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Rohypnol Abuse in Washington

“At Least 10 People Say They’ve Been Drugged at Seattle Bars This Summer” ~ August 2016 headline in the Stranger, a newspaper in Seattle, Washington According to several accounts, Rohypnol experimentation, abuse, and assault are on the rise in America, including here in Washington State. The risk is so real that some nightclubs and bars in Seattle are offering to test patrons’ drinks for the presence of Rohypnol and other “date rape” drugs.

What Is Rohypnol and Why Is It So Dangerous?

Rohypnol is a brand name for flunitrazepam, a benzodiazepine-class medication that acts as a central nervous system depressant and is used in some countries to treat insomnia. In the United States, it is illegal and has no medical applications. Because of its hypnotic properties, Rohypnol is used recreationally as a “club” drug and it also has a reputation as a date rape drug. Street names for Rohypnol include:

  • Roofies
  • Ruffies
  • Forget Pill
  • Mexican Valium
  • Mind Erasers

As some of the slang names imply, one of the chief dangers of Rohypnol is the fact that it can cause retrograde amnesia – abusers and victims may be unable to recall things that happened to them while they were under the influence of the drug. This amnesia, combined with its other intoxicating effects – drowsiness, lowered inhibitions, etc. – explains why Rohypnol is so often involved in date rape and other sexual assaults.

Rohypnol Statistics in Washington State

According to 2015 Monitoring the Future survey, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, almost 2% of American high school seniors self-report using Rohypnol at least once during the past year. Other surveys estimate that the Rohypnol use rate is approximately 1.1% among eighth-graders. Extrapolating those percentages, that means there are more than 2200 Washington State students who have used Rohypnol – and that’s just seniors and eighth-graders. That number doesn’t take into account the rest of the primary age demographic that encapsulates most Rohypnol users, the 13-to-30 age group. That means that – even using the most conservative estimates – there are thousands of Washingtonians who have used the dangerous drug Rohypnol within the past year. Some other statistics about Rohypnol include:

  • 6% of college students think that Rohypnol is the least-dangerous of all party drugs.
  • 15% of college students mistakenly think that roofies are only “moderately effective”.
  • 70% of college students admit that they have consented to sex with when under the influence of alcohol or drugs that they normally WOULD NOT have consented to if they were sober.

How Is Rohypnol Abused?

Rohypnol abusers can consume the drug in several ways – swallowing the caplets whole, crushing and then snorting them, or dissolving the caplets and injecting the resultant solution. Predators looking to commit sexual assault will slip the drug into their unsuspecting victim’s drink, often at a party, nightclub, or bar. It is possible to begin abusing Rohypnol unintentionally. Sometimes, it will be offered as just another party or club drug, and the person will accept, thinking it is equivalent to Ecstasy or some other such substance. This Devil-may-care attitude is common among teenagers and young adults who make up the rave culture.

What Are the Mental Effects of Rohypnol?

Rohypnol is an extremely-powerful tranquilizer that is approximately 10 times as potent as Valium. When ingested, Rohypnol’s effects are felt within 15-20 minutes, and these effects may last more than 12 hours:

  • Confusion
  • Memory impairment/Retroactive amnesia
  • Visual disturbances
  • Poor reaction time
  • Excitability
  • Extreme talkativeness
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Impaired judgment

What Are the Physical Effects of Rohypnol?

Rohypnol affects a person physically, as well as mentally. At high doses, it is possible to fatally overdose on Rohypnol:

  • Slurred speech
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of balance
  • Tremors
  • Upset stomach
  • Significant respiratory depression – the most frequent cause of death
  • Coma
  • Death – the risk is elevated significantly when alcohol or certain other drugs are used concurrently.

Can You Become Addicted to Rohypnol?

YES – Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine-class drug, making the addiction potential quite high for regular users. This means that when the drug is discontinued, there are serious withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Aggression/Mood Swings
  • Nausea/Vomiting/Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain and spasms
  • Convulsions

As is the case with all benzodiazepines, Rohypnol detoxification and withdrawal should ALWAYS happen under the supervision of trained medical staff.

What Should You Do If You or Someone You Care about Has a Problem with Rohypnol?

Despite the innocuous-sounding name, club/party drugs are just that – DRUGS and carry the risk of dependence, addiction, overdose, and death. Anyone who is using Rohypnol should be professionally evaluated by trained addiction specialists and, if necessary, check into a residential rehab program.