Rohypnol is a sedative-hypnotic drug used as a sleep aid in some countries, but is illegal in the United States. Rohypnol can be taken orally, snorted, or injected. Abusers of Rohypnol experience impaired judgment and motor skills, feelings of intoxication, disinhibition, muscle relaxation, and drowsiness. Adolescents and young adults may take Rohypnol recreationally to experience these effects, to enhance the highs of alcohol or heroin, or to ease the negative effects of cocaine.
Rohypnol abuse is on the rise among young people. Rohypnol is inexpensive, and can be bought illegally for under $5 per tablet. Because the tablets are sold in sealed blister packs manufactured in other countries, users believe they are safe and legal. Additionally, many people wrongly believe that because Rohypnol metabolizes quickly, it can’t be detected in urine tests. In fact, the drug is detectable in urine for up to 72 hours after ingestion.
Rohypnol is also known by many street names, including:
- The Date Rape Drug
- Mind Erasers
- Mexican Valium
- Costa Rican Quaaludes
- Forget Pill or Forget Me Pill
Users of Rohypnol may experience negative consequences such as a slowing of psychomotor performance, decreased blood pressure, dizziness, drowsiness, or amnesia. Other adverse side effects include headaches, memory impairment, nightmares, confusion, excitability, tremors, feelings of aggression, respiratory distress, blackouts, visual disturbances, gastrointestinal disturbances, urinary retention, and unconsciousness.
Taking Rohypnol in conjunction with alcohol is especially dangerous because when taken together, their negative effects on memory and judgment are greater than the effects resulting from either taken alone. When Rohypnol is used in conjunction with alcohol or other depressants, it can be fatal. Users of Rohypnol may become physically and psychologically dependent on the drug, with chronic users experiencing withdrawal symptoms including seizures.
Rohypnol and Date Rape
Rohypnol is one of the most commonly used substances in drug-facilitated date rape. When dissolved, the tablets are odorless and tasteless and can be slipped into someone’s drink without his or her knowledge. Victims become mentally and physically incapacitated and unable to resist attack. Whether someone uses Rohypnol recreationally or is unknowingly given the drug, he or she may be victimized because of an inability to provide consent for sexual acts.
The effects of Rohypnol begin within 15 to 20 minutes of ingestion and may last for more than 12 hours. Victims may experience amnesia after using Rohypnol, losing their memories while under the influence of the drug. This effect is exacerbated when Rohypnol is used in conjunction with alcohol. Because victims may not remember they were sexually assaulted while under the influence of the drug, many do not report the attack or seek help.
Since 1999, the manufacturer of Rohypnol has added blue dye to the tablets so they are visible when dissolved in drinks. However, the clear-dissolving tablets are still available on the black market. Additionally, perpetrators of sexual assault may add the tablets to blue-tinted drinks in which the dye is not visible.
College and university administrators must make students aware of the potential for Rohypnol-assisted date rape, both on and off campus. Officials should advise young men and women to never accept a drink from people they don’t know well, to never leave their drinks unattended, to avoid punch or other open beverages at parties, and to stay with friends while out. If students begin to experience any of the effects of Rohypnol, they should contact emergency services immediately.