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Rohypnol is a brand name for flunitrazepam (a benzodiazepine), a very potent tranquilizer similar in nature to Valium (diazepam), but many times stronger. the drug produces a sedative effect, amnesia, muscle relaxation, and a slowing of psychomotor responses. Sedation occurs 20-30 minutes after administration and lasts for several hours.
The drug is often distributed in its original "bubble packaging," which adds an air of legitimacy and makes it appear to be legal. The drug is not commonly used by physicians in the United States and is not even listed in the Physician's Desk Reference.
Illicit use of Rohypnol was originally reported in Europe in the late 1970's and world-wide use of it has continually increased since then. According to police sources in both Florida and Texas, "roofies" were first seen in the United States in the early 1990's; they quickly gained acceptance and use by both high school and college students.
"Abuse of rohypnol appears to be on the increase in this areas and from what I am hearing in other areas of the country," said a Texas law enforcement official.
"Locally, we have had a couple of of rape cases were "roofies" were used. The victim cannot remember what happened," said Robert Ener, a Southeast Texas drug interdiction agent.
"Rohypnol use has been on an alarming rise and is a problem at the University of Florida," said Elizabeth Broughton, University of Florida assistant dean and director of the university's Alcohol and Drug Resource Center.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) more than 1,000 cases of illegal Rohypnol possession have been reported recently, in 13 states.
Reports have also been received of it being popular in "gay bars" in selected locations on both the East and West coasts. In fact, Rohypnol is now being reported as being one of the "in" drugs on high school and college campuses and particularly in college fraternities. And to make matters worse, "Roofies" are inexpensive and reportedly being sold for as little as $2.00-$4.00 per tablet in several locations.
According to a University of Florida drug hotline, "Roofies" are often combined with alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine to produce a rapid and very dramatic "high." Even when used by itself, users can appear extremely intoxicated, with slurred speech, no coordination, swaying, and blood-shot eyes -- with no odor of alcohol.
The drug has been added to punch and other drinks at fraternity parties and college social gatherings, where it is reportedly given to female party participants in hopes of lowered inhibitions and potential sexual conquest.
Police departments in several parts of the country say that after ingestion of "Roofies" that several young women have reported waking up in frat houses with no clothes on, finding themselves in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar people, or having actually been sexually assaulted while under the influence of the drug.
As insidious, disgusting and perilous as this may sound, the dangers don't stop there. Besides the worries of unprotected sex,
Rohypnol, particularly when mixed with alcohol or other drugs may lead to respiratory depression, aspiration, and even death. When taken repeatedly, it can lead to physical and psychic dependence, which is thought to increase with both dose and duration of use.
An amnesia-producing effect of "Roofies" may prevent users from remembering how or why they took the drug or even that they were given it by others. This makes investigation of sexually related or other offenses very difficult and may account for repeated reports of "date rapes" involving the use of the drug.
Both law enforcement and drug counseling services caution that the use of Rohypnol is increasing and that additional quantities of it are being imported across the Mexican border, where it can be obtained by prescription. ERRI drug abuse analysts warn that "Roofies" are just another in a long list of dangerous drugs that are being imported and "pushed" to the impressionable youth of this country.