By Rachel Yehoda, Program Coordinator (Prevention & Education)
“Never again wonder if your drink is safe.”
“Drink smart. Drink safe.”
These are some of the catchphrases for various “sexual assault prevention products” that supposedly detect date rape drugs in beverages. The problem? These products don’t work, and they don’t prevent sexual assault. Through baseless claims of effectiveness, “sexual assault prevention products” promote a false sense of safety while placing the responsibility for preventing a sexual assault on the victim, rather than acknowledging that the only party responsible for sexual assault is the perpetrator.
One of these bogus prevention products is from a company called DrinkSafe Technologies, whose color-changing coasters allegedly detect Ketamine and Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB). Several studies have shown that this technology is ineffective, including one study that showed that the product failed to detect several of the spiked drinks tested. Another study found that these products are rife with false positives, and cited the lengthy waiting period for results as another issue with the products.[ii] Additionally, results can easily be misinterpreted in environments with dim lighting, like the very bars and clubs to which the coasters are purportedly tailored.i What’s more, the ingredients of a drink can also influence results, creating false positives or rendering the coaster useless.[iii] For example, milk-based products or liquors and certain fruit juices can produce a false positive.[iv] Sometimes when the coaster tests positive, it does not mean that these drugs are actually present—instead it simply means that something is in the drink that does not belong.[v] And even if these coasters did manage to effectively test for GHB and Ketamine, that still leaves several other date rape drugs like Rohypnol (roofies) undetected.
Similar issues arise with other deceptive products in development, such as DrinkSavvy, a line of drinkware that changes colors when date rape drugs are detected. DrinkSavvy claims that users are guaranteed “100% effortless and continuous monitoring of your drink throughout the night” with their color-changing straws and other drinkware products.[vi] These claims are at best misleading and at worst dangerous, and, like other products, drug-detecting drinkware is likely ineffective at preventing drug-facilitated sexual assault, 95% of which is facilitated with alcohol, not drugs like GHB and Rohypnol.[vii]
The notion that these drug-detecting products would somehow prevent sexual assault is a dangerous assumption that produces a false sense of security. Making victims responsible for preventing their own assaults flies in the face of everything we know about effective prevention methods. When it comes to prevention, the message has to move from ‘don’t get raped’ to ‘don’t rape.’
Child, A.M. & Child, P. 2007. Ability of Commercially Available “Date-Rape” Drug Test Kits to Detect Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate in Popular Drinks. Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal. 40. 10.1080/00085030.2007.10757155.
[ii] Quest, D., Horsley, J. 2007 Field-Test of a Date-Rape Drug Detection Device, Journal of Analytical Toxicology. 31. 354-7. 10.1093/jat/31.6.354.
[iii] Paoletta, R. "The Anti-Rape Gadgets That Never Delivered." Gizmodo. September 19, 2017. https://gizmodo.com/the-anti-rape-gadgets-that-never-delivered-1798322791.
[iv] Drinksafe.com. Accessed November 29, 2017. http://www.drinksafe.com/content/Custom-Coaster-Template.pdf.
[v] Drinksafe.com. Accessed November 29, 2017. http://www.drinksafe.com/content/Custom-Coaster-Template.pdf.
[vi] "Who is DrinkSavvy?" DrinkSavvy: Know It's Safe. http://drinksavvy.com/.
[vii] Kilpatrick, D. et al., 2007, “Drug-facilitated, Incapacitated, and Forcible Rape: A National Study”.