Rohypnol: What You Should Know About the Date Rape Drug

Rohypnol, or roofies, is the name for what is more commonly called the date rape drug.  Rohypnol has become notorious because of its potent amnestic and hypnotic effects which can lead a person given a dose of Rohypnol to have short term amnesia.  This has led to its popularity as a “Club Drug” along with Ketamine, MDMA (Ecstasy) and GHB.  Rohypnol has not been approved for use by the U.S. FDA and is considered an illegal drug in the U.S.  Rohypnol is in the benzodiazepine class of medications along with more well known and commonly used drugs like diazepam: (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonapin) and many others.

Rohypnol (chemical name flunitrazepam) is the most potent of the benzodiazepines on a mg-for-mg basis and is very fast acting, making it potentially useful in severe refractory insomnia, mostly in patients in the hospital.  For the same reasons it is notorious for its abuse as a date rape drug.  Rape by someone well known to the victim, often date rape, is unfortunately very common.  Rohypnol has been found to be involved in a very small percentage of date rape, probably less than 1% of cases, but it undeniably is abused for that purpose.  The much more common drug involved in date rape is simply ethanol, the alcohol in all alcoholic beverages which can also lead to blackouts, amnesia and vulnerability to sexual abuse.

This said, how should a woman avoid becoming a victim of date rape associated with Rohypnol?  Probably the key is to avoid situations where heavy drinking and drug use is expected. In addition trying not to leave a drink unattended and then picking it back up to drink may be considered.  Still if going to a dance club and drinking while there, if you dance you are likely to want to put your drink down.   This issue makes nearly eveyone at a dance club who drinks alcohol at some risk for having their drink spiked with Rohypnol.  This means other than completely avoiding dance clubs and drinking we need to depend on our friends to watch out for each other.  That said the real issue is with the societal issues that lead to use of drugs like this in the first place.

That issue is with the perpetrator of the crime giving the drug to the victim.  As a society we need to watch out for each other.  We need to teach our sons and daughters that if they even suspect this type of behavior may be happening or going to happen that they take action to avoid being involved and if possible to stop the perpetrator of the crime.  It is far too easy to explain away the odd behavior of a friend as just having had too much to drink, or to not want to interfere or embarrass their friend or themselves by taking action to intervene.  We need to have the courage to step up and take actions to intervene when suspicious behavior is noted.  Given that alcohol is probably the most frequent drug involved in date rape and other mishaps of intoxication thinking that behavior may be “just alcohol” is flawed thinking.

One helpful thing may be to recognize the effects of Rohypnol on someone around you.  If a friend starts to look odd, dazed or confused we should take measures to protect them.  Typical symptoms of ingestion of Rohypnol include confusion, uncoordination and sedation.  These effects can come on quite quickly, and may look much like alcohol intoxication.  Alcohol does in fact clearly increase the sedative and central nervous system depressant effects of all benzodiazepines.  All told the best way to reduce the chances of being given Rohypnol is to avoid situations where heavy drinking and drug use is prevalent.

Rohypnol is also used recreationally, especially in conjunction with stimulants and heroin.  Stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine lead to severe insomnia and Rohypnol is sometimes used to “soften” the so-called crash from these stimulants.  It is also used to achieve profound intoxication, and when combined with alcohol this can lead to fatal overdoses.  Rohypnol has many street names including roofies, forget-me-pill, Mexican Valium, and many others.

Rohypnol has also been documented in Europe as an adjunct to robbery, with victims given Rohypnol and then robbed.  This is a type of abuse of Rohyphol that also takes advantage of the potent amnesia that those who are under the influence of Rohypnol experience.  In Europe where Rohypnol is available as a prescription drug the potential for misuse is certainly higher than in the U.S.

Rohypnol has no legitimate role in U.S. medicine, and is a drug of abuse.  Rohypnol in the U.S. is imported from abroad where its use is apparently even more widespread.  I pray that you as a parent or as a young person never have any first hand experiences with this drug, and that the word Rohypnol is something you only read about in places like this.




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