Three years ago Michael Abramson was at a nightclub in Boston. Shortly after taking a sip of his drink, he knew something was wrong. It was his first drink of the night but "started to feel much more like my 15th drink," he reported. Before he knew what was happening, the suddenly legless Abramson was being thrown out of the club, presumably for being overintoxicated; his friends had to carry him out, and he remained unconscious until the next morning.
Abramson had been "roofied," having drank from a cocktail that someone had spiked. It's possible he was the target of a potential robbery, or that the drink was intended for someone of the fairer gender—shockingly, some 400,000 women are rendered unconscious and subsequently raped each year after unwittingly ingesting GHB, Rohypnol or Ketamine, colloquially known as "date rape drugs." (And that number only reflects the cases that are reported.) Even worse, you don't need to be Walter White to whip up a batch of GHB—it's easily created out of commonly available chemicals, and the resultant drug is odorless, flavorless and colorless, making detection just about impossible.
Abramson, who had studied engineering in his undergrad years, resolved to make it detectable. After enlisting the help of two of his former professors from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, he formed DrinkSavvy, a company dedicated to producing cocktailware—cups, straws, cocktail stirrers, and drinking glasses—that would change color in the presence of date rape drugs.
The team successfully worked out the chemistry, and next month DrinkSavvy's first batch of drinking straws and 16-oz. plastic cups will begin shipping. The first recipients will be the crowdsource backers that helped launch DrinkSavvy through IndieGogo, where a modest 50 large was enough to get the initial products manufactured. The company expects to have units ready for sale to the general public by 2014.
Here's a demonstration of a prototype:
And below is the original pitch video—spliced together with some rather disturbing footage of both victims and perpetrators discussing date rape drugs.
Following the rollout of their plastic products, Abramson and co. will focus on producing drinking glasses, to expand beyond plastics-using college venues and gain uptake from bars and nightclubs where date rape drugs could be plied. But Abramson knows that that will not be the end of development; as criminals begin creating drugs that can defeat DrinkSavvy's detection system, DrinkSavvy plans to roll out new product to keep up.