(roofies, 'date-rape' drug)
Rohypnol is a prescription-only sedative that has been used in many 'date rapes' in the US, with cases now being reported in Europe and Australia.
Rohypnol's medical use is as a pre-operation anaesthetic or strong sleeping pill, but stronger doses can bring on amnesia. It takes effect very quickly - sometimes as quick as 10 minutes after being taken - and reaches its peak eight hours later when it can render a person totally unconscious. It's about ten times stronger than Valium.
Coming in the form of a tasteless and odourless pill which is easily ground down into powder, rohypnol has gained notoriety as the 'date rape' drug, after victims have been incapacitated and sexually assaulted after having their drinks spiked. All traces of the drug disappear after 24 hours making prosecution difficult. Please note that rohypnol is not the only drug associated with date rape and there have been cases linked to GHB and other sedative drugs.
Rohypnol has also been used in combination with other drugs to enhance the effects of low grade heroin, to mellow the buzz from crack and heroin, and to soften comedowns.
The drug has also acquired a reputation as a party drug, sometimes dubbed the 'love drug'. This is due to its claimed aphrodisiac qualities and because some users say that it gets you more drunk and keeps you that way longer.
It is fairly rare in the UK (although rising), but in the US it has a street price of around $2-4 per tablet.
Side effects: The most worrying side effect of rohypnol is that it can easily be administered without the victims knowledge and lengthy sexual assaults can take place with the victim having no memory of events afterwards. In many cases, victims are even unaware that assaults have taken place until their symptoms are recognised or their memory returns. It's a very nasty drug.
Be very wary of accepting opened drinks from strangers or people you don't trust, even if they are only soft drinks. If you feel odd, nauseous or drunk after only a couple of drinks, leave immediately and go to a place of safety. If you are alone or with a stranger, call friends to tell them where you are and/or go to the landlord or manager and explain your situation. See: drug assisted sexual assault - advice on prevention.
Health risks: Used on its own, Rohypnol is unlikely to be fatal, but when combined with other drugs such as alcohol and cannabis the risk increases greatly - as the drug suppresses the central nervous and respiratory systems, there's a chance that you could stop breathing. Other side effects include hallucinations, vertigo, skin rashes, stomach problems and changes in libido.
Detection periods: Rohypnol passes out of the system in 24 hours.
THE LAW: In the UK rohypnol is only available by private prescription (not NHS) and illicit possession would most likely come under The Medicines Act (we haven't confirmed this yet). In the US recent legislation has made it a Class A drug.
HAVE YOU BEEN A VICTIM?: If you think you have been drugged and raped, check out our legal advice page .
More info: (UK) Roofie Foundation 0800 7832980
Nightclub drinks spiked with drugs (BBC, Nov 2003)
Campaign call over spiked drinks (BBC, Dec 2003)
One in four 'had drinks spiked' (Guardian, Sept 2004)
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