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Scientists Invent Date-Rape Drug Detector

August 3, 2011

You have always been told to never leave your drink unattended at a bar, no matter what, in case you come back to it only to find that it was spiked with drugs. Soon, however, it may be unnecessary as an effective date-rape drug detector has been invented, reports the AFP news agency.

Professor Fernando Patolsky and Doctor Michael Ioffe of Tel Aviv University’s School of Chemistry say they’ve created a sensor that detects the two most common date-rape drugs, GHB (gamma-hydrobuxybutyric acid) and ketamine.

Just dip the device, which might actually look like a stirrer in the final production into your drink to quickly tell if it has been tampered with. “It’s tiny, very tiny,” Ioffe told the French news agency. “And you don’t even have to hold it up to the light and the system will let you know whether there are drugs dissolved in your drink.”

The device sucks up a tiny drop of the suspect beverage and puts it in contact with the patented chemical formula devised by the researchers. The sensor has been tested on a range of popular cocktails as well as soft drinks and other beverages and found it was able to correctly tell which had been spiked 100 percent of the time.

“What’s amazing is that there is no false positives until now,” Ioffe said.

“The drug itself is reacting with this chemical formulation and the previously clear formula becomes dirty and when the light shines it you can detect it,” Ioffe said. “You don’t have to do anything but dip it in your drink.”

Provided Patolsky and Ioffe get funding to produce the date-rape detector, the first batch of sensors could be on the market in 18 months or so. And it is still being fine-tuned, the sensor can’t yet detect Rohypnol, nor does it yet detect other prescription medications which are often used as date-rape drugs, including Xanax and Klonopin.

The chemical formula that the device uses is cheap to produce and is not poisonous, meaning companies should be able to produce the sensor without requiring government approval.

Still being decided on is how the device will allow its users know whether their drink is safe for consumption. A range of options are being considered, Ioffe said.

“We haven’t decided how it will let you know. Maybe it will just light up or a part of it will rotate or maybe it will send a signal to your cell phone because you want to be discreet about it.”

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