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DRUGSPY- The new drug drink detection kit on the block

Author: Michelle Pirovich
Monday, October 20, 2003
The scenario is a sinister but all too common one. Unsuspecting women and men have illicit drugs slipped into their drink, as they grow defenceless their hunter appears from the wings. Hours later they wake up in an alien environment, clothing disturbed, with no idea as to how they got there or what happened to them. There is not a more terrifying scenario.

According to rape crisis centres all over Australia, drink-spiking incidents had reached alarming numbers, with one in four sexual assault victims having been drugged before their attack.

As bar and club owners become increasingly aware of the dangers that face patrons, advertising campaigns aimed at scaring perpetrators are now in full force, with posters and coasters clearly stating that rapists who spike drinks face up to 25 years in jail.

To avoid having to go to the lengths of the French, where drinks in some areas are served with a lid, an Australian company called DRUGSPY are developing a range of affordable products aimed at targeting harm reduction, in this case the Drug Drink Detector Kit.

"DRUGSPY developed the Drug Drink Detector as the issues of drink spiking and drug facilitated crime began to rapidly increase. These types of detection devices have in the past only been available to law enforcers, the DRUGSPY - Drug Detection Kit however is an affordable, user friendly device used to promote drug safety and awareness to people of all ages." explains Chris Loane, founder of Drugspy.

Essentially the DRUGSPY - Drug Drink Detector is a series of test papers which work through simple presumptive colorimetric indication ie, the paper changes colour if it has been spiked by certain drugs.

"Using similar technology to that used in law enforcement test kits, the DRUGSPY test papers have been pre-impregnated with a combination of chemical reagents. These react to give orange, red, black, blue, and white, presumptive colorimetric indications in the presence of: amphetamines, ketamine, benzodiazepines (rohypnol and valium), MDMA (ecstasy) and clandestine solubilised cannabinoids and gammahydroxy butyrate."

With alcoholic drinks containing many substances, just how accurate is the Drug Drink Detector-

"The device is capable of accurately detecting the substances I mentioned earlier. The problem however with all presumptive colorimetric devices centres around sensitivity and false positive and false negative indications.

In any given beverage there are simply hundreds of chemicals, flavour enhancers, preservatives, anti oxidants, colouring agents, stabilisers, acids, sugars, carbohydrates, minerals, the list goes on. Without sample preparation it is simply impossible to guarantee that within this chemical soup - the beverage, the other chemicals present will not (a) interact with the presumptive test device, or (b) interact with the drug."

From here two results can be achieved:

A FALSE POSITIVE RESULT- this is when a contaminant compound (not the drug) reacts to produce a colour indication which you would normally expect to observe from the drug of interest.

A FALSE NEGATIVE RESULT- this is when no colour change occurs. This may occur because the drug concentration is below the limits of detection. The physical consistency of the beverage (creamy or oily liqueurs) will not allow the drugs to contact or react with the test device or, the natural colour of the beverage may mask the colour change on the test papers.

"The false negative results are by far the more serious, because a positive indication alerts the consumer to a potential problem allowing them to take appropriate action. However a false negative result leaves the consumer assuming there is no drug present, whether there is or not.

DRUGSPY has taken every effort in formulation and design to reduce the risk of a false negative result. Included in the kit is a list of physical features a beverage may display if it has in fact been spiked," remarks Chris.

The DR