From bad, can come some good.
A frightening experience with tampered drinks which hurt certain patrons at a Carnival fete three years ago has opened an avenue to prevent such occurrences in T&T again.
The "bad scene" which those patrons suffered from that incident made San Fernando resident Sean Goodman livid. The patrons had been friends of his. It made him determined to find something to detect date rape drugs in drinks and which could protect Trinis.
Goodman persevered for almost two years. The outcome is the introduction to T&T and the Caribbean of the SipChip—a patented sophisticated diagnostic test which detects Benzodiazepines including Rohypnol (aka "Roofies"), Xanax, Valium, Serax, Versed, and Restoril drugs in over 100 beverages.
Goodman related: "About three years ago, a close relative of mine and friends went to a popular Carnival fete. I was shocked to hear some of the women in the group had their drinks tampered with. They became severely ill, landing up at a medical facility.
"When blood tests returned, it was positive for a known date rape drug. Terrifying! It was an all-inclusive fete and they’d been going to the bar themselves, nobody was offering them drinks. It never entered their minds there was a threat. I was taken aback and started researching what could be done and how can we in T&T can protect ourselves from this incapacitating form of attack."
Goodman’s research led him to SipChip producers, Undercover Colors. When the product launched in the US, discussions were held about introducing it locally. The rest has started SipChip history in T&T.
How does SipChip work?
The small key-ring sized chip involves a simple format with instant results.
Remove the proactive seal. Put a drop of your drink onto the chip’s test pad. Results appear in 30 seconds.
Goodman said, "The test is simple, portable, accurate, quick, safe and the only one of its kind. For a look at the workings: https://youtu.be/ZPXEdJ_Gtx0.
"It's regarded as a 'must have' to carry, especially for public events. I hope that in today's reality in T&T, it can deter ill-minded individuals who sit around concocting ways to wreck lives. Knowing there's something that can detect 'dirty' drinks, may stop them."
US producers’ spokesman Barbara Cook said, "The original idea was born out of personal experiences in the lives of the product’s (US) founders. They wanted to do something that would stop drug-facilitated date rape and have an impact on social behaviour."
Cook said the product was created by a team of scientists led by Dr Nick Letourneau, whose "objective was providing a tool that was dependable to keep people safe".
"Creation of SipChip as the form in which the test is sold was driven by global consumer feedback. We listened and their requests were clear: they wanted a product that could detect the most common date rape drugs in the widest variety of beverages, something accurate, fast and could be used as discreetly or overtly as necessary, and was completely gender neutral.
"SipChip has achieved over 99 per cent accuracy in more than 12,000 devices tested. It’s sold in the US and South Africa and there’s deep interest from Europe and Asia/Pacific regions."
Cook added, "Positive feedback includes from people who’ve said they are survivors and wished they'd had this earlier. Lia Kamana, survivor and ABC7 News reporter said our product was ‘the most impressive’ in the market and she has it on her phone now which allows her to go out with peace of mind again.
"Former Secret Service agent Evy Poumpouras—who's protected three US presidents—said on a Today show it’s a ‘must have’ for personal safety."
For T&T's Goodman, he said he just didn't want anyone else to suffer at a Carnival or other fetes, "I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what my friends did..."