What is Rohypnol?
Rohypnol, the trade name for flunitrazepam, is a sleeping pill marketed by Roche Pharmaceuticals. On the street, it is often called roofies, roche, R-2, rib and rope. The drug is a very potent tranquillizer similar to Valium, but much, much stronger. It produces a sedative effect, amnesia, muscle relaxation and a slowing of psychomotor responses.
The drug is often distributed on the street in its bubble packaging, which makes it appear legitimate and legal. Illicit use of Rohypnol was first reported in Europe in the late 1970s. Rohypnol is not approved for use in the United States. It is often used as a date-rape drug or ‘sex drug’.
Another very similar drug to Rohypnol sometimes sold as ‘roofies’ is clonazepam, also known as Rivotril.
Side-effects of Rohypnol
The Rohypnol effects begin approximately 20 to 30 minutes after ingestion and peak within two hours. Depending on the dosage, the effects usually last up to 8 hours. The side effects of Rohypnol are:
- decreased blood pressure
- memory loss
- muscle relaxation
- problems with vision
- dizziness and confusion
- aggressive behaviour
Rohypnol’s sedative-hypnotic effects include muscle relaxation and amnesia. But it can also produce physical and psychological dependence. In Miami, one of the first sites of Rohypnol abuse, poison control centers report an increase in withdrawal seizures among people addicted to Rohypnol.
Mixing ‘roofies’ with alcohol can be very dangerous and may cause respiratory depression, aspiration and possibly death.
What are ‘sex drugs’?
Rohypnol and GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyerate) are prescription drugs that have crossed into the realm of illicit use. These two drugs, along with the GHB analogues (drugs that produce similar effects) have been implicated in dozens of reported cases of rape. The drugs are slipped into victims’ drinks, and within minutes they become defenceless to sexual assault and have little or no memory of events the next day. Law enforcement and anti-drug activist groups now routinely refer to these as ‘predatory drugs’ because of the criminal way in which they are being used.
Both Rohypnol and GHB can be extremely dangerous or even lethal when mixed with alcohol and/or other depressants, depending on dosage and the sensitivity of the victim or user.
Only 10 minutes after ingesting Rohypnol, for example, a person may feel dizzy, disoriented, too hot or cold and nauseated. They may also have a difficult time speaking and, eventually, will pass out. The person will then have no recollection of events that occurred.
Drugs and alcohol sexual assault in colleges
The dangers and realities of sexual assault are exacerbated when drugs and alcohol become involved. Alcohol and drugs can inhibit resistance, increase aggression and impair decision-making skills. Sexual assault and acquaintance rape are types of violence that are most likely to occur in social settings that foster rape-supportive attitudes and norms.
A study published in the Journal of Sex Education and Therapy reported that of students who had been victims of some type of sexual aggression – from rape to intimidation to illegal restraint – 68 per cent of their male assailants had been drinking at the time of the attack. Alcohol and drug use exaggerate problems with misinterpretation of sexual intent and can be used to justify assault.