Bathing as intent to commit date-rape

No, date rape isn’t funny, but neither is the drug war. Here’s an odd little story about a fellow busted for possession of a the date rape drug, GHB. It was in a bottle of soap. The police tested the soap with a portable kit, and it tested positive for GHB — as the video shows, a whole class of soaps test positive for GHB with this particular kit.

Amusingly, the company that made the soap turned it into a commercial for their brand. The drug kit isn’t a test for GHB, it’s a test for good soap!


  1. jeffk says

    Fun fact: those soap bottles are covered with creepy Bible quotes. Good stuff though, Dr. Bronner’s.

  2. Tinni says

    I love The Germs,they’re a pretty cool band. How did the cops came up with the idea of “hey, there might be something fishy in that soap”? What was he gonna do, tell his SO to drink soap? “I swear to you hunny this soap is awesome, it tastes just like chicken!”

  3. Roy says

    Generally, any inexpensive test for the presence of a chemical has a low specificity, so that false positives will dominate over true positives.

    As an example, the Breathalyzer does not detect alcohol: it detects methyl groups. It can pick up the mint in chewing gum.

    Such poor performance will be ignored whenever the people doing the testing are never subject to the tests themselves. Make them equally vulnerable and the silly testing will promptly stop.

  4. Chet says

    Those are some seriously f-ed up soap bottles. They used to carry that stuff at the Morris Co-op, before they moved; maybe they still do.

    You’d get a big kick out of the Dr. Brenner’s soap bottle label, PZ. It’s like looking into the eye of madness. It isn’t even just religious nonsense – it’s quasi-occult religious nonsense.

  5. cm says

    It only occurred to me a few minutes after viewing the vid that the (now cleared) suspect is a member of the band The Germs…and soap washes away germs.

  6. says

    A very interesting story. Very instructional about the ambiguities in forensic science, and you could get practical advice from this story about how to approach positive field test results.

    The video was funny, however, I have a problem with the assumptions they are making about this test. Without knowing anything about how the test works, what do they think they are detecting when they put these soaps in the NarcoPouch? It gives a positive, green result with their soap, and two others. Several other “natural” or “organic” soaps test negative, or red, along with several evil-non-soap-detergents. Their conclusion: The “organic” soaps that tested negative must be evil-non-soap-detergents as well.

    Or maybe, there is a common ingredient in his soap, Tom’s, and the third one that tested positive, and they are just testing for that ingredient.

    This blog post mentions that “fake” soaps such as Johnson & Johnson and Neutrogena test positive as well! No wonder Yahoo news picked this up – they’ll repeat anything.

    Does anyone know how, chemically speaking, NarcoPouch 928 works? This would be really cool to figure out how the false positives came up.

  7. says

    Fun fact: those soap bottles are covered with creepy Bible quotes.

    Most of what’s on those bottles is far, far crazier than Bible quotes. Apparently the original Dr. Bronner was a bit of a nut, but his inanity makes for great shower-time entertainment.

  8. mjfgates says

    Doc Bronner’s is great stuff; it’s the best thing in the world for keeping new piercings clean, in ears or other places. The maddened rantings on the bottle are a fun bonus. Dilute! Dilute! OK! All-One-God!

  9. Apikoros says

    I encountered a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s recently in a camping store, and picked it up to show my wife the famed schizophrenic rantings.


    There was still plenty of fine print, but it was boring boilerplate about organic soap and stuff.

    Could the insanity have been scaring away customers? Is there no room in the marketplace anymore for eccentricity?

  10. clvrmnky says

    Just a side note: Dr Bronner’s claims you can drink the stuff, so it isn’t so far-fetched that someone might hide their drugs in a bottle or two (not that I’m saying this true in this case). Any reasonable recreational drug-user would keep their stash in the usual places, so I would not ever expect this to ever be done. But, I guess it could if the drug-user was /unreasonable/. Which could happen.

    Dr Bronner’s is a bit of a throw-back to the cure-all patent medicines from a century ago.

    (Ok! I am done speaking now! Though I remember stocking shelves of this stuff 4000 years ago! While working for Assenes! How were given the gift of ever-lasting Life&Love that was passed on in the Lost Scriptures! Can be used to douche!)

  11. clvrmnky says

    I stand corrected by Apikoros. I recall now that the label did say exactly not to drink the soap.

    I may have been conflating my recollection of the label with the freaky customs that some people told me about the soap, which /may/ have included drinking it diluted.

    The memory, it goes first.

  12. says

    Just FYI, GHB is used mostly by people trying to get high, not for date rape. I guess it can be used for date rape as too much can knock you out, and there have been a couple of well publicized cases. But the “date rape” tag is mostly the product of the war on drugs paranoia, publicized by lazy journalists.

  13. twincats says

    I’ll agree that it’s great soap and the bottle packaging is interesting in a the-end-is-near, sandwich-board-wearing rant sort of way, but I buy the peppermint soap in bar form and they have really toned down that packaging in a big way. I wonder if the bottles are next? I kind of hope not.

    I live just up the I-15 from the plant in Escondido, so the stuff is available more widely in the area, it seems.


