Researchers in Singapore say they've created a fluorescent sensor that can reveal a presence of the "date rape" drug GHB often used in spiking drinks.

When mixed into a sample of a drink that has been spiked, the color of the mixture changes in about 30 seconds, for a quick and easy detection of the drug's presence.

The simple mix-to-detect sensor could help prevent drug-aided sexual assault cases, researchers said.

Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, commonly referred to as GHB, has neither color nor odor, making it practically undetectable if slipped into a cocktail and a preferred technique of sexual predators.

It was developed for use as a nervous system depressant and general anesthetic in a medical setting, but became notorious as a "date rape" drug in the 1990s, incapacitating a victim and making them vulnerable to a sexual assault.

Sometimes known as "liquid ecstasy," sale of the compound has been banned in the United States.

Knowing that fluorescent dyes, with their sensitivity and fast action time, make ideal analytical tools, the Singapore researchers examined 5,500 different fluorescent dyes.

They focused on 17 fluorescent dyes, testing them with GHB concentrations of different levels.

One fluorescent compound, dubbed GHB Orange by the researchers was found to change color when mixed with drink samples containing GHB.

When mixed with various beverages, including both alcoholic and non-alcoholic ones that were colored and colorless, GHB Orange showed a difference in the fluorescence strength between beverages free of GHB and those that had been spiked.

In translucent or lightly-colored drink such as vodka or water, the color change is easily visible to the naked eye, the researchers said.

In darker beverage such as whisky, bourbon or Cola, additional lighting is need to better reveal the change.

While there are other methods that can detect GHB, such as paper chromotogaphy, they take time and expertise to use.

A test that is convenient carry around would be useful, the Singapore Researchers said, adding they plan to seek industry partners in an effort create a quick and easy technique for the detection of GBH.

Their findings were first published in the journal Chemical Communications.

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