Rohypnol: Therapeutic use, Treatment. Rohypnol rehab.
Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 3:07 pm
Official names: Flunitrazepam, Rohypnol
Street names: Circles, forget-me pill, la rocha, lunch money, Mexican Valium, mind erasers, R-2, rib, ro, roofies, roche, roaches, roachies, roapies, rophies, rophy, rope, ruffles, ruffles, shays, stupefi, wolfies
Drug classifications: Schedule IV, hypnotic, sedative
AMNESIA: Loss of memory. Rohypnol users may forget events that occurred for up to eight hours immediately after taking the drug.
BENZODIAZEPINES: A class of drugs developed in the 1960s as a safer alternative to barbiturates. Most frequently used as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety drugs.
CLUB DRUGS: Mostly synthetic, illicit substances found at raves and nightclubs. This group includes LSD, ecstasy, GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, and methamphetamine.
DATE RAPE: A sexual assault crime in which victims know the attackers and are drugged or otherwise coerced into a sexual situation against their will or without their knowledge.
RAVE: An all-night dance party that includes loud, pulsing “house” music and flashing lights. Many participants take hallucinogenic and other mind-altering drugs.
Many people in the United States have heard of Rohypnol (flunitrazepam), otherwise known as “the date rape drug,” as a result of news reports about its abuse. Rohypnol is neither actually on the market nor approved for medical use in the United States. However, it is legal and available by prescription in other parts of the world, including Mexico, South America, Asia, and Europe, where it is one of the most widely used benzodiazepine drugs. Like other benzodiazepines, it is a “downer,” meaning it acts as a sedative and has a depressant effect on the body’s central nervous system (CNS). Other common benzodiazepine drugs include Valium, Xanax, and Halcyon.
Benzodiazepines were first developed and marketed in the 1960s and touted as safer alternatives to barbiturates. They also were thought to be less addictive than barbiturates. Of all controlled substances for which prescriptions are written, benzodiazepines account for about 30%. One of the main uses of prescription Rohypnol is to reduce anxiety and insomnia and induce sleep. As a sedative, Rohypnol is reportedly about 10 times more powerful than Valium.
Rohypnol was first developed in the 1970s by the pharmaceutical firm of Hoffmann-La Roche. It was first sold in Switzerland in 1975 as a sleeping aid for the treatment of insomnia. It is also given as a sedative prior to administering anesthesia for certain surgeries, including heart surgery performed on infants. Over time, the drug has come to be used by doctors in a total of 64 countries.
Not long after it was introduced in Europe in the 1970s, reports began surfacing that Rohypnol was being abused as a recreational or “party” drug, often in combination with alcohol and/or other drugs.
Although benzodiazepines were originally believed to have fewer harmful side effects than barbiturates, scientists and others who study these drugs now say benzodiazepines actually share many of the same undesirable side effects of barbiturates and are every bit as dangerous in certain circumstances.
Despite being legally unavailable in the United States, Rohypnol distribution and abuse began to rise sharply in the early to mid-1990s, particularly among young people in high school and college. It became a well-known drug of abuse at dance clubs, fraternity parties and large all-night dance parties called “raves.” In fact, some DEA officials compared the popularity of Rohypnol among teenagers in the 1990s to the popularity of Quaaludes among young people in the 1970s and 1980s. Data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) indicates that at least 80% of hospital emergency department admissions involving Rohypnol and other so-called “club drugs” involve people ages 25 and under.
In 1997, Rohypnol was banned in the United States. It is illegal to import it from other countries, and individuals who are found to be in possession of it are subject to significant prison sentences. Prior to the ban, one study found that Rohypnol was second only to Valium as the most common drug declared at U.S. border crossings in Texas. According to the study, an average of 11,000 Valium pills and about 4,000 Rohypnol pills were being declared each day by people — many of them returning Americans — crossing into the United States from Mexico. At that time, it was legal for travelers to bring a three-month supply of Rohypnol into the country for personal use. Since then — even with the ban — the drug has become more widespread throughout the United States.
While the ban on importing Rohypnol prevented people from simply traveling across the border to Mexico — where it is available in pharmacies — and bringing the drug back, it resulted in increased smuggling of Rohypnol. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) routinely stops shipments of the drug and has prevented large quantities of it from being smuggled over the border in cars and other vehicles. Law enforcement officials in Florida routinely seize packages of Rohypnol that are shipped via overnight mail from Mexico and Central America. Often, the pills may be disguised to look like vitamins or cold medicine.
