Rohypnol: Usage trends
Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 3:16 pm
Scope and severity
Government trend-watchers say Rohypnol is south Florida’s fastest-growing drug problem. High school students who use the drug with alcohol or cocaine make up the greatest proportion of Florida’s Rohypnol abusers.
In some areas of the country, such as Texas, Rohypnol abuse and illegal sales and distribution of the drug has become prevalent among gang members.
Some heroin addicts use Rohypnol to intensify the heroin high. Officials say this may be particularly true of users of low-quality heroin. Cocaine addicts may use Rohypnol to mellow cocaine’s high and to ease themselves “down” from a crack or cocaine binge. Some drug abusers call Rohypnol “landing gear,” when it is used in this manner.
Young people who attend rave parties often take amphetamines (“uppers”) to keep themselves awake throughout the night. Similarly, some also will take Rohypnol to ease the effects of the amphetamine use. Others reportedly down Rohypnol as a cure for hangovers.
Compared with other club drugs such as methamphetamine, LSD, GHB, MDMA, and ketamine, the use of Rohypnol is relatively low. Still, U.S. officials say the Rohypnol trend does not show signs of decreasing. In addition, women who have been given Rohypnol in a date-rape setting often do not report the rape or the drug use, so it is impossible to estimate the true extent of Rohypnol use. Even if the rape is reported, they may not have knowledge of the drug that was used on them.
Age, ethnic, and gender trends
Intentional Rohypnol abuse appears to be most prevalent among teenagers and college students, some of whom use the drug recreationally to intensify the effects of alcohol. When Rohypnol is used in this way, it is often referred to as an “alcohol extender.” The White House’s ONDCP says another common way in which some club-goers use Rohypnol is in combination with methamphetamine. In some areas of the country, the combination is known as a “club mix.”
Disturbingly, there are reports of schoolchildren as young as eight to 10 years old abusing Rohypnol, primarily because it is cheap and relatively easy to obtain. Children who use the drug most often dissolve it in soft drinks for a faster effect. Many of them are obtaining the drug from peers their own age. According to the ONDCP, some established drug dealers seek out school-aged children to sell Rohypnol pills. The dealer sells the pills to the child at a “wholesale” price of about $1 apiece. The child then sells the tablets to friends for $2 to S3 apiece. By targeting children in this way, drug dealers not only make money, but they broaden the potential market for other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine later on. They also increase the chance that the juvenile who is able to make fast money from selling Rohypnol will be willing to continue to sell that drug or other drugs for years to their classmates.
A national survey conducted in 1999 found that 0.5% of eighth graders and 1% of tenth and twelfth graders report ever using Rohypnol. The survey, known as “Monitoring the Future,” is conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
Another trend that has emerged is the intentional use of Rohypnol by depressed young women. In a study published in 2000 in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, it was reported that some of these women are using Rohypnol to cope with negative feelings and low self-esteem. A survey of more than 800 sexually active women between the ages of 14 to 26 found that 2% had used Rohypnol in the past and 5% indicated they would use it in the future. Compared with those who indicated they had not or would not use Rohypnol, potential users were three times more likely to be depressed, two times more likely to have low self-esteem, and six times more likely to be unable to “just say no.” Such women also were more likely to have had sex before age 15 and to have had multiple sex partners at a young age. The researchers theorized that the powerful euphoric and “drunken” feelings produced by Rohypnol counteract the depression the women are feeling. However, public health officials say the use of Rohypnol also significantly increases a young woman’s risk of getting pregnant and/or catching a sexually transmitted disease due to the loss of inhibition and control that occurs after taking the drug.