A simple detector of the three main types of drugs used to spike drinks was launched on Tuesday in an effort to reduce the soaring number of drug rape cases.
The matchbox-sized “Drink Detective” developed by British company Bloomsbury Innovations Ltd tests for benzodiazepines, including Rohypnol, GHB and ketamine -- the principal narcotics used in drug rape and assault.
In Britain alone, nearly 1,000 cases of drug rape and abuse were reported last year but experts believe the true figure is much higher.
A 'good start'
Victims are incapacitated and may not have any memory of what occurred. Many are reluctant to go to the police. The drugs disappear from the body in as little as 12 hours so there may not be any proof that someone has been a victim of drug rape.
“Widespread use of the Drink Detective could reduce the incidence of these crimes,” Stanley Grossman of Bloomsbury Innovations told a news conference.
“It won’t solve the problem but it will make a hell of a good start,” he added.
Graham Rhodes, founder of the Roofie Foundation which assists victims of drug rape and assault, said that as well as revealing whether a drink has been spiked, the new test will also act as a deterrent for would-be drug rapists. It could also lead to more arrests and convictions for the crime.
“Something needs to be done to reduce these numbers,” he said, referring to the rising number of drug rape reports.
The test will cost $7.30 and can pick out the three main types of drugs in about 30 seconds.
Test drink samples
Anyone who thinks their drink may have been spiked can use the kit’s small dropper to test a sample of the drink on three chemically sensitive patches on a test card which change colour to reveal the presence of drugs.
“Having this technology out there will make people think twice because they could be caught red-handed,” said Jim Campbell, a former forensic scientist with Britain’s Home Office (interior ministry) who has worked on drug rape cases.
The drugs make people feel groggy and ill and produce amnesia. Traces of memory sometimes return as flashbacks or nightmares.
Up to 15 percent of reported drug-rape victims are men.
Grossman said the test will also be available in France, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.