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Date rape test kits unreliable, say experts; Women 'being put at risk'.

Byline: BY KATE MANSEY Daily Post Staff

DRUG-TESTING kits used to detect date-rape drugs in drinks are inaccurate and misleading, according to a new report by Liverpool academics.

The study is the first of its kind to show that "fool-proof kits dipped into drinks to test for drugs like Rohypnol and Gamma Hydrozybutyrate (GHB) are putting women at risk.

When first introduced, kits which use litmus paper and dipsticks to test for foreign chemicals were praised by the police and rape charities.

Designed to be carried in handbags for use in bars and pubs, the DIY drug-tests are used to safeguard against attacks.

But the Liverpool study has raised fears that they could be putting potential rape victims at risk.

The research into the efficacy of the kits was carried out by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University.

The findings, to be published in the journal Addiction later this year, show that drink-spiking kits designed to test for date-rape drugs often gave wrong results.

Researchers found some kits produced misleading results, while some would be hard to read in a dimly-lit bar.

In the Liverpool laboratory, one kit tested positive for drugs in fewer than half the samples. Some also gave positive or unclear results in around 25 % of cases.

Liverpool John Moores University scientists said that, while date-rape tests proved problematic, many victims may be drugged by alcohol itself with rapists topping up drinks with shots of spirits.

Dr Caryl Beynon, lead author of the report, said: "Public concern about the use of illegal drugs in sexual assaults can take the focus away from the most commonly used date-rape drug, alcohol.

"Buying someone larger drinks, encouraging them to drink beyond their capacity, or slipping shorts into lower alcohol drinks are a far more common and effective way of drink-spiking."

Chester campaigner Sara Hindley, 41, founded date-rape awareness website www.dr-ugged.co.uk after her friend was the victim of a rape.

She said one of the main problems was that there was no overall body to endorse the tests available on the market.

Ms Hindley said: "We have tested some of the kits ourselves and found certain products from Australia which were very unreliable. It's a shame that a few products marketed by people interested in making money are ruining the reputation of these tests which are very useful.

"More and more scientific developments are being made to test for all types of drugs, including Ketamine and Rohypnol.

"The devastation of being a victim of a date-rape attack is pretty phenomenal.

"The use of date rape drugs is definitely a growing problem, and these tests need to be better promoted.

"For just a few pounds, a good test will let you know if your drink is safe or not.

"Even if people knew that their potential victims were carrying out these tests, it would work as a deterrent if nothing else."

The Roofie foundation endorses drink-spike testing products and provides a national helpline for date-rape victims.

One of its recommended products is the Drink Detective.

Ms Hindley added: "You should choose a kit endorsed by the Roofie foundation.

"And if you are at all worried, or if you leave your drink unattended for even a minute, you should change it."

They often give wrong results

kate.mansey@liverpool.com

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 6, 2006
Words:575
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