Students Develop Straw That Can Test For Date Rape Drugs

By | June 13, 2017
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A group of students from Miami have developed a simple straw that can test whether or not your drink has been spiked. The product changes color when it comes into contact with two of the most common “date rape” drugs, and has won the three students the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Challenge.

The invention, called Smart Straws, is designed to be small enough to carry in a purse, while quick and accurate enough that once placed in a spiked drink, the user will know whether or not it is safe to drink. “Rapes assisted by drugs or alcohol are all too common,” explained one of the students, Susana Cappello, to A Plus. “We just want to give any gender a simple tool to protect themselves.”

The use of date rape drugs at colleges and universities has been on the rise in recent years. Half of the people surveyed for the development of this product say they know someone who has been drugged at a party, while it is now thought that one in five women will be sexually assaulted over the four years they spend in further education.

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The idea for the straws came after the students thought the use of traditional drug tests were not very practical and thus rarely used. They initially floated trying to somehow incorporate the test into jewelry, before settling on using straws instead. This seemed the ideal choice, as it could be easily distributed by students, tucked into small bags or purses, and was discreet. Of those asked, 85 percent of women said they would use the straw.

The straws change color when they come into contact with two of the most common drugs used on unsuspecting people in bars and pubs: gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) – also known as liquid ecstasy – and Ketamine. They plan to add tests for other drugs, such as flunitrazepam (more commonly known as Rohypnol), at a later date.

This is not the first time that the use of drug-detecting straws has been explored. The company DrinkSavvy, for example, has been developing not only straws, but also plastic cups and cocktail stirrers that change color if and when they come into contact with the three main date-rape drugs. While not yet on the market, they hope to make the products available soon.

In light of the interest that companies and organizations are likely to have in the product, the students are looking at ways to patent their invention, as well as other products that could be developed to expand the range.

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