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Science

New Nail Polish Alerts Wearers To Date Rape Drugs 595

Posted by samzenpus
from the at-the-tips-of-your-fingers dept.
stephendavion writes Checking to see if your drink has been tampered with is about to get a whole lot more discreet. Thanks to the work of four North Carolina State University undergrads, you'll soon be able to find out without reaching for a testing tool. That's because you'll already have five of them on each hand. The team — Ankesh Madan, Stephen Gray, Tasso Von Windheim, and Tyler Confrey-Maloney — has come up with a creative and unobtrusive way to package chemicals that react when exposed to Rohypnol and GHB. They put it in nail polish that they're calling Undercover Colors.
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New Nail Polish Alerts Wearers To Date Rape Drugs

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  • by jcon1 (2790581) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:27AM (#47747521)
    That we need ways to test drinks for date rape drugs shows the state of the world we live in. I don't want to live on this planet anymore.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      We don't have to. The better solution would be to use cups that are covered and not set them down after being filled.

      As far as this technology goes, it might cut down on those particular drugs being used, but I doubt they're the only ones that people use.

      • by AvitarX (172628) <me@@@brandywinehundred...org> on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:34AM (#47747591) Journal

        I'm willing to bet strait alcohol is the most common one.

        • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki AT cox DOT net> on Monday August 25, 2014 @10:22AM (#47748079)

          Being able to say no to liquor is extremely easy.

          Being able to say no to GHB that's been slipped into your drink isn't.

          • Being able to say no to liquor is extremely easy.

            It can be extremely hard to say no to alcohol in certain social settings --- and you don't have to be an alcoholic to know this.

          • by kheldan (1460303) on Monday August 25, 2014 @04:15PM (#47751661) Journal

            Being able to say no to liquor is extremely easy

            Yes, it is. However: if a woman has had too much? That's still not an excuse to take advantage of her. I don't know about anyone else, but I've had women want to have sex with me while they were significantly drunk, and I just won't do it because I know they'll regret it later, and I don't want to be That Guy. Oh, and for the record: Women should not take advantage of guys who are too drunk, either. Of course there's a double standard, as always, which is also bullshit, but that's another subject entirely.

        • by pr0fessor (1940368) on Monday August 25, 2014 @12:54PM (#47749573)

          I know a few guys who are certain a woman slipped them a Viagra and one that knows since it went horribly wrong and he ended up going to the ER.

    • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:37AM (#47747621) Homepage Journal

      I'm trying to come up with a way to point out that the world is fully of humans doing all sorts of awful things to each other, without it seem like condoning the date rapists as being "not so bad" or whatever.

      I couldn't. Because there's something uniquely shitty about disabling and taking advantage of someone who's already going on a date with you. They went out of their way to spend time with you, and you just go "not good enough" and betray the hell out of them.

      • by sribe (304414) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:48AM (#47747759)

        I couldn't. Because there's something uniquely shitty about disabling and taking advantage of someone who's already going on a date with you. They went out of their way to spend time with you, and you just go "not good enough" and betray the hell out of them.

        While that is uniquely shitty, it's not all that "date rape" drugs are used for. It's not at all uncommon for them to be used on strangers at a bar.

        • True enough, but a huge majority of rape is acquaintance rape. I tend to avoid emphasizing stranger rape, because that's the stereotype that people already tend to over-focus on.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by quenda (644621)

        Would it help to know that it is largely an urban legend?

        Drink spiking with Rohypnol and GHB on a large scale that people are imaging is not real.
        In my city, a study was done on a large number of young people arriving at the city hospital (free A&E) with suspected drink-spiking.
        Not one had any traces in their blood. Maybe some had been spiked with extra alcohol, but mostly is was young women not taking responsibility for their own excessive drinking (or pills).

        Similar data from the UK:
        http://www.telegra [telegraph.co.uk]

    • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Monday August 25, 2014 @10:08AM (#47747953)

      It's a clever bit of science, but unfortunately, I fear the young ladies who are most likely in need of this product are probably not going to have the foresight to wear it. If they had such foresight in the first place, it seems like perhaps they wouldn't be in a position where someone they shouldn't trust could surreptitiously slip them drugs in their drinks.

