Rohypnol is one of the most well-known “date rape drugs.” Street names for the drug include rophies, roofies, R2, roofenol, Roche, roach-2, roaches, la rocha, rop, roopies, ropies, rib, circles, Mexican valium, the forget Pill, trip-and-fall, and mind-erasers. Rohypnol is the brand name of the drug flunitrazepam (a benzodiazepine). Benzodiazepines are a class of drug which is commonly used in a number of medical settings. Most commonly used as anti-anxiety medications, they are also used as sedatives, as anticonvulsant medications, and as muscle relaxants.
Benzodiazepines like Rohypnol are used as date rape drugs because they can markedly impair functions that normally allow a person to resist sexual aggression or assault. Also, Rohypnol commonly causes drug induced short term amnesia, especially when mixed with alcohol. These properties make Rohypol effective in drug-facilitated sexual assaults. Victims are unable to ward off an attack, and they are also unable to remember the date rape or the rapist. Rohypnol also rose to prominence as an ideal date rape drug because it is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and easily dissolved. It causes sedation within 20 to 30 minutes. After the reports of Rohypnol being used as a date rape drug began flooding in, the manufacturer added elements that make it less easy to dissolve and added a blue coloring to the drug.
It’s difficult to estimate how often Rohypnol has been used as a date rape drug, because by the time biological fluids are tested for the substance, there are only residual traces of the drug in the system. Most standard drug tests are not sensitive enough register the presence of the date rape drug in the system. Usually, the bodily fluids must be tested within 72 hours to reveal the presence of the date rape drug. The problem is compounded because date rape victims often have a difficult time remembering the circumstances surrounding the rape. The uncertainty may cause a delay in the reporting the rape.
Often, in cases of date rape, Rohypnol is dissolved in a glass of alcohol, unbeknownst to the victim. Alcohol intensifies the effects of the date rape drug, because they act on the same receptors in the brain. Benzodiazepines like Rohypnol work by enhancing the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. The enhancement is responsible for producing the therapeutic effects of Rohypnol s and for facilitating many of the side effects as well as dependence and withdrawal from these drugs. Other sedative-hypnotics, such as alcohol and barbiturates, have a similar enhancing effect on GABA. This is why benzodiazepines are often used to treat alcohol withdrawal. It is also the reason that mixing Rohypnol with alcohol or barbiturates intensifies the hypnotic and amnesia-causing effect of the date rape drug and can even be deadly.
Rohypnol is not available in the United States legally. It has not been approved by the DEA for sale with a prescription. In Europe and South America, it is a prescription drug used as a preanesthetic agent and as a potent sedative. Rohypnol is still available in the United States illicitly. It is imported from countries where it is still available with a prescription.