Rohypnol® (flunitrazepam) is the brand name of a sleeping pill prescribed for insomnia in Mexico, South America, Europe and Asia. It has NOT been approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the United States but this has not stopped its distribution. Rohypnol belongs to the family of medications called benzodiazepines which includes Valium®, Librium®, and Xanax®.
Rohypnol is being called the "Date Rape Drug" or the "Quaalude of the '90s" because it is the newest drug to be abused by adding it to alcohol. When combined with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or other drugs, it can provide a rapid and dramatic "high." Even if used by itself, Rohypnol's effects are very similar to intoxication.
Street names for Rohypnol include: Roofies, Roche, Rope, Ruffies, R-2, Roaches, Rib, Forget-me Pill, and Mexican Valium.
What effects does it have on the body?
Rohypnol has been prescribed as an effective sleeping pill and is also used as a sedative and preanesthetic medication in some countries. Rohypnol is tasteless and odorless, and it dissolves easily in carbonated beverages. Rohypnol is usually taken orally, although there are reports that it can be ground up and snorted. The effects of flunitrazepam are fairly long-acting. The sedative and toxic effects of Rohypnol are aggravated by concurrent use of alcohol. The drugs effects begin within 30 minutes, peak within 2 hours, and may persist for up to 8 hours or more, depending upon the dosage. A single dose of Rohypnol, as small as 1 mg., can produce effects for 8-12 hours after ingestion. When combined with alcohol or other drugs, Rohypnol can impair judgment and motor skills and cause memory loss or blackouts (lasting 8 to 24 hours after ingestion). Loss of inhibition can also occur, with or without alcohol. A person under the influence of Rohypnol can appear to be drunk, display no coordination, bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. Sedation can occur as soon as 20 minutes after ingestion. The drug's effects will peak within 2 hours and may persist for up to 8 hours or more, depending on the dosage. Other adverse effects associated with flunitrazepam include visual disturbances, drowsiness, confusion, decreased blood pressure, memory impairment, gastrointestinal disturbances and urinary retention. When mixed with alcohol, Rohypnol may cause respiratory depression, aspiration or even death. Although classified as a depressant, Rohypnol can rarely induce excitability or aggressive behavior. The drug can cause profound "anterograde amnesia"; that is, individuals may not remember events they experienced while under the effects of the drug. This may be why one of the street names for Rohypnol is "the forget-me pill."
Reports of abuse on many college campuses include stories of women waking up naked in unfamiliar surroundings with no memory of the preceding hours. They may have been sexually assaulted without any memory of what took place. It is important to note that sexual assault or abuse of Rohypnol is not gender biased. Although most cases are reported by females, this drug has the same effect on males. Both males and females have the right to seek treatment after sexual assault and/or suspected Rohypnol abuse.
What does Rohypnol look like?
This drug is shipped in bubble packaging or blister packs that appear very similar to aspirin. They are typically white in color, although counterfeit products have appeared in brownish-pink tint. Rohypnol tablets are single or cross-scored on one side with "ROCHE" and "1" or "2" encircled on the other. When dissolved in alcohol, soft drinks, water or any other liquid the drug is colorless, odorless and tasteless (although some report that it has a slightly bitter taste when mixed with alcohol).
Is there a drug test for Rohypnol?
YES. A urine test can detect the presence of Rohypnol up to 60 hours after ingestion. Rohypnol can be more difficult to detect than similar drugs because it is in low concentrations and is cleared quickly by the body.
Are there other drugs that are being abused like Rohypnol?
YES. People have been "spiking" drinks for decades with legal or illegal substances. Although Rohypnol is getting the most recent attention, reports of GHB (Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate) have also been increasing. GHB is found naturally in the body but the synthetic product created in the 1980's was purchased by body builders (over-the-counter) as an anabolic steroid alternative. When combined with alcohol it results in a reaction similar to Rohypnol. GHB is not approved for use in the US and has been banned from over-the-counter sales by the FDA. It continues to be available in the underground market.
How can I lower my risk?
If you suspect you or a friend may have ingested Rohypnol, be sure to get tested at the hospital Emergency Room. The drug is detectable for up to 60 hours but cases should and can be reported at any time.
Report any suspected abuse of Rohypnol to proper legal authorities in order to protect yourself and others from harm. It is a federal offense to administer any controlled substance to any person without his/her knowledge, with the intent of committing a violent crime.
Where can I find out more information or get help?
This fact sheet was compiled and reprinted with the permission of the Department of Student Health, Office of Health Promotion, University of Virginia; (804) 924-1509.