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Everything You Need To Know About The Date Rape Drug Rohypnol

Published on: March 2, 2017

Written by: Janet Russell.

Date rape drugs have continued to become a trending topic in online news sources and informational websites because of the dangers that they pose onto the general public. In this article, we will take a look at a specific kind of date rape drug called Rohypnol, and look into its effects and risks.

What Is Rohypnol?

Rohypnol is the brand name for flunitrazepam, manufactured by Hoffman-La Roche. It is a small white tablet that is a powerful sedative and can affect a person’s central nervous system.

rohypnol roofies chemical structure

It goes by many street names such as La Roche, Rib, R2, Roofenol on Rope, to name just a few. However, its most popular street name is “roofies”.

Rohypnol has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is therefore illegal in the United States. Doctors are not allowed to prescribe it, and so they cannot be sold by pharmacies.

The drug was originally designed as a pre-anesthetic, and provides a short term treatment for insomnia. Despite its restriction in the U.S., the drug is legal in more than 50 other countries including Mexico, Europe, and Colombia.

Rohypnol has often been used as a date rape drug. The fact that it remains undetected makes it the preferred drug of choice for date rape. There have been numerous reports of females getting raped after involuntary sedation from taking the drug.

The drug has no odor or taste, which makes the victim unaware of what is happening. They will be unable to resist any sexual attack.

Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1984, Rohypnol is considered as a Schedule IV drug and still remains in that classification as of this writing. Drugs under this category have lower abuse potential but may lead to physical or psychological dependence. Possession, trafficking, and distribution of the drug have the same penalties as a Schedule I substance.

According to the 2016 Monitoring the Future Survey, Rohypnol use in the United States by 8th to 12th grade increased from the previous year. The figure was most obvious in 12th grade students, as prevalence of Rohypnol use shot up from 0.5% in 2015 to 1.0% in 2016.

How Is Rohypnol Being Used?

Rohypnol may be available in 1 or 2 mg tablets and users may simultaneously take more than one tablet. It is often taken orally either by swallowing or dissolving them under the tongue. The tablet can also be crushed or snorted in powder form, so that the effects can be felt more quickly.

rohypnol tablet

Some people take roofies together with other drugs such as marijuana, ecstasy, LSD and alcohol to enhance their effects. For example, rohypnol is used for relief from withdrawal symptoms or for softening the effects of coming down from a binge.

What Are The Effects of Taking Rohypnol?

Rohypnol is an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine whose general properties are similar to Valium. It is used as a temporary treatment for insomnia, as a pre-medication for surgical procedures, and for inducing anesthesia. Its effects include sedation, muscle relaxation, and prevention of convulsions. As a sedative, the effects of rohypnol are 7 to 10 times stronger than Valium.

When mixed with alcoholic beverages, it can cause amnesia or loss of inhibition. It often results to a feeling of being “sleepy” and relaxed, similar to the feeling of someone who is drunk.

Other common side effects of rohypnol include nausea, dizziness, and difficulty speaking and moving. It is also associated with blackouts, memory loss, and disorientation.

In addition, the drug may cause partial amnesia. The individual may not be able to remember certain events that they experienced while they were drugged.


Learn More About Rohypnol and It’s Effects


Rohypnol may cause a “paralyzing” effect, which may start 20 to 30 minutes after taking the drug. The effect reaches its peak within a couple of hours and may last for 8 to 12 hours. It may incapacitate an individual to the point that they may collapse. Although their eyes are open and can observe what is happening around, the individual may be unable to move.

The drug may cause the depression of the central nervous system and brain function. When this happens, there will usually be sedation, sleep, muscle relaxation, and reduced anxiety. When combined with alcohol, rohypnol use may result to blackout, respiratory depression, stupor, and most likely death.

What Is The Relation Between Rohypnol and Date Rape?

rohypnol in alcohol drinks

Since 1990, Rohypnol has been used illegally to reduce depression resulting from stimulant abuse and also to aid in sexual assault. Rohypnol has often been called as a “date rape drug.” It is placed in the drinks of the victim without their knowledge. Since the drug is known to cause amnesia, the victim will have limited or no recollection of the incident.

In the mid-1990s, there was a spike in the incidence of drug-facilitated sexual assault, with both men and women being the victims. This was a period when Rohypnol started becoming known as a date rape drug.

The perpetrator of the crime slips the drug into the drinks of the victims without their knowledge. When mixed with the alcoholic beverage, the drug incapacitates the victims and causes them to have amnesia, thereby increasing their vulnerability. When this happens, it will be easier for the perpetrators to move the victim to another location. The victim will be too weak to fight back or negotiate with the rapists.

