A new weapon in the war against drug rape has been welcomed by police in the region.
The kit, being launched next week, will allow drinkers to test for the most common drugs.
Produced by London-based Bloomsbury Innovations, details about the product are being kept a closely guarded secret.
Many drugs used are tasteless and odourless, so potential victims are unable to detect if they have been `spiked'.
A spokesman for the company said Drink Detective will allow drinkers for the first time to test for Ketamine, GHM and Benzodiazpines, which includes Rohypnol, known on the streets as Roofies.
"There is nothing else like it on the market," she said. "It will be going on sale to the public shortly and details of where people can buy it will be revealed at the launch."
More than 1,000 men and women were raped or sexually assaulted while drugged in the past year nationally. At the launch on the Roofie Foundation, set up to help victims, will announce the latest figures.
Newcastle-born solicitor Lynda Greenwood set up the Roofie Foundation in 1997, after her drink was spiked on a blind date. The free helpline offers support and information to victims.
Drug rape is an increasing problem and up to July this year, over 6,000 cases of drug rape or sexual abuse were reported to the helpline, with 642 victims from the North East.
Police in the region have been at the forefront of the campaign to raise awareness about the dangers and have mounted several leaflet campaigns.
Insp Frank Wood, of Northumbria Police's community safety: "Any device which helps safeguard against the possibility of having your drink spiked would be welcomed.
"Although there has been no confirmed cases in Northumbria of rapes or sexual assaults which were drug-facilitated we would always remind people to keep an eye on their drinks to make sure no-one interferes with them."
Next week the Roofie Foundation will release the latest figures for 2003. These are expected to show that the crime is still one of the fastest growing in Britain, though very few cases - only an estimated 15% - are reported to the police.
A spokesman for the group said: "The Roofie Foundation welcomes more and more increased awareness and sensitivity of police forces around Britain in the handling of drug-related rape and sexual abuse and are pleased and proud to have assisted a number of forces, including Thames Valley, Essex, West Midlands and Northumberland forces, in creating their own drink spiking awareness campaigns.
"However The Roofie Foundation still feels leadership should be taken by the top. The Roofie Foundation believes that the misuse of so called `date rape drugs' poses a greater threat than a drug such as Ecstasy.
"To put things in perspective, according to official figures, there are between 1.5 and 1.75 million users of Ecstasy every weekend, with approximately 10 reported deaths.
"Whilst any drug-related death is to be regretted and remains a great sadness, the misuse of Rohypnol and other drugs has led to over 5,500 rapes, leaving behind a trail of traumatised and shattered victims, their partners and their families.
"No resources are being spent or given to the help of these people - the only place these people have to turn to is the Roofie Foundation."
Anyone, man or woman, who thinks they have been drug raped should contact police or REACH (Rape Examination Advice Counselling and Help) on (0191) 212 1551. The Roofie Foundation helpline is 0800 783 2980.
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|Publication:||Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||Apr 2, 2004|
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