Instant Guide

A sensor that can detect date-rape drugs?

Scientists create an inexpensive, straw-like device that lights up when placed in a drink spiked with drugs

Scientists in Israel have created a device that can be placed in a drink to detect the presence of a date-rape drug. Though it's still under development, the sensor is expected to resemble an ordinary straw or swizzle stick. Here, a brief guide to this innovation:

How does this device work?
The sensor, when placed in a cocktail or soft drink, samples a tiny amount of the beverage and mixes it with a testing solution. "That causes a chemical reaction that makes the solution cloudy or colored, depending on the drug," says Fernando Patolsky of Tel Aviv University, as quoted by ABCNews.com. If a drug is detected, the device — which could cost less than the drink itself — would light up, turn a different color, or even send a message to your cell phone, researchers say. 

What drugs can it detect?
Right now, the device can pick up GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) and ketamine, two of the most common date-rape drugs. The developers hope to develop a prototype soon that can detect Rohypnol, or "roofies," another drug commonly used to sedate victims.

How reliable is it?
So far, the device, which can be reused several times until it finds traces of drugs, has a 100 percent success rate, with no false readings.

Could this significantly prevent date rape?
Probably not. Some observers aren't sure the device will ever reach wide acceptance. "It seems unlikely that women will test their drinks in public, especially on a one-on-one situation like a date," says Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky. Moreover, the majority of date rape cases don't even involve drugs.

Sources: ABCNews.com, Frisky, International Business Times, NY Daily News

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