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9 August 2002 News Update


A drinks coaster that can detect the two so-called ''date-rape'' drugs most commonly put surreptitiously into drinks in pubs and clubs has been developed by an English company.

The cardboard beermat, which reacts to drops of "spiked'' or tampered drink, recognises the presence of the drugs - rohypnol and temazepan - immediately. Combined with alcohol these drugs leave victims open to any suggestion and induce amnesia that can be long term or permanent. The system has been developed by SureScreen Diagnostics of Derby.

Although there are no official figures of date-rape, police, paramedics and hospitals report increases in the offence. The Roofie Foundation, which helps victims of date-rape, claims that there were nearly 4,500 cases of drink spiking in pubs and clubs in the United Kingdom and abroad in the past year.

The foundation says that only 10 to 15 per cent of those drugged report the offence to the police and fewer than 0.5 per cent in 100 offenders are convicted. Sometimes spiking is done as a joke but generally the drugs are slipped into girls' drinks with evil intent. The crime crosses all age and social groups with the workplace and pubs being the most common places for drink spiking.

The beermat has four small white or yellow windows which can change colour if a drop of spiked drink falls on the sensitive areas. A sample of the drink can be administered with the finger, a straw or stirrer. The colour change, achieved by a sophisticated immunoassay technology, shows if the drink has been spiked.

Costing around 0.6 pounds sterling a mat, the costs could be reduced by carrying advertising and SureScreen admits that once introduced to pubs and clubs, the clientele would have to be made aware of them to be effective.

SureScreen has also introduced a forensic detecting kit to identify the presence of drugs in drinks. Called Proofies, it is also a simple, reliable morning-after urine test. It is suitable for use by the police as a first stage test to detect drugs and is faster than laboratory testing.

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