Scientists Developing Date Rape Drug Detector

Share
Copy

A quick stir of your drink could soon reveal whether it's been spiked with date rape drugs, researchers say.

Israeli scientists say they've developed a sensor that looks like a straw or a stirrer that can detect two of the most commonly used date rape drugs with 100 percent accuracy.

"It samples a very small volume of the drink and mixes it with a testing solution," said Fernando Patolsky, chemistry professor at Tel Aviv University and co-creator of the device. "That causes a chemical reaction that makes the solution cloudy or colored, depending on the drug."

The reaction then turns on a tiny red light, alerting users in even the dingiest bars to ditch the drink.

If it sounds complicated, that's because it is. Making the sensor fast, accurate and affordable was no small feat. But Patolsky and his partner Michael Ioffe think it's a necessary safeguard against date rape.

"Preventing it is the best thing to do," said Patolsky, who has three young daughters. "I hope it will be sold in bars, in pharmacies."

Patolsky said the device should cost less than a drink and could be used multiple times until it reacts with a drug. It currently detects GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) and ketamine. But the team hopes to add Rohypnal -- "ruffies" -- to the list within the year.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that one in six women will be sexually assault in her lifetime, with 73 percent of victims knowing their assailants.

But the use of GHB, ketamine and Rohypnol -- powerful sedatives that are odorless, colorless and tasteless -- is actually very low, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Dr. Robert DuPont, the first director of NIDA and current president of the Institute for Behavior and Health said alcohol is the bigger problem when it comes to unwelcome sexual encounters.

"People don't realize how often the victims are intoxicated," said DuPont, adding the alcohol is purposefully consumed. "They're putting themselves in high-risk situations."

Dupont said little has changed since his youth, when guys would talk about getting girls drunk to boost their chances of sex.

"It's another reason not to use drugs and not to drink too much, because you're very vulnerable to all kinds of things," he said.

Although he's impressed by the technology, Dupont said he's unsure of the date rape drug sensor's applicability.

"I would bet you there are a million, a hundred million drinks even that are just alcohol for every one that has a drug," he said. "It would be like finding a needle in a haystack."

And while knowledge of its availability might deter some drink spikers, Dupont said the device would have to be universally used to make a big difference.

Nevertheless, Patolsky and Ioffe are eagerly looking for investors to help bring their product to the market.

"They were not jumping immediately, but I hope and I'm sure they will come around in the end," Patolsky said, explaining how hard it is to hear about date rape as a father. "The importance is great."

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...