Date Rape Drug Detecting Nail Polish Will Not Possibly Work

If you thought it smelled a bit like acetone and bullshit, you were right. That innovative nail polish that promised to detect date rape drugs has been the subject of both praise and scrutiny over the last week, but this tidbit should change the tenor of the conversation a bit: an exasperated-sounding pharmaceutical expert claims that it won't actually work.

Animal New York's "Backdoor Pharmacist" called the nail polish — and other such date rape drug detecting products like coasters, napkins, and straws — items that "exist in a fantasy world of stranger danger pill-packing predators and irresponsible victims." Way harsh, Tai.

The problem, BP explains, is twofold. First of all, the so-called date rape detectors have proven in laboratory tests to be too sensitive, sometimes changing color when encountering such scary rape-enabling substances as cow milk. In another trial, similar products only caught the presence of GHB two out of three times.

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But the biggest problem is that there are simply too many date rape drugs out there for a "date rape drug detector" to be anything more than a silly pipe dream. S/he writes,

Even if these kits worked and were 100% reliable, this is a losing battle. Wikipedia lists over 100 benzodiazepines like Xanax and Rohypnol including phenazepam (which can cause you to black out for days) and etizolam. Going beyond benzos adds hundreds more sedatives/hypnotics like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Unisom Sleep Tabs (doxylamine) which can be bought over the counter.

And we can't forget the stimulants like cocaine and meth, the empathogens like MDMA or ecstasy, non-benzo drugs like Ambien, which I can personally attest to producing blackouts, and opioids like Vicodin (hydrocodone) and Percocet (oxycodone). You can create a universal testing kit, and trudge off to each bar with a bag filled with highly corrosive sulphuric acid reagents, an arsenal of test strips, microplates, pipettors, and for every single one of your drinks, use up a bunch of pipettor tips in order to sample. Even that suffers from a lack of imagination.

A testing kit that extensive would no way fit inside a standard-sized clutch bag. And even if it could, the level of light, sterility and control necessary to conduct a lab experiment with reliable results are lacking in most bars that aren't that incredibly bright, depressing "beach" themed bar in the Southwest terminal at Midway airport. (Anyone who has been there knows the one. It's the world's worst place for a Bloody Mary.)

And the biggest problem with date rape drug detecting nail polish, coasters, napkins, beanie hats with propellers that spin when rape danger approaches, etc, as BP points out, is that the most common date rape drug is one that women who are date raped know they are consuming — it's alcohol. Rapists looking to prey on incapacitated women (especially in underage or collegiate drinking situations) will often feed their mark extra booze and wait until it takes effect. It's why college freshman girls are told by wise upperclassmen to avoid the jungle juice at frat parties. It's not that rapey dudes are running around sprinkling GHB into cauldrons of kool aid and alcohol; it's that aspirant date rapists know that a good way to incapacitate a woman is to disguise the amount she's drinking, or pressure her into drinking more than she'd drink if left to her druthers.

In short, no bar counter-conducted experiment could possible detect the hundreds of substances innovative rapists might use to incapacitate a woman (or man) they wish to victimize. And once again, putting the responsibility on sexual assault victims to stop their own assaults has proven a far more complex and impossible than a much simpler solution: teach men that having sex with women too incapacitated to consent is rape. Or at least give them temporary knuckle tats that say DONT RAPE on them. One letter per finger.

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