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Rohypnol : The Date Rape Drug

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Updated April 10, 2014

Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) -- more casually known as the "date rape" drug -- has become well-known. Though the drug has medicinal purposes, its powerful effects have scarily been used to incapacitate women during sexual assault -- namely, rape.

Besides "date rape" drug, you may have heard Rohypnol referred to by these other names:

  • rophies; roofies
  • R2
  • roofenol
  • Roche
  • roach-2; roachies; la rocha
  • rope; roopies; ropies
  • rib
  • circles
  • Mexican valium
  • the forget Pill
  • trip-and-fall
  • mind-erasers
Rohypnol is not manufactured or sold legally in the United States. However, it is produced (by Hoffman-La Roche) and sold legally with a prescription in Europe and Latin America, where it is used as a short-term treatment for insomnia, a sedative hypnotic and a pre-anesthetic.

The drug is often smuggled into the United States by mail or delivery services.

Clonazepam -- a drug used in the treatment of seizures and panic disorder -- is similar. It goes by the brand names Klonopin in the United States, and Rivotril in Mexico.

What Happens When Someone Takes Rohypnol?

Rohypnol has physiological effects similar to Valium (diazepam), but is approximately ten times more potent.

Intoxication is generally associated with impaired judgment and motor skills. The drug has no taste or odor, so those given it don't realize what is happening. About ten minutes after ingesting the drug, a woman may feel dizzy and disoriented, simultaneously too hot and too cold, and/or nauseated. She may experience difficulty speaking and moving, and then pass out. Effects peak within two hours, and can persist for up to eight hours. Such victims have no memories of what happened while under the drug's influence.

The combination of alcohol and Rohypnol is particularly hazardous; together, their effects on memory and judgment are greater than those experienced when taking one alone. It is commonly reported that people who become intoxicated on a combination of alcohol and Rohypnol have "blackouts" lasting 8 to 24 hours following ingestion. Losing social inhibitions is another widely reported effect of Rohypnol, when taken alone or in combination with alcohol.

What Does the "Date Rape" Drug Look Like?

Rohypnol tablets are white with a score on one side and the word "ROCHE," paired with an encircled one or two (depending on the dosage), on the other. They are sold in pre-sealed bubble packs. Rohypnol can be dissolved in a drink and is undetectable, which makes is a big part of what makes it appealing to criminals looking to drug unsuspecting victims.

What Are the Side Effects?

Adverse effects of Rohypnol use include decreased blood pressure, memory impairment, drowsiness, visual disturbances, dizziness, confusion, gastrointestinal disturbances and urinary retention.

Who Uses Rohypnol and How?

Rohypnol use has been reported on every inhabited continent. It is often used in conjunction with other drugs and is usually ingested orally, though it can be snorted.

It is largely used by adults, although teen use of Rohypnol is increasing. The most common use among teenagers and young adults is as an alcohol extender -- an attempt to create a dramatic "high," most often in combination with beer -- or as a drug to incapacitate a victim before a sexual assault. The drug's low cost (sold for less than $5 per tablet on the black market) makes it more accessible. But the rise in usage in this age group can also be tied to common misconceptions about the drug, erroneous belief that the drug's pre-sealed packaging means that their supply could not have been adulterated, and a misbelief that the drug cannot be detected by a urine test.

Protecting Yourself From the "Date Rape" Drug

Rohypnol is not the only drug used in cases of violence against women. GHB (gamma-hydroxybutrate) has also been associated with sexual assault in cites throughout the country. Common names include, "liquid ecstasy," "somatomax," "scoop," or "grievous bodily harm."

To protect yourself from becoming a victim, be aware and stay alert:

  • Be wary about accepting drinks from anyone you don't know well or long enough to trust.

  • If you are accepting a drink, make sure it's from an unopened container and that you open it yourself.

  • Don't put your drink down and leave it unattended, even to go to the restroom.

  • Notify other females you know about the effects of this dangerous drug.

If you think that you have been a victim, notify the authorities immediately.

You can find out more about Rohypnol by contacting the National Women's Health Information Center (800-994-9662) or the National Institute on Drug Abuse (888-NIH-NIDA).

Source:

Violence Against Women. Healthywomen.org. http://www.healthywomen.org/healthtopics/violenceagainstwomen. Accessed 08/26/09.

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