In addition to rophies or roofies, Rohypnol is known by a multitude of other Street names, including roach or roche, a direct reference to Hoffmann-La Roche, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug. In some circles, being under the influence of Rohypnol is referred to as being “reached out.” Another street name that is sometimes used is R-2, a reference to the pills themselves, which are imprinted with a “1” or “2” inside a circle to identify whether they are a 1-mil-ligram or 2-milligram dose. Other names may include roachies, La Rocha, rope, rib, and ruffies.
Like other club drugs — including ecstasy (MDMA), ketamine, GHB (gamma-hydroxy butyrate), methamphetamine, and LSD (d-lysergic acid diethy-lamide) — Rohypnol is easily accessible and relatively inexpensive. Often, users who intentionally take the drugs to get high at rave parties or elsewhere may not even know what they have taken or been given, which can make it difficult for medical professionals to treat them if they overdose or have a reaction.
Wrongly, many young people apparently believe Rohypnol is harmless because it is legal in other countries and has a confirmed medical use. Many also apparently believe that it is not addictive. In fact, the drug can become physically addictive within about 10 days of continuous use. Once someone has started using it regularly, it is often difficult to stop without experiencing withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, muscle pain, restlessness, and confusion. Even worse, stopping the drug suddenly after taking it for a long period of time can have severe health consequences, including seizures, coma, and even death. As a result, experts say regular users must taper off the drug slowly, as they would from any drug on which they have become dependent.
Another misconception about Rohypnol that some young people have is that it cannot be detected on routine urinalysis. The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information says while many young people think they can take Rohypnol and drive home from a club or rave and avoid being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), the truth is that drug tests for Rohypnol are available and are in use in some states. In Florida, for example, Rohypnol testing is used as part of DUI checks when a driver appears impaired but the breath test indicates relatively low levels of alcohol. Rohypnol stays within detectable levels in urine for up to 72 hours. Researchers are working on newer tests that may be able to detect Rohypnol as long as one week after ingestion.
At some rave parties where Rohypnol and other club drugs are commonly found, people selling the drug try to convince potential buyers that the drugs are no more harmful than vitamins or energy drinks. They also may suggest that the effects of the drugs can be “danced off’ or “sweated off during the night-long party. None of these statements are true.
One consequence of the recreational use of Rohypnol has been an increase in the number of date or acquaintance rapes reported to have involved the drug. This has earned Rohypnol its most common nickname: the date rape drug. On college campuses, women are warned not to leave their drinks unattended or accept a drink from someone they do not know. Because Rohypnol is colorless and odorless, it can be used to “spike” just about any beverage. When placed in an alcohlic beverage, Rohypnol increases the effects of the alcohol and the rate at which the person will start to feel “drunk.”
While not every person who consumes Rohypnol will have the same reaction, most will seem drunk and may even appear to be having a good time. This situation, unfortunately, makes it difficult for others to realize what is happening and to intervene in situations where Rohypnol has been used on an unsuspecting person. Experts say one warning sign that Rohypnol may have been used is when someone appears extremely drunk after consuming only a small amount of alcohol.
Although date rape involving Rohypnol or other drugs can happen to just about anyone, efforts have been targeted at educating young women because statistics show they are at highest risk. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than half of all rape and sexual assault victims in 1998 were females younger than age 25. In addition, alcohol or drug use immediately before a sexual assault has been reported by more than 40% of adolescent victims and their attackers.
Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., the manufacturer of Rohypnol, has taken steps to stop individuals from using it to drug victims. The most significant of these has been changing the pills so that a bright blue color is released when Rohypnol is dissolved in beverages. The newer tablets also dissolve more slowly — taking an average of 40 minutes to dissolve completely — making it more difficult to “spike” a drink quickly. It is important to remember, however, that illegally manufactured Rohypnol is colorless and does not produce any strong taste or odor when dissolved in a drink. These counterfeit pills also do not release the bright blue dye. Therefore, people should not assume that they will automatically be able to detect Rohypnol.
In addition to adding the blue coloring to their legally manufactured pills, Hoffmann-La Roche also created an ad campaign to increase public awareness about Rohypnol among high school and college students, who are among the most vulnerable to voluntary or involuntary Rohypnol use.
Another serious concern is that young drug users may not be able to distinguish Rohypnol from other potentially harmful drugs. The DEA has received reports of benzodiazepines other than Rohypnol being passed off by drug dealers as Rohypnol pills. One such substitute Rivotril, a benzodiazepine sold in Mexico for the treatment of epilepsy. In the United States, this drug is known as Klonopin (clonazepam).
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