Once the effects of the drug wear off, the victim can be too confused or unable to remember the incident. This usually delays the reporting of the crime or hinder law enforcers from responding to the crime. For the victims, this can become a traumatic experience. They could end up experiencing feelings of horror, powerlessness, degradation, and humiliation.

In order to combat the increasing trend of drug-facilitated sexual assault, the U.S. Congress enacted the Drug Induced Rape Prevention Act in 1996. The law pushes for harsher penalties for the distribution of controlled substances without the consent of the victim and with the intent to commit a violent crime, which includes sexual assault.

Under the law, importation and distribution of Rohypnol shall be punishable by imprisonment of 20 years and payment of a fine. Possession shall be punishable by three years imprisonment and a fine.

Testing For Suspected Rohypnol Intake

In the United States, the challenge lies on determining the number of Rohypnol-facilitated rape cases throughout the country. Most of the time, when samples are taken from the victim, the effects of the drug have already elapsed and only residue amounts are left in the body fluids. That is where the challenge lies as the residue amounts are difficult to detect using standard screening methods.

For Rohypnol to be detected, the urine specimen needs to be collected within 72 hours and should be subjected to sensitive analytical tests. The challenge is compounded by the fact that the victim suffers from amnesia after ingesting the drug. As a result, the victim will not be able to remember the circumstances surrounding the rape.

These are factors that can severely delay the filing of the case or in the victim being reluctant to report the incident.

How To Tell If You Have Been Drugged or Raped

Due to the amnesia effect of Rohypnol, most victims are unable to tell whether they have been drugged or assaulted. They will only know after 8 or 12 hours after the incident.

The Rohypnol metabolites leave the body immediately, although the effects may remain for hours. Once the victim gets help, there will be no more traces of the drug. The good news is that there are some signs that you can check:

  • You feel drunk and haven’t ingested any alcohol, or you believe that the effects of drinking alcohol are more potent than before
  • You woke up having a hangover, feeling disoriented, or not remembering anything for a period of time
  • You feel like you had sex but cannot remember it
  • You notice that your clothes are torn or not worn properly
  • You remember drinking but cannot remember what happened after that

rohypnol roofies date rape drug in wine

Tips To Protect Yourself From Being A Date Rape Victim

Here are some precautionary measures that you can follow, in order to keep yourself from becoming a victim of date rape:

  • Avoid accepting drinks from strangers or people whom you haven’t met for a long time.
  • Always keep your drinks with you even when you go to the bathroom.
  • Avoid sharing your drink with other people.
  • Open containers yourself and never leave them unattended.
  • Avoid drinking anything that has an unfamiliar taste or smell. GHB, for instance, may taste salty.
  • Avoid drinking from punch bowls or other common open containers. They may already contain drugs.
  • Always have a non-drinking friend with you to make sure that nothing happens.
  • If you feel drunk and haven’t drunk any alcohol or if the effects of drinking alcohol are stronger than normal, seek help right away.
  • If someone offers to get you a drink from a bar or a party, go with that person and watch the drink being poured. Make sure to carry it yourself.
  • If you realize that you left your drink unattended, pour it out and get another.

Things To Do If You Think You Have Been Drugged And Raped

  • Seek medical attention immediately. Call 911 or have a friend take you to the emergency room. Avoid urinating, taking a bath, brushing your teeth, douching, washing your hands, changing clothes, eating or drinking before you leave. They can help prove that you have been raped. The hospital will use a “rape kit” for gathering evidence.
  • Have the hospital take your urine sample to test for potential date rape drugs. Rohypnol can immediately leave your systems. The drug will stay in your body for several hours and is detectable in the urine for about 72 hours after ingestion. Try not to urinate before making your way to the hospital.
  • Get in touch with the police from the hospital. Tell them what exactly happened as you remember it. The important thing is to be honest about all your activities. Bear in mind that nothing you did – whether you drank alcohol or took some drugs – can be justification for rape.
  • Don’t pick up or clean up if you believe that you were sexually assaulted. There could be pieces of remaining evidence like a drinking glass or bed sheets.
  • Get counseling and treatment. It is normal to feel shame, guilt, shock, or fear. A counselor can help you overcome these feelings and facilitate the recovery process. You can call the nearest crisis center or hotline to get started. You can start with the national hotline of the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.

Conclusion

Date rape may be a growing menace, but you can do your part in preventing its rise. Arming yourself with these bits of information is a good first step to protect yourself from becoming a date rape victim yourself.

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