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No, nail polish won’t detect date-rape drugs in a drink

“LADIES. Please apply Nail polish (cutex) all the time,” reads a message posted Facebook on 24 November 2020. 

“If you are out turning up and drinking from a glass or a guy offers to buy you a drink, put your finger in the drink, if your nail polish changes Colour, know that your drink is Spiked.”

The claim that nail polish can detect date-rape drugs in drinks first emerged on social media over a year ago. It has since been reposted multiple times

Date-rape drugs enable a perpetrator to commit sexual assault. The drugs can make a victim less likely to resist an assault, feel confused about what is happening, or forget the assault entirely.

Common date-rape drugs include rohypnol, ketamine and GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyric acid. Over-the-counter medicines and alcohol can also be used. 

Can nail polish detect date-rape drugs by changing colour when exposed to a tainted drink? We checked. 



Nail polish proposed but not created


Reports of a nail polish that could detect date-rape drugs emerged in the US in 2014

Four undergraduate students at North Carolina State University announced a project to produce a nail polish that would change colour when exposed to common date-rape drugs such as GHB and rohypnol. The nail polish, to be released under the name Undercover Colors, would reportedly allow women to detect date-rape drugs discreetly. 

But at the time it was first announced the nail polish was not yet available and the student inventors were still looking for funding for their research. Critics also questioned the feasibility of a nail polish that could accurately detect date-rape drugs without false positives. 

Today, the Undercover Colors website advertises a product that can detect date-rape drugs. But it is not a colour changing nail polish. It’s a small, round single-use device called a SipChip that can detect commonly used date-rape drugs with a 99.93% accuracy rate when as little as two drops of a drink are applied to the device. 

The device is sold online within the US, although according to the website there are resellers in South Africa, South Korea, and Trinidad and Tobago.

We could find no evidence that Cutex, the nail polish brand referred to in the Facebook post, or any other currently available nail polish is able to detect date-rape drugs. 

There is no evidence that nail polish will change colour in the presence of date-rape drugs. A group of university students proposed creating such a polish, but created a small single-use device that detects date-rape drugs instead. – Naledi Mashishi




 

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