Mexican student creates device that detects “rape drugs” in drinks

Detecting sedatives in alcoholic beverages is achieved by the device invented by the Mexican student Arely Salcedo, who came up with this idea after a friend of hers was the victim at a party of a "rape drug" that they put in his drink.

After the incident —where her friend’s life was saved in an ambulance— the ninth-semester biomedical engineering student at the Autonomous University of Querétaro (UAQ), in the center of the country, searched for a solutionaccording to this Thursday in an interview with Efe.

Therefore, he designed a device to detect xylazine in alcoholic beverages, one of the drugs most used by sexual aggressors to sedate their victims before raping them and that, in many cases, can end in death by overdose.

“Xylazine is a very powerful veterinary sedative, it is an analgesic and sleeping pill, it is almost always used in very large animals such as horses and cows. The bad thing is that the aggressors do not know this, the dangerous thing is that they get out of hand, which is what usually happens"comment.

The future engineer states that for now there is no functional tool to identify xylazine or other substances in the drink to prevent attacks, hence the need for a primary barrier to this problem.

tool against violence

The invention is one more tool to stop the wave of violence against women in Mexicoa country where they murder more than 10 women a day.

And it occurs in the midst of recent cases that have shaken the country, such as that of the young Debanhi Escobar, 18, who was found dead in a motel in the northern state of Nuevo León after precisely going to a party.

Salcedo reports that they tried to drug her friend in a nightclubwhere it is very difficult to identify if the person is drugged by the crowding of people.

"Fortunately, with her we were able to get the ambulance to come and treat her, but it’s a very, very ugly thing. You realize how vulnerable you are and that it can happen to anyone really,” she says.

Given the climate of violence, in Querétaro there are already people interested in the device. Like María Fernanda Trejo, who has faced and knows victims of risk situations.

“They tried to take my brother-in-law’s sister, with the same thing, they tried to drug her, so it’s really important for us as women and also for the boys, because I don’t doubt that it could happen to them too,” she said.

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How does it work?

Salcedo details that the device has a sensor based on an electrochemical cell, which allows the oxidation-reduction of the xylazine molecule in the prepared drink.

The xylazine molecule remains intact and is very easy to detect because the detection limit is very small, so something less than a drop can be detected.

Though it doesn’t have a name yet. the project has just concluded the testing stageafter being tested in different drinks, with different types of alcohol.

Considering that this phase was successful, the inventor began with the prototyping of the product, which she expects to become a small instrument with easy economic access.

“We have already tried it in many prepared drinks such as whiskey, rum, tequila, vodka. Also with soft drinks, and it is very successful"mentions.

"The final product we expect that is something accessible and very portablewe imagine it as a drink stirrer where the user can stir their drink and, if the molecule is present, they can turn on a led (bulb) and then you already know if it is safe to drink or not”, he explains.

Even so, he acknowledges that for the device to become a reality it could take another year, as partners are sought who want to invest in the project.

A goal has also been set to create a multi-sensor that can detect other drugs.

“For me it is very gratifying because I decided to study this career, because they give you the tools to be able to solve things and social needs. Many times we are looking for the black thread within the investigation, but it is very important to address these issues of human security"manifests.

Juan de Dios Galindo, research professor at the UAQ and advisor to the project, elaborates on what this tool would report in real time the presence of this druga technology that is generally used in the analysis of cadavers.

“The idea of ​​her arose because there are currently many human security problems and the university is committed to doing science not just for the sake of doing it, but so that it has a social commitment."underlines.

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