      I'm not "blaming the victim", mind you. No should be subject to drugging and rape regardless of circumstances, and the perps and deserve all the wrath our legal system can throw at them. I'm just pointing out that some people are more prone to making poor life choices. I'm sure we've all met them before. We feel really bad when these people are eaten by wolves, but we can't help but thinking: "was it really the best idea to go out in a suit made of meat and barbeque sauce?"

      The big problem is that if you're drugged, you may not be in a suitable state of mind to fight off a would-be rapist even if you know you've been drugged. The best defense is, as always, for women to watch out for their friends when at bars and parties. Don't go wandering off alone after heavy drinking with a guy you don't know or trust. That's asking for trouble in about a million different ways. Drugged drinks are just another type of potential trouble among many.

      • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Monday August 25, 2014 @11:17AM (#47748661) Homepage

        "I'm not "blaming the victim""

        I hate to break it to you, but that is exactly what you are doing. You are also claiming that only woman without much brains or ability to think for themselves and plan ahead like to have a good time in public.

      • by Cabriel (803429)

        One who is aware of this could check up to 10 drinks for their friends. Through effectiveness, that one might be able to convince others. Everything starts with a few who convince others.

        Look at Google, for example. It used to be a nerd-only thing (I remember a time before Google was). Now, I can't think of anyone who doesn't understand when someone says "just google it".

        But, really, if you want to educate people, teach them to drink only from a bottle and to keep their thumb over the neck when they aren'

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Yes, indeed. Completely unethical fear-mongers all around that blow irrelevant risks all out of proportion, and countless stupid sheep that fall for that. Truly a sad state of affairs.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:29AM (#47747537) Homepage Journal

    You have to sign over all inventions you create as undergrads to the university.

    At least if you're an engineer.

    The university was bitter about an undergrad project turning into a billion dollar company(SAS) and them not seeing a cut.

    • That is not consistent with the current policy:
      http://policies.ncsu.edu/policy/pol-10-00-01/ [ncsu.edu]

    • Some corrections needed here:

      1. SAS wasn't created as an undergrad project, it was a large, multi-university and government agency collaboration with Professor Goodnight, at that time a member of the faculty, one of the researchers.

      2. Universities spinoff new companies all the time: this is hardly the first or last time that students and faculty at a university have used their research to start new companies. Nor is NC State particularly unique in this IP clause, and this clause hasn't stopped start ups in

      • I said "at least for engineers" because I was an engineer, and that's how I got exposed to the policy. And I apologize for my factual errors.

  • Discreet? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by B33rNinj4 (666756)
    Yes, because sticking your nails into a drink is totally discreet. I still think the best method is to just not leave a drink unattended when you're out.
    • Re:Discreet? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:40AM (#47747659) Homepage Journal

      It takes 2 seconds with your back turned to get a drink spiked. The level of responsibility you're demanding is beyond human. Unless you spend your entire night focusing on nothing but your beverage(which I gotta say, is worse than dunking your finger in your drink occasionally), that's not going to work.

    • by Millennium (2451)

      It's more discreet than using a special straw, which seems to have been the predecessor (at least in spirit) of this new method.

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:34AM (#47747593) Journal
    Why do enough members of my own gender have to be such creepy bastards that we need something like this to be developed? I enjoy sex as much as the next healthy, red-blooded adult man does, but I have never had to slip drugs into some woman's drink to get it. I sure as hell haven't always 'got the girl' at the end of the night, but seriously? How fucked up do you have to be to do something like this? Shit like this is one of the many reasons why, if there are alien civilizations out there watching us, that they don't contact us openly: We still act like goddamn animals (and no, I'm not trying to be funny).

