Skip to main content

A cup and straw that can detect date-rape drugs?

By Justin Lear, CNN
updated 7:02 PM EDT, Wed August 14, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Boston-based company devises cups and straws that can detect date-rape drugs
  • With the help of a chemistry professor, the company came up with a prototype
  • DrinkSavvy's funding campaign helped raise more than $50,000
  • Founder Mike Abramson hopes to roll out completed products in early to mid-2014

(CNN) -- The pitch reads: "Would you know if an odorless, colorless and tasteless rape drug were put in your drink? What if your cup, straw or glass changed color to warn you?"

The pitch comes from a group of people who've put their minds together to work toward developing a cup and straw that will change color in the presence of date-rape drugs.

When substances like GHB, ketamine and Rohypnol touch the surface of the drinkware, they will turn into the designated color used to detect the drug, alerting you to its presence.

In a video posted to YouTube to promote a funding campaign, DrinkSavvy Inc. founder Mike Abramson said the idea came from a bad experience where he was once "roofied" -- referring to Rohypnol, a sedative -- while out drinking with friends.

"Within the past three years, three of my very close friends, and myself, have been the unwitting victims of being drugged."

He added, "DrinkSavvy's ultimate goal is to use the success of this campaign to convince bars, clubs and colleges to make DrinkSavvy the new safety standard and eventually make drug-facilitated sexual assault a crime of the past."

Abramson says of his experience: He was at a club in Boston celebrating a friend's birthday and went to get a drink and then "felt like I had 15 drinks. Luckily, friends were able to get me home safely."

Afterward, he went to John McDonald, professor of chemistry at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where Abramson had attended college, with his idea to create a detection system. After about two years of research, a prototype was launched in the funding campaign.

The Boston-based company started a campaign on Indiegogo in November 2012 with hopes to raise $50,000. The monthlong campaign resulted in more than 2,500 contributors surpassing their $50,000 goal and getting the company one step closer to making the product a reality.

And Abramson is a finalist in the MassChallenge, an annual $1 million startup competition and accelerator program that helps entrepreneurs get access to mentors, marketing and other resources.

Over the next few months, drink straws and, possibly, cups that can detect the anesthetic GHB will be sent out to the people who financially supported the campaign to get feedback.

Abramson says the company also has done tests to detect Rohypnol and the anesthetic ketamine, and expects to roll out cups and straws that will detect all three drugs in early to mid-2014. At that point the products will also be available on the company's website.

Watch a prototype demonstration on YouTube

One of the company's main goals is to get its products in bars and in the hands of college students. Abramson says they are in discussion with several colleges to make this new technology part of their rape-prevention initiatives. He said he is well aware that his company's products won't solve all the sexual assault problems, telling CNN "this is not 100% fool-proof, it's not a cure-all."

According to a 2007 study for the National Institute of Justice, only a small fraction (2.4%) of female undergraduate students who were sexually assaulted were certain or suspected they were incapacitated after having been given a drug without her knowledge.

The Center for Women and Families notes that alcohol is the chief concern: "For rape which takes place on campuses, alcohol is being used in 90% of cases."

A pilot program is set to take place at a bar in Boston in either December or January.

As for cost, DrinkSavvy says prices will be competitive with what the bars already pay for cups and straws.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT