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Pocket-Sized Sensor for Detect 'Date Rape' Drugs, A New Line of Defense Against Sexual Assault

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Date rape can be experienced by anyone, at any time. It's always better to be cautious than sorry. Not all sexual attackers are strangers who jump you in the streets. Sexual assaults can take place during social interactions such as dates while you are out with someone you know. 

In most cases of 'date rape', alcohol is the substance used to assist in forcing non-consensual sex from a partner. In other cases, drinks may also be 'spiked' by date rape drugs such as GHB, rohypnol and ketamine so that resistance is neutralised or to render the victim unconscious.

Smart women know it's wise to beware when out at a bar or club -- there could be more than just alcohol in that cocktail. Psychoactive substances classified as "date rape" drugs can be dropped into an unsuspecting victim's drink, rendering her barely conscious and susceptible to sexual assault.

What are date rape drugs?
These are drugs that are sometimes used to assist a sexual assault. Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that a person does not agree to. It can include touching that is not okay; putting something into the vagina; sexual intercourse; rape; and attempted rape. These drugs are powerful and dangerous. They can be slipped into your drink when you are not looking. The drugs often have no color, smell, or taste, so you can't tell if you are being drugged. The drugs can make you become weak and confused -- or even pass out -- so that you are unable to refuse sex or defend yourself. If you are drugged, you might not remember what happened while you were drugged. Date rape drugs are used on both females and males.

The three most common date rape drugs are:

Rohypnol (roh-HIP-nol). Rohypnol is the trade name for flunitrazepam (FLOO-neye-TRAZ-uh-pam). Abuse of two similar drugs appears to have replaced Rohypnol abuse in some parts of the United States. These are: clonazepam (marketed as Klonopin in the U.S. and Rivotril in Mexico) and alprazolam (marketed as Xanax). 

Rohypnol is also known as: Circles, Forget Pill, LA Rochas, Lunch Money, Mexican Valium, Mind Erasers, Poor Man's Quaalude, R-2, Rib, Roach, Roach-2, Roches, Roofies, Roopies, Rope, Rophies, Ruffies, Trip-and-Fall, Whiteys.

GHB, which is short for gamma hydroxybutyric (GAM-muh heye-DROX-ee-BYOO-tur-ihk) acid. GHB is also known as: Bedtime Scoop, Cherry Meth, Easy Lay, Energy Drink, G, Gamma 10, Georgia Home Boy, G-Juice,ok, Goop, Great Hormones, Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH), Liquid E, Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid X, PM, Salt Water, Soap, Somatomax, Vita-G.

Ketamine (KEET-uh-meen), also known as: Black Hole, Bump, Cat Valium, Green, Jet, K, K-Hole, Kit Kat, Psychedelic Heroin, Purple, Special K, Super Acid.

Possessing both sedative and amnesiac effects, date rape drugs are increasingly slipped into drinks at parties, clubs and bars. With rates of drug-assisted sexual assault growing around the world, it's a dangerous social problem in desperate need of a solution. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, some 200,000 women were raped in the US in 2007 with the aid of a date rape drug -- and because so many cases go unreported, the actual number is believed to be 80 to 100 percent higher.

Until now, the researchers explain, real time date rape drug detection has been impossible. No sensor sensitive enough to detect the drugs had been developed, and after a few hours, the drugs become undetectable in the human bloodstream, making their presence difficult to prove.

Drug detection in one sip

Prof. Fernando Patolsky and Dr. Michael Ioffe of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences have developed an easy-to-use sensor that, when dipped into a cocktail, will instantly detect the presence of a date rape drug. When ready for commercial purchase in just a few years, the sensor will be lightweight and discreet, easily transportable in a pocket or purse.

The researchers say that the sensor can detect GHB and ketamine, the most commonly used date rape drugs, with 100 percent accuracy. The technology was recently presented at the Nano Conference 2011 in Israel.

The new system works on simple optics principles, says Prof. Patolsky. Though date rape drugs are effective because they're colorless and tasteless when mixed into a cocktail, they do subtly change the optical properties of the drink. When a ray of light comes into contact with a drugged drink, a "signal change" occurs and the sensor sounds the alarm, which could be a beeping noise or a small flashing light in environments that are dark and loud.

To test the accuracy of the sensor, Prof. Patolsky and Dr. Ioffe had bartenders prepare a large number of the 15 most popular cocktails. Fifty of these drinks were randomly spiked with GHB, without the researchers' knowledge. When their test was conducted, each of the spiked drinks was correctly identified, and there were no false positives.

Only a tiny "sip" of one to ten microliters is required for the sensor to detect the presence of a date rape drug, Prof. Patolsky says.

Affordable personal protection

Researchers are now working on miniaturizing the system, making it easy and affordable for personal use. Each device, says Prof. Patolsky, might look like a pen or clip, easy to dip into a glass. A disposable cartridge inside, responsible for recognizing the presence of a drug, would be able to identify two to three spiked drinks before needing to be replaced -- and new cartridges would each cost under a dollar.

Dr. Ioffe is also hoping to widen the range of drugs that the sensor can correctly identify. "Currently," he says, "the system is geared towards detecting GHB and ketamine. We hope to expand the system so it will identify additional date rape drugs as well."

Reference Book: Nanotechnology & Biosensor

Nanotechnology Enabled In situ Sensors for Monitoring HealthDrug-Facilitated Sexual Assault: A Forensic Handbook3D Cell-Based Biosensors in Drug Discovery Programs: Microtissue Engineering for High Throughput Screening
Nanotechnology Enabled In situ Sensors for ...
Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault: A Forensic...    
3D Cell-Based Biosensors in Drug Discovery ...
by William S. Kisaalita

NanoScience in BiomedicineNanomedicine Design of Particles, Sensors, Motors, Implants, Robots, and Devices (Engineering in Medicine & Biology)Fluorescence Sensors and Biosensors
NanoScience in Biomedicine $172.01Medicine Design of Particles, Sensors, ...
Fluorescence Sensors and Biosensors

Defense Against Bioterror: Detection Technologies, Implementation Strategies and Commercial Opportunities--Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Defense against Bioterror held in Madrid, Spain from 8 to 11 April 2004 (NATO Security through Science, Series B: Physics and Biophysics, Vol. 1)Biomedical NanotechnologyTiO2 Nanotube Arrays: Synthesis, Properties, and Applications
Defense Against Bioterror: Detection Techno... 
Biomedical Nanotechnology
TiO2 Nanotube Arrays: Synthesis, Properties...
by Craig A. Grimes


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