    C'mon guys, knock this shit off already!
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by sjwt (161428)

      Lets see..
      False rape claims and 'honor councils' leading men to just give up on women all together
      http://washingtonexaminer.com/... [washingtonexaminer.com]

      43% of men have been ''Raped'' under what the feminist movement keeps trying to push a rape claim as.
      http://time.com/37337/nearly-h... [time.com]

      Would you like to take a rethink if its 'Men are creepy bastards' or 'Humans are creepy ass bastards and bitches'

      • by kheldan (1460303)
        I am not disputing anything that you're saying, however:
        RE: 'Men are creepy bastards':
        Here, let me fix that for you, since you seem to be paraphrashing me without my permission: 'SOME men are creepy bastards'.
        Also: I said: We have to police our own. How about we clean up our own house before criticizing the cleanliness of someone else's? Honestly, what kind of 'civilization' do we really have, where this shit goes on at all anymore?
    • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:47AM (#47747751) Homepage Journal

      Why do enough members of my own gender have to be such creepy bastards that we need something like this to be developed?

      Well, it's not actually that complicated. There's a few common psychological threads that tend to unite serial rapists. Pyschopathy/sociopathy/anti-social personality disorder(whatever you feel like calling it) is one. People who just can't imagine another persons' perspective at all tend to be capable of some pretty shitty things for pretty stupid reasons.

      Another is a flexible definition of rape. They tend to look for an excuse for why something "doesn't count" as rape. So they blame "mixed signals" or "unreasonable rejection" or "playing games" or similar kinds of behavior. People tend to be excellent rationalizes, and after the first rape, serial rapists tend to start finding any excuse.

      (Oh, and don't mistake "serial rapists" for the common image of stranger violently raping women on the street, most serial rapists still engage in acquaintance rape. That's a pretty important distinction.)

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <[ten.3dlrow] [ta] [ojom]> on Monday August 25, 2014 @10:23AM (#47748093) Homepage

        It's not just people who have serious mental defects, it's people who might otherwise be normal human beings. It's what some people call "rape culture", the fact that a lot of guys don't really see anything particularly wrong with pressuring girls for sex or treating them as disposable sex objects so it isn't that much of a leap to go as far as drugging them. I mean, if plying them with alcohol so they are less inhibited is okay...

        Once you become away of it you start to notice how prevalent it is in western culture. A few years ago there was an advert for pain medication where a women told her husband she didn't want sex that night because she had a headache. The guy produces the pills, "problem" solved, and the woman looks... Well, in all honestly the actress looked like she was resigned to being raped that night, by the look on her face. Going back much further if you watch this scene from Goldfinger [youtu.be] it's supposed to be... romantic? but Bond basically forces her to have sex with him.

        Women are often portrayed as either wanting this behaviour or as deserving it. Female characters tend to be manipulative, using their looks and the promise of sex to get what they want. It gives guys the impression that if they meet a girl, she is attractive and dresses in anything lower cut that a turtleneck, she is trying to manipulate them. If they go along with it and maybe buy her a drink or two they have "paid" and expect something in return. Changing her mind or wanting to go slowly is just a rip-off.

        It's really screwed up when you start to look at it.

    • Why do enough members of my own gender have to be such creepy bastards that we need something like this to be developed?

      Because those are the types of people we reward with powerful political positions and high paying jobs. Such is the power of charisma. The psychos are loaded with it.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Simple: They are not. This is profiteering from irrational fears.

    • by hey! (33014) on Monday August 25, 2014 @12:03PM (#47749109) Homepage Journal

      No need to paint the male gender as a whole as being filled with sociopaths. It's just the law of large numbers at work. There's maybe 30 million American men in the age rage that are likely to pick up srange women; if just 1/10 % of them are sociopathic predators that's 30,000 predators; and since they *are* predators they'll be overrepresented in young women's encounters with men in pick-up scenarios. Small numbers can produce disproportionate problems. In this case it represents numbers the actions of such a small proportion of men that our ideas about how normal people act aren't a reliable guide.

