The Solo Cup That Changes Colors to Warn You of Date Rape Drugs

 

It's almost trite to say that internet-based technological endeavors are changing the way we address social problems. In a world where almost half of all Americans own smartphones, about 63% of Americans use digital devices to go online, and Kickstarter has raised over $274 million to fund more than 28,000 ideas, it seems only logical to turn to crowd-sourced funding and apps for that to solve issues like rape, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. In 2005, it was Hollaback!, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting street harassment using cell phone cameras, Flickr, and (now) iPhone and Droid apps. 2011 brought us Circle of Six, part of the Apps Against Abuse challenge issued by Vice President Joe Biden and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Now, Michael T. Abramson, a graduate from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, brings us "a product that will identify odorless, colorless, and tasteless so-called 'date-rape drugs'": DrinkSavvy color-changing drinkware.


Mike Abramson started DrinkSavvy, "a startup...that can enable us to perfect our unique technology to significantly reduce the chance that you or a loved one will become the victim of drug-facilitated sexual assault" after he and three of his friends unwittingly ingested date rape drugs. He is currently raising money for the project via IndieGoGo; with 27 days left to go, the project has raised $7,902 of its $50,000 goal.

Abramson worked with a chemistry professor at WPI, Dr. John MacDonald, and Contract Researching Organizations to develop a material which will change color in the presence of three common 'date rape' drugs: GHB, ketamine, and rohypnol. The plan is to manufacture disposable cups, straws, and stirrers using this material. The products will be available for free online for select rape crisis centers, with the eventual goal of convincing bars, colleges, and clubs to adopt and promote the use of DrinkSavvy materials.

DrinkSavvy is not the first attempt to create Solo cups for social good. In August, a professor at Tel Aviv University developed an anti-date rape straw which could detect ketamine and GHB. But as Abramson points out, "the ‘straw’ is only disguised as a straw (non-functional), and actually requires the user to take action by sampling a very small volume of the drink and mixing it with a testing solution in the straw. That causes a chemical reaction in the straw that makes the solution cloudy or colored, depending on the drug.”

While DrinkSavvy products do not directly address those who manufacture and use date rape drugs — it's estimated that there exist at least 20 such drugs, and that use of such drugs has been increasing — DrinkSavvy would solve one major problem regarding date rapes drugs; namely, that the drugs are essentially undetectable.

As Abramson puts it, "In the end, while our anti-drug rape products are meant to significantly reduce as much as possible the risk of being drug raped, it is still up to you to take the normal precautions. Don't leave your drink unattended, don't accept opened drinks, if someone buys you a drink make sure you watch the bartender make it, don't drink from punch bowls, come with friends and leave with friends."

To support DrinkSavvy, visit the product's Facebook page or donate via IndieGoGo.

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Sam Meier

Samantha Meier serves as the Identities editor at PolicyMic, where she writes on activism, gender, and new media. Sam was profiled in the New York Times for co-founding Sex Week at Harvard, and is currently working on a book about women and underground comix. Originally from Flagstaff, Arizona, she currently lives in New York.

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