Date Rape Drugs


Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) is a popular and easily accessible "date rape drug" in the United States. It is known by several street names: Roachies, La Roche, Rope, Rib, Roche, Rophies, Roofies, Ruffies, Mexican valium, or the "forget (me) pill." Rohypnol is especially dangerous because it is inexpensive; a tablet may cost $1 to $5. This makes it popular in high schools, college campuses, clubs, bars, and at private parties.

Rohypnol became (in)famous because it can cause memory "blackouts," periods of memory loss that follow ingestion of the drug with alcohol. Victims who have been raped with Rohypnol have reported waking up in strange rooms, with or without clothing, sometimes with a used condom on the bed, occasionally with bruises on their body...but they have no memory of the previous night.

A Common Scenario:

  • The victim is at a party or bar and has something to drink. The attacker somehow slips a Rohypnol tablet into the liquid, perhaps when the victim turns their head or leaves their drink to go to the bathroom.
  • About twenty minutes after finishing their drink, the victim begins to feel very disoriented, or "drunk." Victims of Rohypnol have often only had one or two drinks, and they remember feeling much more drunk than they should have been.
  • The attacker volunteers to escort the "sick" or "drunk" person home. Once out of the public eye, the attacker may take the victim to a hotel, to the victim's home, or to other places.
  • Several hours later, the victim wakes up feeling very disoriented. They can't remember what happened after they left the party, but they may find evidence that something was done to their body while they were "asleep."
  • Many victims raped under the influence of Rohypnol are unsure whether or not they were raped, because they have no memory of the event. It can take several days to piece together a story from eyewitness reports.
  • Rohypnol has been used to rape both men and women.

What Rohypnol Looks and Feels Like:

  • Rohypnol is similar to Valium but about 10 times as strong. In Europe and South America, it is a prescription drug used as a preanesthetic agent and as a potent sedative.
  • Rohypnol comes as a small pill that can be dropped into the drink of an unsuspecting victim. The pill can dissolve in either alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks, and the drug is odorless and tasteless.
  • Initially, Rohypnol causes muscle relaxation, dizziness, and headaches, slows psychomotor responses, and lowers inhibitions. Victims may have difficulty moving or speaking. Victims often remember the effects of the drug as a feeling of being "drunk." Rohypnol takes 20-30 minutes to take effect.
  • Rohypnol has a synergistic effect with alcohol. When taken with alcohol, Rophypnol can cause severe disorientation and a loss of memory. These memory blackouts are typically 8-12 hours long. The victim may or may not appear "awake" during this time.
  • Victims often feel nauseous the day after they have received Rohypnol. Rohypnol is a physically addictive drug. Repeated use will lead to addiction.
  • Rohypnol PillThere are multiple forms of the drug on the market. The original tablets, marketed by the pharmaceutical company Hoffman La Roche (see picture on right), look like aspirin and dissolve rapidly in liquid. In response to widespread abuse of this drug, Hoffman La Roche changed the tablets; the new tablets dissolve more slowly and will turn a drink blue. "Copycat" flunitrazepam tablets have also been produced by pharmaceutical companies in South Africa, South America, and possibly Egypt-the copycat tablets are reddish-brown to white and dissolve well in liquids.

Best Safety Practices

  • Never leave your drink unattended. If you have to go to the bathroom, either finish your drink or throw it away. Beverages that come in sealed containers (unopened cans or bottles) are much safer than mixed drinks.
  • If you order a mixed drink, watch the person who mixes it.
  • Do not take any open beverages, including alcohol, from someone you do not know well and trust. Never drink anything out of a common punch bowl.
  • If someone offers to buy you a drink, go up to the bar with them to accept the drink.
  • Subscribe to the Buddy System: always party with one or more friends, and keep an eye on each other. If someone begins to appear "too drunk", get them to a safe place. More than one attempted Rohypnol rape has been prevented by watchful friends.

Additional Information

Rohypnol can be found in every part of the United States, even in rural areas. The drug is most common in the southern and eastern parts of the country, where there have been several widely publicized seizures and rape cases. However, I have also seen reports in college newspapers from the Midwest and northern states, however there is no doubt that Rohypnol has found its way into the Pacific Northwest.

There have been less common reports of Rohypnol use: the tablets are crushed, often mixed with other drugs, and snorted. This route of administration is more common for recreational drug users than for rapists; OSU Public Safety only knows of one report of a woman who was held down and forcibly administered Rohypnol in this way.

There is a urine test for Rohypnol. However, the drug can only be detected for up to 72 hours after ingestion. If you or a friend think you have been raped with Rohypnol, it is important to get a urine test as soon as possible. Rape crisis centers and the police are best equipped to handle any testing.

A urine test that is performed without police intervention may be thrown out in court. This is because the legal system requires the prosecution to show "chain of custody" of the urine sample, to prove the sample came from the victim and could not have been mixed up with anyone else's urine.

Rohypnol is illegal in the United States. According to the Drug Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act of 1996, it is a crime to give a controlled substance to anyone, without their knowledge, with the intent of committing a violent crime (such as rape). Violation of this law is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

There has been much talk of reclassifying Rohypnol into the same legal category as LSD (a Class I controlled substance), which would greatly increase the penalties for possession, but this has not yet happened.

Hoffmann-LaRoche has established toll-free numbers to provide information on Rohypnol and instructions for drug testing. The general information number is (800) 720-1076.

MDMA (Ecstasy) 13547

MDMA is a synthetic, psychoactive drug with both stimulant (amphetamine-like) and hallucinogenic (LSD-like) properties. Street names for MDMA include Ecstasy, Adam, XTC, hug, beans, and love drug. Its chemical structure (3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine, "MDMA") is similar to methamphetamine, methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), and mescaline - other synthetic drugs known to cause brain damage.

MDMA also is neurotoxic. In addition, in high doses it can cause a sharp increase in body temperature (malignant hyperthermia) leading to muscle breakdown and kidney and cardiovascular system failure.

Health Hazards

MDA, the parent drug of MDMA, is an amphetamine-like drug that has also been abused and is similar in chemical structure to MDMA. Research shows that MDA also destroys serotonin-producing neurons in the brain. MDMA also is related in its structure and effects to methamphetamine, which has been shown to cause degeneration of neurons containing the neurotransmitter dopamine. Damage to these neurons is the underlying cause of the motor disturbances seen in Parkinson's disease. Symptoms of this disease begin with lack of coordination and tremors and can eventually result in a form of paralysis.

Brain imaging research in humans indicates that MDMA causes injury to the brain, affecting neurons that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The serotonin system plays a direct role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain. Many of the risks users face with MDMA use are similar to those found with the use of cocaine and amphetamines.

Psychological difficulties, including confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety, and paranoia - during and sometimes weeks after taking MDMA.

Physical symptoms can manifest as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness and chills or sweating.

There are special risks for people with circulatory or heart disease, these symptoms may include increases in heart rate and blood pressure.

Also, there is evidence that people who develop a rash that looks like acne after using MDMA may be risking severe side effects, including liver damage, if they continue to use the drug.

Research links MDMA use to long-term damage to those parts of the brain critical to thought and memory. One study, in primates, showed that exposure to MDMA for 4 days caused brain damage that was evident 6 to 7 years later.