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MassChallenge finalist DrinkSavvy takes aim at date rape with drug-detecting drinkware

It’s a lesson from Party Safety 101: Never let your drink out of your sight.

This is good advice, of course, because you can’t tell if someone has slipped an odorless, tasteless date rape drug into your beverage.

But, thanks to Boston startup DrinkSavvy, your cup can.

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The MassChallenge finalist has developed a line of drinkware that changes colors when its contents are spiked, flashing a warning signal to partygoers. And after exceeding a $50,000 goal on the crowdfunding site IndieGoGo late last year, the company is ready to begin distributing its drug-detecting plastic cups and straws this fall.

The 2,582 people who pledged a total of $52,089 will be the first recipients, with public sales on track for next year. DrinkSavvy also plans to release color-changing glasses in 2014.

Preventing date rape is a personal mission for founder Mike Abramson. While celebrating a friend’s birthday at a Boston bar three years ago, he was drugged to the point of blackout. Abramson’s companions got him home safely, but the experience left an impression.

“You wake up without any recollection of what happened the night before,” he said. “Anything could have happened. It’s scary.”

After his close call, Abramson, an intellectual property attorney at Boston law firm Holland & Knight, set out to design a more convenient alternative to drug testing strips that must be dipped into drinks. He consulted chemistry professors John C. MacDonald and Christopher R. Lambert at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he received his undergraduate degree, and came up with a way to essentially embed testing strips into beverage containers.

DrinkSavvy’s first plastic cups and straws, for instance, will react to the popular date rape drug GHB, changing colors within three seconds. Future models also will test for rohypnol and ketamine.

The company’s goal is to make drug-detecting drinkware standard in bars, on college campuses, and even bottling plants. Abramson said he’s hoping to partner with beverage companies to make bottles and cans.

DrinkSavvy has not set a price point yet, but Abramson said his company’s plastic cups will be only slightly more expensive than regular ones.

“We want to be competitive on price,” he said. “We don’t want that to be the reason why someone’s not safe.”

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