Thursday, August 10, 2006

Professor working on 'roofies' detector

Associated Press

Wed Aug 9, 8:13 PM ET

An assistant professor of chemistry is developing a tiny testing kit that women can carry in their purses and use to quickly detect date-rape drugs.

Andrea Holmes, who teaches at Doane College in Crete, said "this seemed to be a really, really relevant topic."

"So many women on college campuses are being affected by this," said Holmes.

Date-rape drugs — or "roofies" — such as Rohypnol are secreted into a person's drink. The drug incapacitates the person and causes memory loss. Men and women who have been raped while under its influence can regain their senses with no memory of the assault.

Rohypnol and other date-rape drugs may no longer detectable by the time a victim is treated and tested.

"Many women do get raped and cannot prove it afterwards," Holmes said. "What we want to do is determine the presence of the drug before it ever enters the body."

She's hoping to develop a small strip or stick that would turn a certain color if dipped into a drink that had been spiked with roofies.

In May, she and three student researchers reached a milestone: They concocted a chemical mixture that turns from blue to colorless when Rohypnol is added.

"This took us weeks and weeks," Holmes said. "Research is usually 99 percent failure. This was a breakthrough."

Other researchers have made progress on similar ideas.

The Drink Detective was introduced in Britain in 2004. A few drops of a detection liquid are placed on a pad that has been dipped into a drink. The pad changes colors if roofies were put into the drink.

Holmes wants something even smaller and simpler: a paper sensor that can fit into a pocket or small handbag.

"It is a big, big area of research," she said. "Everybody is trying to create their own sensor."

Holmes is applying for a $20,000 National Science Foundation grant to continue her research, hoping to include GHB, methamphetamine and other "party drugs" that have been used by date rapists.


On the Net:

National Women's Health Information Center site on date-rape drugs:


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