sexual assault. Ketamine, used medically as a sedative, can induce dissociation and impair muscle function.
I witnessed my friend Toby fall victim to his drink being spiked when I travelled through Ireland. This happened in Big John’s bar outside of Waterford. Toby had a Micky Finn put in his beer. I asked my friend Robert to give me background on why the locals in the town covered the mouth of their beer bottles with their thumbs, when they weren’t drinking. Now I knew why. One minute Toby is drinking, and the next moment he is thrashing on the dance floor, wrestling and punching people, while club security is holding him down. Three men couldn’t take him to the floor easily in order to keep him from hurting himself or bar patrons. We’re still not sure what was put in his drink but he had superman strength that night.
Travel with friends if you can. To avoid falling victim to a Mickey Finn, it is crucial to remain vigilant. Keeping drinks in sight, especially in public or unfamiliar settings, reduces the risk. Exercising caution is particularly important when alcohol is involved, as impaired judgment increases vulnerability.
The impact of a spiked drink hinges on various factors:
- The type of substance employed.
- The specific beverage that has been spiked.
- The quantity of the substance administered.
- The individual’s size and weight.
- The amount of alcohol previously consumed.
Additional indicators of drink spiking encompass:
- Respiratory issues.
- Muscle spasms or seizures.
- Speech difficulties and slurred speech.
- An unusually prolonged hangover.
- A severe hangover despite abstaining from alcohol.
- Memory gaps regarding the events of the previous night.
Here are some safety guidelines to protect yourself from drink spiking and related risks:
- Purchase your own drinks and avoid leaving them unattended.
- Opt for unopened bottled drinks at parties rather than easily accessible punchbowls.
- Travel with trustworthy friends and utilize the buddy system to look out for one another.
- If heading out alone, inform someone about your destination and expected return time.
- Avoid displaying cash or valuable items that might attract thieves.
- If you suspect drink spiking, promptly notify someone you trust, bar management, or security staff.
- Arrange for a safe way to get home and refrain from accepting rides from unfamiliar individuals if you’re incapacitated.
- In case of emergency, contact emergency services yourself and inform others so they can guide paramedics to your location if needed. Taking these precautions can contribute to a safer and more secure experience when out and about.
*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.
- The 1915 citation is from a photograph of a saloon in the December 26 edition of the Los Angeles Examiner. In the photograph is a sign that reads: “Try a Michael Finn cocktail”.
- The first listed reference as a knock-out drop in the OED: “Wish I had a drink and a Mike Finn for him”, is from a March 11, 1924 article in the New York Evening Journal.
- A description of a Mickey Finn is given in the January 18, 1927 issue of the Bismarck Tribune, “a Mickey Finn is an up-to-date variant on the knock-out drops of pre-war days”.
- In the September 3, 1927 issue of the Chicago Daily Tribune, the phrase appears in an article on the use of ethylene for artificial ripening of fruit, “Applied to a human, ethylene is an anaesthetic as the old-time Mickey Finn in a lumber-jack saloon”.
- In John O’Hara‘s 1934 novel Appointment in Samarra, a disgruntled headwaiter remarks of a poor tipper, “I’d like to give him a Mickey Finn.”
- In the animated Superman movie Showdown (1942), a gangster (who dresses like Superman to rob people and businesses) pockets $5 from his take. The mob boss sees this, hits him and takes it. The Superman impersonator says “Gee boss, it was only a fin“. The mob boss replies “Next time it will be a Mickey Finn”.
- In the 1946 film Three Little Pirates, starring slapstick comedy group The Three Stooges, Moe offers to give a castle guard a Mickey Finn.
- In the 1946 Looney Tunes short film Hare Remover, after Elmer Fudd traps Bugs Bunny, he tries to give Bugs his potion, to which Bugs says to the audience “This guy’s trying to slip me a Mickey”.
- In the 1957 black comedy movie The Naked Truth, Peggy Mount plays a character who is one of several victims of blackmail by Dennis Price. Her plot line consists of her attempts to obtain a Mickey Finn to incapacitate the villain, before murdering him. She subsequently uses one on Terry-Thomas, a fellow victim she mistakes for the blackmailer. 
- In the 1957 novel ‘A Rage in Harlem’ Jackson’s crossdressing brother gives him “a Mickey Finn”
- In an episode of I Love Lucy, Fred recommends Ricky “slip [Lucy] a Mickey” (however, Fred says it is not actually a Mickey) as he does to Ethel when she’s bothering him.
- In David Niven‘s book Bring on the Empty Horses (1975), he writes of Clark Gable’s gate man slipping “an old-fashioned Mickey Finn” into his drink and driving him home “semi-conscious.”
- In the 1976 Columbo episode “A Matter Of Honor” (episode 35), Columbo says, on examining a drugs cabinet: “Chloral hydrate? I’ll tell you I don’t know much about drugs but that’s the stuff they put in a Mickey Finn. That’s an American expression; knockout drops.” (end of the 56th minute)
- In the 1977 musical Annie, the term “Mickey Finn” is used in the song “It’s the Hard Knock Life” by a group of orphaned children who fantasize about taking revenge on their abusive caretaker.
- In the 1979 episode of Happy Days, “King Richard’s Big Knight”, a college bully slips Richie a Mikey Finn, causing him to completely lose his inhibitions.
- In the 1981 song “The Friends of Mr Cairo” on the album of the same name the lyric runs: “That night, the double crosser got it right / Pretending he was really dim / He slipped to Sam a double gin (Mickey Finn) / He woke, the boys had gone, but not his gun / They’d left a note to lead him on / The chase to find the Maltese Falcon”
- In the seventh episode of the second (1991) season of Seinfeld, “The Revenge“, George Costanza tries to ‘slip a Mickey’ in the drink of his former boss.
- On the original airing (January 23, 1993, Season 5, Episode 15) of Empty Nest, “The Fracas in Vegas“, Harry and Charlie, while on a Las Vegas trip, were conned by 2 women who slipped them “Mickeys” to steal all their belongings.
- In Erykah Badu‘s song “Certainly” from the 1997 album Baduizm, she sings “You tried to get a little tricky, turned my back and then you slipped me a mickey.”
- In the 2008 song Royal Flush by Australian Hip-hop trio “Bliss n Eso“, Eso raps “….Like a boring board meeting and I slip myself a mickey*
- In the 2008 song The Fix by English alternative rock band Elbow, Guy Garvey sings “we’ve loaded the saddles, the mickeys are slipped”.
- In the 2011 video game L.A. Noire, a character in the game uses the name Micky Finn to describe what someone slipped them in their cocktails.
- In a 2013 episode of The Big Bang Theory, “The Raiders Minimization”, during an unexpected video chat by Sheldon, Amy recalls how a lone curly fry in Sheldon’s regular fries led him to believe someone was trying to “slip him a Mickie”.
- In the 2020 David Fincher movie Mank, Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) is drugged by drinking a bottle sent by Orson Welles (Tom Burke). He says “You sly thing, you slipped me a Mickey”.