  14. yonatron says

    Ack! Got here right after Skeptico jumped in with the comment I was going to make. I heard about GHB months before it was hyped as the new date rape drug, because it was the new party drug, which probably was all well and good except that folks weren’t seriously heeding the warning not to mix it with alcohol so people were hurting themselves with it. I also recall considering trying to make it in the kitchen because it was supposed to be so easy (never got around to it), but anyone I knew who tried it or talked about doing so was strictly self-administering.

    I remember the hype about rohyphnol (“roofies”) back in the day; for quite a while I assumed its underground use was originally and predominantly as “the date rape drug”, until I met a friend who said he’d used it in high school several times recreationally years before it was a household name with its new reputation..

  15. says

    Skeptico beat me to the point I was going to make.

    In some circles, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is known as “the alternative to ethanol without a hangover”. It is synthesized by mixing gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) with sodium hydroxide. (Why people are willing to drink something made by mixing an organic solvent with lye is an interesting question whose answer probably depends on both chemistry and psychology.) The preponderance of medical evidence indicates that used by itself, GHB is a relatively safe intoxicant. Mixing it with alcohol puts you on the short list for a Darwin Award.

    A young woman I know took a rape-prevention course a few years ago, and they had the obligatory session on “date-rape drugs.” Midway through the presentation, the instructor said, “Next we come to GHB, which is a colorless, odorless and tasteless chemical—”

    At which point, the young woman fell out of her chair, gut-laughing.

    Apparently, GHB tastes horrible. (I think it normally comes as the sodium salt dissolved in water, so some strange organic saltiness would be understandable.)

  16. says

    It looks like the Narco-Pouch test shown in the video is just a simple pH test. It’s got aniline HCl (to buffer, perhaps?) along with bromocresol green (pH indicator) and methyl orange (another indicator).

    It looks like this might just be a case of pH. The Dr. Bronners, being organic, is mostly unbuffered carboxylate salts. GHB is generally administered as the sodium salt. There you go.

    Commercial soaps are much more carefully buffered and generally have sulfonate salts in them, which are much less basic.

  17. liveparadox says

    As an example, the Breathalyzer does not detect alcohol: it detects methyl groups. It can pick up the mint in chewing gum.

    A small quibble: the Breathalyser uses an oxidation test that is positive for hydroxyl and carbonyl groups, which means that it does detect alcohols. And things like ketone breath, if you’ve been on a no-carb or starvation diet. As far as I know, there is no quick classification test that will test for methyl groups. Quoth the biochem student who has just completed her semester of organic chemistry with an A+…

  18. says

    The test I worry about more than getting caught red-handed with soap, is the one that gas station cashiers do with the little swipey-pen on cash money– as I understand, it detects for starch, which would be present if you printed your fake bills on regular paper. It would also be present, if say… you ironed your pants that morning. I saw a video online once of a guy who sprayed some ironing spray on a bill, rubbed the marker across– voila! Fake bills!

    Try explaing THAT to a cop.

    “Honest, officer! I keep potatoes in my pockets!”

  19. Steven Carr says

    Men should be aware that there is a chemical that women are slipping into the drinks of men, to make them less inhibited and more sexually available.

    The chemical forumala is C2H5OH

    This is not a hoax. This stuff really does exist and many men have fallen victim to its effects.

  20. Tinni says

    Dammit Steven! That has been part of our secret knowledge, handed down by the one we call Slithers, for eons. Now every one in this page would need to have their memories of this information erased! Bring out your 500mL flasks pronto…

  21. Baratos says

    The chemical forumala is C2H5OH

    OK, I just got an urge to make this stuff, try it, and see if I can finally get laid. Is that normal?

  22. Tinni says

    I want to try making it myself too, but the risk of getting too much CH3OH in it as well has hindered me.

  23. kellbelle1020 says

    Just want to throw in my 2 cents as someone nearly done with a Masters in Forensic Science.

    1) A portable field kit would NEVER “test positive for GHB”. These kits are simple catalytic color tests that test for certain classes of drugs. The substance in question, if it tests *presumptively* positive, will be sent to the forensics lab for a confirmatory test such as GCMS. Anyone who uses this type test to confirm the presence of a drug class (let alone identify the specific drug within that class) is horribly misusing the product.

    2) There aren’t really any drugs used exclusively for date rape. All date rape drugs are primarily recreational (or medicinal), and their use in date rape is often a convenience – for instance, that particular drug is popular in a certain scene, and therefore easier to obtain for other purposes.

  24. pablo says

    I had heard that Dr. Bronner was a death camp survivor, and that’s what drove him to his incomprehensible philosophy. Anyone know if there is truth to that rumor?

  25. Christian Burnham says

    OK, so that makes two funny things about date rape.

    The other is this joke:

    You know that date-rape drug? It doesn’t work, and I should know. I’ve been putting it in my drink for years.

    (BTW, as far as I know, that’s my joke)

  26. csrster says

    Like Seinfeld said, it’s a zoo out there. The only way the human race can possibly keep reproducing is through the consumption of alcohol.