      Drink spiking is a very rare crime. Most studies that look for evidence of it find very little. The highest I found was a government study which found date rape drugs in 4.5% of the cases from four sexual assault clinics. Note this is 4.5% of the cases where the assault occurred, so we're not talking about 4.5% of encounters, we're talking 4.5% of rapes. 4.5% is certainly high enough to be a concern in certain situations, like residential parties at a college. In such a situation a date rape drug detector might actually have some utility, even though it addresses relatively rare actions by a tiny proportion of men.

      A bigger concern than what we think of as a "date rape drug" is alcohol itself. The same study that found date rape drugs in 4.5% of sexual assault samples found alcohol in 55%. This result is consistently found across studies: alcohol is very frequently associated with sexual assault -- around half of the time. This is especially concerning because some people (men and women both) don't believe that surreptitiously incapacitating someone with alcohol in order to have sex is rape. They don't distinguish ethically between two people getting drunk and having sex and one of them slipping extra alcohol into a drink.

      But the fact remains most men wouldn't do something like that. But that doesn't preclude the possibility that a woman might often encounter the few remaining men who would. A typical man has sex with a small number of women many times; a man who has sex with a large number of women only once is bound to be encountered by women disproportionately often.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:38AM (#47747631)

    In 14 years practising emergency medicine, I've seen large numbers of young women who get drunk and come to A&E firmly believing that they've been given a "date rape drug," but when laboratory testing is used to confirm that belief I've only ever seen one actual case of drug-facilitated sexual assault. We live in a world with a lot less drug-facilitated date rape than fearmongering about date rape drugs.

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      well wouldn't you expect GHB to be hard to detect since it occurs naturally anyway in the body and the body is excellent at eliminating it? I have taken it myself, it onsets in 10 minutes if the dose is large enough, and is pretty much back to baseline within an hour, its doubtful anyone in real disress makes it there fast enough to be reliably tested.

      That said, I have little doubt you are mostly correct that its very few. Having personally gotten myself to debilitated states on both GHB and Alcohol, I woul

      • by gweihir (88907)

        This person is an MD and knows all that. The labs of course will not run meaningless tests. If he "says 1 case in 14 years", you better believe that he knows what he is talking about.

        That said, I completely agree that the alcohol is more of a problem, and that this may well increase risky behavior.

    • by Cardoor (3488091) on Monday August 25, 2014 @10:22AM (#47748077)
      i think your sample set and conclusions might be seriously biased. i'm no expert on rape-statistics, but it's my understanding that a very significant amount of non-drug-assisted rapes go unreported by the victims for a variety of reasons.

      it seems to me that under the circumstances where a woman 'comes to' and can't even remember what happened (not to mention probably still feeling mentally/emotionally impaired from the chemical hangover) there would be an even higher incidence of the rapes going unreported.

      it may still be possible that drug-facilitated rape occurs with less frequency than feared, but i see no ability to reach that conclusion logically from your estimation.
    • 95% of marketing is convincing people they need your product. In very few cases, do they actually need it

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by argStyopa (232550)

      Because fearmongering about dirty, nasty predatory men is a lot more politically palatable than talking to young women about making bad choices and the consequences thereof. That's "substantiating the patriarchy".

      The public narrative is about "victimization" not about "stupidity and carelessness".

      Don't get me wrong, a man who takes advantage of a girl who's drunk is just as much a scumbag shit as someone who takes advantage of a girl who's been drugged.

      But... I know that if I left my car running with the k

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Says the Anonymous Coward. Without any kind of reference to reliable statistics your anecdote is utterly worthless I'm afraid. Could be completely made up.

      I'm not saying you are wrong, merely that an anonymous anecdote with no data to back it up shouldn't be modded "informative".

    • by jeff4747 (256583)

      In 40 years of living on this planet, I've never had a heart attack. And no one I've personally known has had one. Therefore, heart attacks never happen. Ever. To anyone.

      Alternatively, we could learn the difference between "anecdote" and "statistics".

