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Rohypnol is a drug which is a benzodiazepine derivative. It has powerful sedative, anxiolytic, and skeletal muscle relaxant properties. Rohypnol was first synthesized in the early 1970s by Roche and was used in hospitals when deep sedation was needed. It first entered the commercial market in Europe in 1975, and in the 1980s it began to be available in other countries. It originally came in 1mg, 2mg, and 5mg sizes, but due to its potency and potential for abuse, the higher doses were taken off the market and it is now only available in 1mg.

Effects of Rohypnol
Rohypnol can be ingested orally, snorted, or injected. It is often combined with alcohol or used as a remedy for the depression that follows a stimulant high. The effects of Rohypnol begin within 15 to 20 minutes of administration and, depending on the amount ingested, may persist for more than 12 hours. The drug’s metabolic properties are detectable in urine for up to 72 hours after ingestion.

Under Rohypnol, individuals may experience a slowing of psychomotor performance, muscle relaxation, decreased blood pressure, sleepiness, and/or amnesia. Some of the adverse side effects associated with the drug’s use are drowsiness, headaches, memory impairment, dizziness, nightmares, confusion, and tremors. Although classified as a depressant, Rohypnol can induce aggression and/or excitability.

Use as a date rape drug
Rohypnol is known to induce anterograde amnesia in sufficient doses; individuals are unable to remember certain events that they experienced while under the influence of the drug. This effect is particularly dangerous when Rohypnol is used to aid in the commission of sexual assault; victims may not be able to clearly recall the assault, the assailant, or the events surrounding the assault.

It is difficult to estimate just how many Rohypnol-facilitated rapes have occurred in the United States. Very often, biological samples are taken from the victim at a time when the effects of the drug have already passed and only residual amounts remain in the body fluids. These residual amounts are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to detect using standard screening assays available in the United States. If Rohypnol exposure is to be detected at all, urine samples need to be collected within 72 hours and subjected to sensitive analytical tests. The problem is compounded by the onset of amnesia after ingestion of the drug, which causes the victim to be uncertain about the facts surrounding the rape. This uncertainty may lead to critical delays or even reluctance to report the rape and provide appropriate biological samples for testing. If a person suspects that he or she is the victim of a Rohypnol-facilitated rape, he or she should get laboratory testing for Rohypnol as soon as possible.

It must be noted that an inability to remember events, including sexual encounters, is not conclusive evidence of having consumed a drugged drink: Drunkenness itself causes blackouts, sleepiness, and a reduction in inhibitions. Only a timely screening for Rohypnol can demonstrate its use.

Availability, Trafficking, and Seizures
Because Rohypnol is not manufactured nor approved for medical use in the United States, distributors must obtain their supply from other countries. Colombian traffickers ship Rohypnol to the United States via mail services and/or couriers using commercial airlines. Distributors also travel to Mexico to obtain supplies of the drug and smuggle it into the United States.

In the late 1980s, Rohypnol abuse and distribution were occasionally reported in Florida and in the border areas of Arizona, California, and Texas. Beginning around 1993, the abuse and distribution of Rohypnol began to spread, with the vast majority of Rohypnol-related law enforcement cases occurring between January 1993 and December 1996. The two largest Rohypnol seizures occurred in February 1995. At that time, more than 52,000 tablets were seized in Louisiana and 57,000 tablets were seized in Texas. By June 1996, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had documented more than 2,700 Federal, State, and local law enforcement encounters with Rohypnol.

On March 5, 1996, the U.S. Customs Service began seizing Rohypnol at United States borders on advice from DEA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. By December 1997, Customs Service efforts had substantially reduced the availability of the drug.

In May 2000, DEA, along with the U.S. Border Patrol, seized 900 Rohypnol tablets in Texas. In July 2000, multiagency investigations led to the closure of a pharmacy in Mexico that used the mail to distribute Rohypnol to California.

According to DEA’s System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE) data, Rohypnol seizures were at their highest in 1995, with 164,534 dosage units, and have since decreased to 4,967 units in 2000.

Use as a recreational drug
Although Rohypnol has become widely known for its use as a date-rape drug, it is used more frequently as a recreational drug. It is used by high school and college students, street gang members, rave party attendees, and heroin and cocaine users (who call a dose of Rohypnol a "roofie") for recreational purposes, including:

To produce profound intoxication (Kurt Cobain overdosed on a mixture of Rohypnol and champagne several weeks before his death)
To boost the high produced by heroin, or ease the anxiety and/or sleeplessness of withdrawal
To counteract the side effects of stimulants (e.g. insomnia, paranoia, jitteriness)
To "soften" the so-called "crash" which follows heavy usage of stimulants, such as cocaine or methamphetamine
To improve sex drive and appetite.
Rohypnol is usually consumed orally, and is often combined with alcohol. It is also occasionally insufflated (i.e. tablets are crushed into powder and snorted).

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