Community groups have warned gay men and lesbians to be aware of drink spiking and homophobic violence as the busy Mardi Gras season gets underway.

As two Sydney men faced court accused of a string of drink spikings this week, ACON education manager Brad Gray told Sydney Star Observer the gay community needed to be vigiliant about the issue.

Drink spikers often targeted areas with high tourist numbers because they saw visitors as more vulnerable.

We think there’s probably an increased likelihood of it happening around Mardi Gras because there are more tourists, Gray said.

High-profile gay events in the Mardi Gras month also raised the risk of homophobic violence.

We generally do see a spike of violence around Mardi Gras and often strictly associated with Mardi Gras events -“ so people going to and from parties, people going to and from the parade to the party [and] occasionally at the parade there are incidents, Gray said.

The men on trial in the NSW District Court are accused of slipping drugs into the drinks of three men and nine women in inner-city bars in late 2004, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The pair is alleged to have stolen property from several of the victims when they were unconscious. Some victims also reported being sexually assaulted.

While the two accused allegedly used drugs including epilepsy medication on their victims, drink spikers more often favoured alcohol, Gray said.

Far and away the common drug used in drink spiking is alcohol, which is people buying double and triple shots and that sort of stuff, he said.

It happens way more than the drug stuff.

There had also been past reports of straight men targeting gay venues, Gray said.

Paul Dillon, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, said drink spikers were most likely to prey on people already affected by alcohol -“ a factor partygoers should remember during the social Mardi Gras month.

A drink spiker is most probably not going to target someone who is completely clean and sober. They’re going to target someone who’s been drinking -¦ whatever drug they put on top is going to work a lot faster, Dillon told the Star.

It’s people being out and about and letting your guard down, when you’re in a situation where you’re drinking and out having a good time.

There is that potential for people to take advantage of that situation.

ACON is advising partygoers to trust their instincts about drink spiking, and tell someone immediately if they suspect their drink has been interfered with.

People should also let a friend know if they are going home with someone, and always say they have a flatmate, even if they lived alone, Gray said.

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