9 Sep, 2020 @ 13:31
1 min read

Spanish experts unveil test to detect date rape drug GHB

Date Rape Drug Ghb Credit University Of Valencia
Test changes colour if GHB is present. Credit: University of Valencia

SPANISH researchers have come up with a way to easily detect if a drink has been spiked with date rape drug GHB.

It allows people to see with their naked eye if the drug – which is colourless and odourless and has a slightly salty taste – has been poured into their drink.

GHB (?-hydroxybutyric  acid) is notorious for leaving its victims helpless and open to attack. The Spanish Society of Emergency Medicine (SEMES) estimates that the substance is involved in approximately 20% of sexual assaults.

Date Rape Drug Ghb Credit University Of Valencia
Test changes colour if GHB is present. Credit: University of Valencia

University of Valencia (UV) predoctoral researcher Silvia Rodríguez Nuévalos explained that current tests are not particularly reliable. She said: “When you mix spirits with non-alcoholic beverages, for example, a tonic, the detection problems increase, as those beverages contain products that can give false positives or false negatives.

“With the sensor developed by the UV team, the composition of the drinks does not change the response, so it is a safer method.”

The test comes in an easy to use kit where a drop of the suspect drink is added to a liquid. If it changes colour, than GHB is present.

Led by Ana Maria Costero, Professor of Organic Chemistry at the university, the team has now patented the test.

GHB is relatively easily available. Its effects last from three to six hours and the body metabolises it quickly, so it is very difficult to prove its intake afterwards.

It is used as a recreational drug due to its euphoric effects, but it is addictive and produces loss of consciousness of reality, so the person who swallows it is defenseless against dangers such as robbery or rape.

According to Costero, the illegal use of these types of substances is a growing social problem. This new test makes checking for possible contamination. “It is better to throw out a drink than risk being taken advantage of in any way,” said Costero.

“The main objective of the project is to make available to people a simple, reliable and disposable system with which to detect any attempt to use GHB for criminal purposes”.

The research team states that until this new test, there was no device that could be used in situ to reliably and easily detect whether a drink had been contaminated with GHB. 

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