      • by sinij (911942)
        Because heart attacks happen, we should treat everyone as if they are having, or about to have a heat attack. Because you never know, and HeartAttack Culture!
  • nice idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cardoor (3488091) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:41AM (#47747671)
    my first thought was that this was redundant, as but it seem to me that women who are apt to buy and wear this nail polish would probably already follow the most basic rule.. if a drink leaves your hand... (or passes within someone else's range of dosing), you don't drink from it again. EVER. to me, that's probably the most basic think to teach girls new to bars. I was astounded when i was in thailand a couple of years ago taking a course, and when we hit a bar one night, a girl from my class (probably 21 or 22 years old) put her drink down and left it to dance.. only to go back to it afterwards. i gave her quite an earful about the dangers etc etc.

    all that being said though, the rule wouldn't help you if the bartender is in cahoots with his buddy. you could also then only drink beer from a bottle (that you see opened in front of you), but for mixed drinks - why not have the extra level of security?

    also, to the extent that people understand this exists, it may prevent ne'er do wells from trying it in the first place, as a positive test should result in some serious accusations flying that creepers would probably like to avoid.
    • by gweihir (88907)

      The thing is that these cases are so rare they are mostly an urban myth. Yes, they do happen, but it is far more likely to be run over by a car on the way to or from the bar. Getting drugged by way of your drink is _not_ a relevant risk, just like getting killed by a terrorist or "stranger danger" are not relevant risks. They merely get this attention because some people are using the idea to manipulate people.

      • by Cardoor (3488091)
        i absolutely agree with you vis-a-vis the manipulative farce that is 'terrorist' risk - but in my mind, this is materially different for a few reasons:

        'terrorist' acts either go reported (due to their obvious ex-post nature) or are "thwarted" by those who have a vested interest in trumping up the whole scenario. in the date-rape scenario, there is no military-industrial-complex that stands to gain from people believing the stories... granted, others might be motivated to do so, but not nearly to the same
  • First of all, you've got to stick your fingers in your drink, which doesn't seem at all appealing. Why nail-polish? Why not just use the strips? If all you had was nail-polish and someone came out with strips, that'd be an improvement. This looks like a step backwards.
    Secondly, what's the false-positive/false-negative rate on this thing? Were there any compromises in accuracy in order to make it work as a nail-polish?

    Again, doesn't anyone see a problem with sticking your fingers in your drink? I know I'm the finicky type, but doesn't this look bothersome to anyone else?
    • by Cardoor (3488091) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:47AM (#47747745)
      i think the benefit of nail polish is that it's subtle. to whip out a testing strip in a bar is to say "hey everyone - i think the guy im talking to may be a rapist and trying to drug me. pardon me while i conduct an experiment. "

      to dip one fingertips into a well stirred (and presumably mostly full) drink could be very discreetly done. and i dont think hygienics should be an issue (esp with the alcohol content.) and if a girls fingertips are so grody she feels the hygiene is too rough, well.. then she may have bigger issues.
      • by Zapotek (1032314)
        I think the subtlety will wear-off once this invention becomes common knowledge, if someone can see you dip a strip, they can see you dip your fingers. Actually, I can palm and dip a strip without others noticing, I can't do the same with my fingers though.
        And I still can't help but find it gross, and not all drinks have a high alcohol content, and you'd be surprised what's under your fingernails -- cba to find the oblig XKCD.
    • She wouldn't have to roll up her sleeve and dunk like a proctologist. A quick discreet swipe with her little finger would be fine. Seriously, how can anyone be shitting on this idea.

      • by Zapotek (1032314)
        How am I shitting on the idea? Criticism is how you get improvement. Also, even if I were shitting on the idea, I'm pretty sure that'd have absolutely zero effect overall. You know this is a public forum right? I don't have veto power over the product, I'm just throwing my concerns out there, lighten up.
    • by TheCarp (96830)

      > Why nail-polish? Why not just use the strips?

