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DrinkSavvy: a litmus test for date-rape drugs

A Boston-based start-up has created a built-in litmus-style test for cups and straws that immediately detects the presence of date-rape drugs.

(Credit: DrinkSavvy)

A Boston-based start-up has created a built-in litmus-style test for cups and straws that immediately detects the presence of date-rape drugs.

It's hard to tell exactly what the prevalence of date-rape drug usage is around the world. Although studies have been performed that try to measure the incidence, many incidents go unreported, making it difficult to get an accurate number.

Even if that number were low, however, the fact that it happens at all is a problem. Bar patrons are cautioned never to leave their drinks unattended and to never accept drinks from strangers, just in case.

A new product could help provide peace of mind. Called DrinkSavvy by patent lawyer Mike Abramson, himself a victim of date-rape drugging, it's due out next month, after over a year of being in development. It provides a simple, visual indicator of whether your drink has been drugged.

It uses normal-looking drinkware — cups and straws — that will cost around the same as currently available disposable drinkware, but integrating a key difference: a chemical-based indicator that changes colour when three of the most common date-rape drugs are detected: Rohypnol and GHB, which are over-the-counter sleeping aids, and ketamine, an anaesthetic used in veterinary medicine. These drugs are colourless, odourless and tasteless, and combined with alcohol, induce memory blackouts.

The DrinkSavvy test is not the first to try to offer drink safety. Other products include a coaster that lets you test your drink with a chemical test and a sensor developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University that never seems to have made it to market. DrinkSavvy takes it a step farther, using a chemical test developed by Dr John MacDonald, a professor of chemistry at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, to completely remove any need for action on the part of the drinker.

Instead, a pattern becomes visible on the drinkware whenever one of these three drugs is detected. Abramsom hopes to develop his product further to detect other date-rape drugs as they become more common.

Although it can't do anything about the biggest date rape drug — alcohol itself — it should at least prove effective at preventing drinkers from unwittingly swallowing a drug to which they may be allergic, or that will interact dangerously with another medication. We imagine DrinkSavvy's presence alone might serve sufficient to prevent offenders from the attempt.

You can see how it works in the video below, and learn more at the DrinkSavvy website.

Via wgbhnews.org