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Israeli Scientists Develop Date-Rape Drug Detector

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 08/02/11 11:18 PM ET Updated: 10/02/11 06:12 AM ET

Bar
Two Israeli scientists say they've created a detector for the two most common date-rape drugs.

It's rule number one for any woman heading to the bar: Don't leave your drink unattended, no matter what.

But that guideline may soon prove less necessary, if two Israeli scientists aren't overstating their claims.

Professor Fernando Patolsky and Doctor Michael Ioffe of Tel Aviv University's School of Chemistry say they've created the world's first 100 percent effective date-rape drug detector. According to the two researchers, their sensor can tell a woman, in real-time, whether her drink's been tampered with.

The sensor detects the two most common date-rape drugs, GHB (gamma-hydrobuxybutyric acid) and ketamine, Ioffe told AFP.

"The drug itself is reacting with this chemical formulation and the previously clear formula becomes dirty...you don't have to do anything but dip [the sensor] in your drink," Ioffe said.

According to AFP, there have been no false positives for the detector yet.

Provided Patolsky and Ioffe get funding to produce the date-rape detector, the first batch of sensors could be on the market in less than a year and a half.

However, the new science isn't perfect: The sensor can't yet detect Rohypnol (the drug the term 'roofie' actually derives from), nor does it detect other prescription medications which are often used as date-rape drugs, including Xanax and Klonopin.

Ioffe and Patolsky aren't the first to claim they've invented a sensor for date rape drugs. Magnolia Marketing Group offers an "As Seen on TV" Date Rape Drug personal test kit that supposedly changes colors when exposed to a few drops of a roofie-spiked beverage. According to the New Scientist, British company SureScreen Diagnostics in 2001 introduced the Dipitin, a strip that could be dipped into a drink to detect the presence of Rohypnol but not GHB. Then in 2004, another British company introduced the Drink Detector, which also supposedly revealed the presence of roofies in a beverage, and in 2006, Nebraska chemist Andrea Holms was also reportedly working on developing a roofie detector.

But commercially available date rape drug detectors shouldn't be trusted, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokesperson told AP in 2002, explaining that those spiking drinks can usually figure out how to get around the tests. "In cases where there are scientific advances, the bad guys get around it faster than the good guys can," she said.

The one proven way to accurately detect whether a woman has been exposed to a date rape drug is to test a urine sample after she has ingested it -- which isn't terribly helpful to the woman standing at the bar, feeling uneasy, and wondering if maybe -- just maybe -- her drink isn't so safe, after all.

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