      Easy, it reduces the steps required between returning to your drink or realizing you have forgotten to watch it, and doing the test. It removes....barriers. If you have to go into your pocket or purse to remove test strips, you are less likely to want to do it as often as you should....it could also be seen as insulting to whoever you are with that you don't trust them.

      > doesn't anyone see a problem with sticking your fingers in your drink?

      Not to me, but

  • A How about the complete fucks who make Rohypnol just put indelible blue dye in it that also passes through to urine? Oh yeah because they are complete fucks. We should just make chemically assisted rape punishable by death.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Threatening punishment, regardless of magnitude, has no effect here. There people are already deranged. "The law" is completely unable to solve these kinds of problems. It can make things worse though. Example: People that are afraid they will rape some child but have not done so (yet), are unable to get help as the law stupidly requires doctors to report them. The law is not a prevention tool. It is about revenge, and that is not helping the victims one bit in most cases.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @10:01AM (#47747877)

    I know a lot of folks with allergies and diet sensitivities. Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Casein, Soy, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Shellfish, etc... A detector like this could be really useful if the detected compounds were expanded.

  • I thought that Rohypnol had been regulated so heavily that very few people can get their hands on it, and that those who can are also capable of getting something stronger and harder to detect. To me, this sounds like giving people an easy way to test for polonium poisoning in their food - sure, it might help if you're someone who has pissed off a foreign intelligence service (or the Russian government) but it's a non-issue for the vast majority of people... that and if they really want you dead, they have

    • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Monday August 25, 2014 @10:42AM (#47748325) Journal

      You can't get GHB anymore because of dumb ass jocks, but, for some reason, Phenibut isn't scheduled.

      Phenibut is a GABA receptor agonizer with a powerful relaxing effect. It's OTC, but pretty useless: you become tolerant on the first use, and then require high doses to get an effect. It might be useful once a month, give or take a week. After using it for 2-3 days--by upping the dose a bit to overcome tolerance--side effects include severe depression and suicidal desires. Your life actually becomes a steaming pile of despair from which you wish to escape. It's far more addictive than Valium, and worse than Heroin.

      A dose of 250mg is a good, strong initial dose. Doses of 5000mg are common among body builders, who use the substance as a relaxant while training (bodybuilders used to dose GHB for the same purpose). A dose of 5000mg directly into some girl's drink would be fantastic... until it wore off. In the interim, nothing would bother her, and she'd probably be amenable to whatever you want. The next day, she'd cry a lot, then kill herself after deciding she'd be better off.

      Again: this stuff is OTC, has no viable medical use, is impossible to use without addiction, has severe withdraw effects, is not directly toxic at high doses, and can be used to make someone compliant.

      It should be banned because it's sold OTC as an anti-stress relaxant, yet is incredibly fucking dangerous to the user. It's not a thing you could dose yourself safely--like Modafinil or Dextroamphetamine--because it's not a thing a fucking physician could prescribe safely for any useful treatment. It's not a dangerous drug that can provide a recreational high or a medical benefit or can somehow be managed; it's a completely useless, indirectly toxic substance that creates immediate tolerance and brings on intense withdraw qualifying as a medical emergency.

      I bet their strips don't test for that.

  • Seriously, if a dating-scene is messed up enough for that to be an actual risk, the only sane thing is to leave it and don't look back. Somebody that is likely to put this stuff in your drink can just wait a little longer and force you to get dosed, at knife or gun-point, with much the same effect. And as soon as a few of these scumbags have gotten caught by this nail-polish, the others _will_ wise up.

    On the minus-side, this can lead to less caution by the ladies and hence is likely counter-productive.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Monday August 25, 2014 @10:12AM (#47747981) Homepage
    unless you're Penn Jillette, most men do not wear nail polish.
    it would also be very important to educate the wearer that they could never, under any circumstances, topcoat as it would render the system useless. Salons would also need training on numerous procedures that, while safe for normal polish, would damage the system.

    Disclosure: ive worked in a salon. my suggestion would be to offer a topcoat or clearcoat that can be added to existing colours. This system would also work well in french tips, but again, most men do not wear them.

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