Tech + Health

07.22.14

New Gadget Detects Date Rape Drugs, But Will Women Use It?

The pd.id can detect roofies in juice, water and cocktails--but will the $75 price tag deter young women?

Too carefree with that red Solo cup, or wary of a handsome stranger buying the next round? Say hello to High-Tech’s newest solution to the date rape drug crisis. 

The pd.id, or personal drink identification device, can quickly and discreetly inform a user whether their beverage has been tampered with, claim its developers, who are raising money on crowdfunding site, Indiegogo. The gadget is able to detect common drugs including alcohol, zolpidem (Ambien), Rohypnol, and other benzodiazepines, many of which can go unnoticed in water and juice as easily as in a cocktail.

A user would dip the battery-powered pd.id—the size of a keychain and in the style of a first-generation iPod Shuffle—into her (or his) drink and wait a few seconds while the device tests on light quality, conductivity, and temperature. If the drink is safe, an LED light flashes green; if it’s been spiked, the light goes red. The gadget goes for $75 and can be reused nearly 40 times before the battery needs to be recharged.

The pd.id management team cites Canadian statistics showing one in four North American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, a quarter of which are facilitated by alcohol or compounds known as “Date Rape Drugs.”

According to the product’s Candian developers, “pd.id relies on proven technology that has been used by drug enforcement agencies, such as the U.S. DEA, for years. We started with that technology, (costing tens of thousands of dollars) as our base, then re-engineered and designed it to be user-friendly and affordable,” the site says.   

Pd.id is not the first date rape drug detector on the market, though it may be the most advanced.

The pd.id is not the first date rape drug detector on the market, though it may be the most advanced. Drink Safe Technologies developed testers where a user can drip a bit of their drink onto a coaster. Dip Tip Nail Polish allows a wearer to dip her polished nails discreetly into a drink, which will change color if a date rape drug has been detected. Another company, which also funded its version on Indiegogo in 2012, has yet to release their promised drug detecting, color-changing cups and straws. 

What sets pd.id apart is its interface with a smartphone, notifying the user not just that their drink has been drugged, but sometimes what exactly it has been drugged with. If the developers reach their stretch goal of $500,000, they say they will update their database so smartphones can additionally provide a nutritional content analysis of the tested drink. If they reach $750,000, they promise to make pd.id “the ultimate safety device, combining an emergency alert dispatch app with an interface highlighting safe establishments.”

While the pd.id is certainly stylish and its developers’ intentions noble, there’s no indication whether it will actually be used by women. A $75 price tag is probably prohibitively expensive for most college-age women, and notwithstanding its discreetness, young women might—though they shouldn’t—feel awkward in effect saying, “Pardon me, Mister, while I make sure you aren’t drugging me for nonconsensual sex.” Whether it will be fully funded also remains to be seen. As of this writing, the pd.id has only raised about $8,000 of its $100,000 goal.