Science Creates A New Way To Prevent Date Rape

MixMasters-3_NinaWesterveltPhotographed by Nina Westervelt.
Chances are you know about GHB — although you might know it simply as the "date rape drug." We've all heard the horror stories about people who've turned their backs on their drinks for a total of 10 seconds, only to find that their next sip causes them to black out. And, unfortunately, it's all too easy for someone to get their hands on GHB (which stands for gamma hydroxybutyric acid) — and even easier for predators to slip it to potential victims. The worst part, of course, is that GHB dissolves quickly and completely into liquids, making it impossible to tell if your cocktail has been tampered with. But, some clever scientists have turned the tables on would-be date rapists, creating a way to test a suspicious-looking concoction for any signs of foul play.
Chemists at the National University of Singapore have found a flourescent dye that can sense the presence of GHB when it's dissolved in a liquid. Dubbed "GHB orange," the sensor works pretty much like you'd expect — when added to a drink that has been spiked with GHB, the sensor causes the beverage to turn bright orange within 30 seconds.
However, the study does note that, while it's pretty easy to see the color change with clear drinks, the effect might be more difficult to detect in darker liquids under dim lighting. Also, more research is needed to figure out a way to leverage this finding into a portable kit that can be used easily and discreetly. Still, we can definitely get behind such a simple method that helps us feel safer when we're out on the town. (National University of Singapore)
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