IT is supposed to be a carefree time as youngsters mark the end of their school days before heading off to start new chapters in their life.

Celebrations have come a long way from a school prizegiving to a dance and pre-covid young people had been jetting off to sunshine isles for what has become known as the sixth form holiday.

While not linked to educational establishments, groups of youngsters head off for a week of fun to let their hair down after months of continuous assessment and study for exams.

They might be eager to board the plane, but in stark contrast there is the feeling of anxiety for parents at home who have to juggle with the mixed emotions of allowing their youngsters to spread their wings while also have a natural concern at what might happen abroad.

However, it’s a rite of passage for youngsters to be to embark on their first holiday with a group of pals without their parents for the first time. also the element of letting their youngsters spread their wings as they venture off to university.

HeraldScotland: Sunshine island of Zante is popular with young peopleSunshine island of Zante is popular with young people

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Lockdown travel restrictions might have put paid to the holiday opportunities for the past 18 months, but as restrictions eased this summer groups of Scots youngsters were able to fly out to the thriving Mediterranean resorts.

The Greek island resort of Laganas, in Zante, has been a popular place for youngsters for many years, but its past issues for are well documented with incidents involving Brits ranging from alleged rapes, drink spiking, and subjected to anti-social behaviour.

For one Scots teenager her end of year holiday went from a dream to a nightmare when the youngster believes she was the victim of a drink spiking on her first night in the resort.

Speaking exclusively to The Herald, the teenager, who wanted to remain anonymous said: “We had gone out to a local bar on the main strip in Laganas. I had ordered a drink and when one arrived I assumed it was mine and drank it, but a few minutes later a barman came over and said ‘here is your drink.’

“I told him it was ok someone had already brought it over, but at that time what I didn’t realise is that I had been duped into thinking that it was mine. I later learned it is not uncommon for people intent on spiking someone’s drink to hang about to hear what people are ordering.

“In an underhand way they then order a drink and put something in it and bring it over as if they work there. You have no idea this is happening to you at the time.”

HeraldScotland: The teenager has spoken out to warn othersThe teenager has spoken out to warn others

Within 20 minutes of taking one drink the teenager soon began to feel the effects of what her drink had been spiked with.

“I was with my friends when I completely passed out and I am so grateful that they were with me otherwise I just can’t bear to think about what might have happened,” she added. “They managed to get me home and stayed with me all night. It was about 12 hours later before I came round. I just remember waking up and the others were still asleep.

“I didn’t know that had happened to me and tried to stand up. I felt as if there were powders coming out of my mouth and I was violently sick. It took me a couple of days to get over what happened physically, but it is something I will never forget and for me it ruined it the holiday as I was so wary after that when we went out.

“My friends told me what I had been like and how they had get me home by carrying me and I was just shocked as I had no recollection at all. I just kept thinking what if they hadn’t been there what would have happened to me.”

From that moment on it changed how the youngsters approached their holiday.

She added: “It changed our entire holiday and for me it will change my behaviour when I am out as I just feel you can’t trust people. To do something so planned out and pre-mediated to do goodness knows what it is scary.”

The teenager and her friends took their own precautions when they went out for the rest of the holiday and followed their own best practice guide to how they would approach their evenings out.

“For us it all changed from that moment and we changed our behaviour entirely. It meant going to the bar to order a drink and watching it being made in front of us. One person in the group would not drink any alcohol on an evening, a bit like a designated driver, but we felt it was the safe thing to do. And it was definitely a case of safety in numbers as we went everywhere together. That is just the way it left us feeling which is awful to think that we have to be this way in 2021.”

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While it was meant to be a holiday that signalled the end of school days and the beginning of new adventures with friends going off on different paths, it ended up being a holiday they were just desperate to get home to.

However, the hard part was still to come – telling parents what had happened.

The teenager’s mum was horrified when she found out what had happened.

“I didn’t find out about my daughter’s drink being spiked until she got home. If I had known about it earlier, I know I would have jumped on the next flight out there just to be with her.

“As a parent you want them to spread their wings and for them to enjoy themselves, but when I heard about what had happened I was so shocked. I thought we had done everything we could to see them off safely and the holiday had been booked through a reputable firm and my daughter and her friends are sensisble. When my daughter was talking about it to me she said drinks being spiking seemed to be accepted among the young people as something that just happened.”

As a mother it has left her questioning why youngsters were being put in resorts where there seemed to be known problems.

The parent added: “I contacted the holiday operators TUI to make a complaint and find out what could be done. For me the best message that could be sent to an area like that would be if the tour operator cancelled their business and pulled out.

“I’ve contacted our local politician about it as I feel the issue needs to be highlighted. If nothing is done now it will happen time and time again. What happened to my daughter was bad enough, but for someone else it could be so much worse. I just hope we are listened to and we wanted to raise awareness.”

Crime expert David Swindle, who operates Victims Abroad and supports the families of people who die abroad like Scottish victims Kirsty Maxwell and Craig Mallon, said that given the prevalence of such cases it was important for young people to be as cautious abroad as they are in the UK.

HeraldScotland: Crime expert David Swindle advised a cautious approachCrime expert David Swindle advised a cautious approach

Mr Swindle said: “Young people when out in bars and clubs in the UK are aware that drink spiking – as it’s become known –happens and take precautions like not leaving their drinks unattended. 

“However when young women are on their holidays abroad they lose that sense of caution because they’re full of fun and don’t envisage such crimes happen in nice sunny resorts. Sadly it is very prevalent in most tourist resorts and Brits abroad need to maintain the same level of caution they take in the UK.”

He also advised that while the teenager might have returned home from her holiday, there is still a valid reason to report it.

Mr Swindle added: “I would still suggest she makes some sort of report, albeit it’s unlikely the culprit will ever be caught, but  it means it is logged as a report and 
possible trends can be identified for other tourists. 

“If there is a report it means that something further could be done.”

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) spokesperson said: “FCDO travel advice is kept under constant review to ensure British travellers have the information they need to stay safe and make informed decisions when they travel. Our consular staff work closely with travel companies and local authorities to promote our safety messages.”

A spokesman for TUI said: “We’re very concerned to hear about an incident involving a guest in Laganas, Zante. 

“We’d like to reassure customers that this will be taken seriously and that the safety and well-being of our customers is always our priority.”