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Fluorescent Dye May Help Spot Date-Rape Drug in Drinks

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MONDAY, March 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've developed a simple new test that quickly detects the date-rape drug GHB in drinks.

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid), a central nervous system depressant, is one of the most commonly used date-rape drugs. Spiking drinks with GHB, which is odorless and colorless, incapacitates victims, making them vulnerable to sexual assault.

When the fluorescent compound is mixed with a sample of drink containing GHB, the mixture changes color in less than 30 seconds, according to the research team at the National University of Singapore.

The researchers tested a number of fluorescent compounds with a wide range of GHB concentrations and identified one called GHB Orange that changes color when mixed with the date-rape drug.

The team then tested the ability of GHB Orange to detect GHB in different types of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and found that it was effective, according to the study, published recently in the journal Chemical Communications.

The color change was readily apparent in clear and light-colored drinks such as water or vodka, but additional lighting was needed to detect the change in darker drinks such as cola and whiskey, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. Office on Women's Health has more about date rape drugs.

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