Detect the undetectable

Heather Bing

GHB has no smell or taste and is virtually undetectable, but new coasters are able to detect GHB and other date rape drugs

The new DSD (Drink Spike Detector) is designed to identify the presence in beverages of certain drugs, referred to as date rape drugs. The test has to be used in a well lit area and cannot be used with wine, beverages containing milk products or cream, oi

Credit: Ben Breier

The next time someone buys you a beer, make sure you ask for a coaster.

Drink Safe Coasters became available in the Ratheskeller Monday evening and are designed to identify certain drugs in alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic drinks.

The coasters can each test two drinks and take about two minutes to display the results. Each testing spot has two dots, and a drop of the beverage is smeared onto both dots without allowing the liquid to run together.

Once each dot has dried, if either spot turns to a darker blue color the individual should be aware that the drink may have been tampered with.

The coasters are meant to react to GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) and ketamine, two common date rape drugs.

These drugs can be in powder or liquid form and are odorless and tasteless. They can begin to affect the system within 15 to 30 minutes.

The drugs cause drowsiness and dizziness to the extent that victims may have no recollection of the events that take place after they are under the influence of the drug.

Community health education major Shannon L. Woods, 22, has been a bartender in the Ratheskeller since August and said the coasters will be out on the bar for people to pick up.

“If it was a busy night (we would) probably pass them out with a drink,” she said.

Woods said the Ratheskeller has different activities throughout the week, but it has never been so crowded that she was overwhelmed or unable to keep an eye on what was going on.

However, she also said that recently she has seen more people buying drinks for someone other than themselves.

Although she believes the coasters are a good idea, she isn’t sure how effective they will be down in the Ratheskeller.

“This kind of problem really hasn’t happened here,” Woods said. “Maybe if we were a busier bar.”

Junior English major Erin M. Baker said when she goes out with friends, they make sure to keep an eye on their drinks.

“If we put our drinks down on the railing behind us we watch them – constantly,” she said.

Although Baker hasn’t seen or heard of anyone having a drink tampered with while she was out, she realizes it is a concern and said she would use the coasters.

“There’s no way to physically tell if your drink’s been tampered with,” she said.

But the coasters do have a few limitations. The Drink Spike Detectors do not test all beverages, and may show false readings when used with colored beverages or certain tap waters.

They are also not meant to be used with wine products, beverages containing milk products, cream or fruit juices, tonic waters or oily liqueurs.

These stipulations may reduce the coasters’ effectiveness for female patrons who often order mixed drinks or wine coolers.

“So it’s limited, but it’s better than nothing,” Baker said.

Jon F. Harper, assistant director of the Student Center, said the coasters are a result of the CARE committee, which is composed of administrators. The committee discusses students in dangerous situations, and believes date rape, especially as a result of drink tampering, is a problem that should be addressed.

His largest concern is students are not seeking out help once they believe they may have been the victim of a date rape drug. He recommends going to the health center immediately and getting examined.

Harper also suggested visiting the Web site on the coasters,, to find out more about the coasters and how they work.

The DeWeese Health Center also has the coasters as well as information on different date rape drugs, common side effects and how to respond if someone is drugged.

Harper said despite the coasters’ limitations, he believes if they help one person they will have been worth it.

“You should never leave your drink, ever,” he said.