A way to detect cocktails with a kick

Two years ago Francisco Guerra’s close friend became a victim of a sexual predator. While at a party with friends her drink was spiked with an unknown drug. Several hours later she awoke in a hotel room, naked and sexually violated. She had no knowledge of what had happened to her that night, other than a good idea of who had done it.

Luckily, Guerra’s friend lived through the incident and after receiving several months of therapy, but this put Guerra on a mission. Guerra turned to his friend Brian Glover and started looking for a product that would be able to detect the presence of a drug in any type of beverage whether it be alcohol or cola. This project was the beginning of Drink Safe Technologies.

With Glover’s chemistry background, the two invented coasters and test strips that signal when a drink has been contaminated with commonly abused date rape drugs, such as gamma hydroxyl butyrate or GHB.

“I was surprised that such a good friend of ours had been attacked,” Glover said. “When Francisco came to me, I looked into date rape and drugs, and I was shocked to see how frequently it was occurring.”

Glover said the pair’s original intent was to come up with a coaster for big liquor corporations such as Anheuser Busch and Absolut Vodka and print the corporation’s logos on the coasters to be distributed free to bars. Yet they were turned down.

“They loved the idea but said they couldn’t associate their product with a crime,” Glover said.

So, the pair switched gears and developed a personal kit in addition to the coasters. The kit, which contains any where from two to 10 test cards and test strips, incorporates a test that reacts with a visible color change when they come in contact with a drink that contains a drug.

“I developed the science to test for drugs and came up with an easy way to test the drink,” Glover said.

Glover said he discovered two possibilities of testing the drink. First, Drink Safe could have done a test similar to a home pregnancy test. Glover said in this instance the tester would test for an enzyme of the date rape drug, but it was too expensive to mass-produce. Glover said because Guerra and himself were looking for something cheap, the next option was to use a chemical-color-activated spot, that when a drink is rubbed onto the spot it would show the presence of any type of drug.

“With this idea there were false positives,” Glover said.

Glover added that a false positive was when the color-activated spots detected drugs like Tylenol, no drugs at all or date rape drugs.

“We figured it was better than not detecting anything and those types of drugs shouldn’t be in your drink to begin with,” he said.

The Test

The test is quite easy, Glover said.

A person can use their finger or drink stir and drop a bit of the drink on the testing circles on the coasters, which are no bigger than a credit card. If the circle turns blue or a dark color when the drink is rubbed into the circle, then a dangerous drug is present in the drink.

“It can test for GHB in three seconds and other drugs take about a minute and half,” Glover said.

Date rape drugs such GHB are a colorless, odorless and tasteless liquids. Another date rape drug is ketamine, a cat tranquilizer that is used by veterinarians, are also another common date rape drug. Ketamine is also known as Special K, or K. Rohypnol is another popular used date rape drug that can cause deep sedation, respiratory distress and blackouts that can last up to 24 hours.

However, GHB is the most common date rape drug, and its cheap. By using about a half a capful in a drink, it renders the victim semi-comatose within a short period of time and leaves the victim unable to fight off unwanted sexual advances. Once the victim comes to, amnesia takes over, and all traces of the drug quickly disappear from the victim’s body, which makes investigation and prosecution difficult because evidence is scarce.

According to the Department of Justice, September’s Operation: Webslinger task forces apprehended 25 million doses of date rape-type drugs in more than 80 cities.

The Company

Guerra, Glover and their vice president of marketing, Mike Giles, created an Internet company Drink Safe Technologies. The lab, which is located in Plantation, is licensed with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Glover said the company is always trying to improve the product, and they consult with DEA and law enforcement about the newest date rape trends.

“We try to get a handle on the new drugs that are being used,” he said.

As of now, the personal kits and the coasters are only available on the Web site, but both Glover and Giles said the product will soon be in major retailers such as 7-Eleven and local pharmacies.

Since the opening of the Web site at the end of July, they have had about 2 million orders, which is a combination of kits and coasters.

Giles said the cost varies but the coasters are retailed at the price of 40 cents and 75 cents. The kits are priced at $1.25 to $1.75. Giles also said licensing has been complete for other companies to distribute the coasters and kits in Canada, Australia and Texas.

The Response

The research that started in 2000 has paid off, Glover said.

“There has been a lot of positive feedback,” he said. “It also creates major awareness.”

Glover said he has also been speaking at some drug conferences to market the product. He said while attending one in Florida, he learned that of the cases that have been documented, 50 percent of drinks that are served at a bar would come spiked.

“Don’t trust the situation where you are,” he said. “Sometimes the objective is not rape but could be between two guys that like the girl.”

Drink Safe Technologies has received national attention from major television networks such as NBC and CBS and magazines such as Time.

“These are just tools and they are not the end-all answer,” Glover said. “There are always ways around it. But to have a tool that creates awareness and possibly saves lives is a start.”

For more information on personal test kits or coasters and Drink Safe Technologies visit the Web site at www.drinksafetech.com.

Contact Stefanie Green at oraclestefanie@yahoo.com