Q. What are "date rape" drugs?
A. The term "date rape" drug refers to illegal drugs that are sometimes used to overpower victims and sexually assault them. Presently, the two most common date rape drugs are gamma-hydroxybutyrate and flunitrazepam (also known as Rohypnol).
Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) has been associated with sexual assault in cities throughout the country. Use of GHB appears to be on the increase. In the year 2000 there were about 5,000 reports of intoxication due to GHB in emergency rooms. Banned by the FDA since 1990, this drug makes its victim unable to resist an attack and also causes memory loss. Police departments have reported its use during spring-break beach festivals. In Michigan, a 15-year-old girl died after taking the drug, and several teenagers have been hospitalized elsewhere in the country. It is also called "G," "Georgia Home Boy," "liquid ecstasy" (not to be confused with ecstasy), "somatomax," "scoop," or "grievous bodily harm."
Back to top
Q. What does GHB look like?
GHB is a clear liquid or white powder that is often mixed with carbonated beverages, alcohol or health food drinks.
Q. Who uses GHB and how?
GHB is used by teenagers and young adults often during visits to raves or nightclubs. GHB is taken by mouth and is usually mixed in a drink.
Q. Why has there been an increase in teen use of GHB?
Certainly there is an increase in the number of reports of the use of GHB coming to us from emergency rooms across the country. It is unclear if this is related to increased use or our better understanding of the drug. The drug is relatively easy to produce in the home using chemicals that can be purchased rather easily.
Q. What happens if a person takes GHB?
GHB's effects begin 10 to 20 minutes after the drug is taken and lasts up to 4 hours, depending on the dosage. At lower doses, GHB can relieve anxiety and produce relaxation; however, as the dose increases, the sedative effects may result in sleep and eventual coma or death. It is possible to overdose on GHB rather quickly. The signs are similar to those of other sedatives: drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, headache, loss of consciousness and loss of reflexes. In more severe overdose GHB can cause impaired breathing, and death.
Q. Is GHB addictive?
No. GHB is not addictive.
Q. Why is GHB called a "date rape" drug?
GHB produces a state of calm and relaxation and tends to reduce inhibitions. GHB can also impair memory. All of these effects make it a date rape drug.
Back to top
Flunitrazepam is a powerful sleeping pill that is better known by its brand name Rohypnol (pronounced row-HIP-nole). This medicine, approximately 10 times stronger than Valium (diazepam), is neither approved for medical use, nor made or sold legally in the United States. However, it is made and prescribed legally in other countries for the treatment of insomnia (difficulty sleeping) and is then illegally smuggled into the United States. It is often used with alcohol or other drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Being under the influence of this drug is sometimes referred to as being "roached out." Other street names for Rohypnol include: rophies, roofies, R2, roofenol, Roche, roachies, la rocha, rope, rib, circles, Mexican valium, roach-2, roopies, and ropies. Rohypnol use appears to be much lower than that of GHB based on reports from emergency rooms. About 500 reports of Rohynol overdose were reported in 2000.
Q. What does Rohypnol look like?
Rohypnol comes as a light green caplet. In 1998, the manufacturer of Rohypnol reformulated the drug in response to concerns about its use in sexual assaults. Rohypnol was previously supplied as a white tablet that was odorless, colorless and tasteless when dissolved. The newer tablets contain a dye that will turn liquids blue when the tablet is dissolved. Generic versions of the drug not made by Roche and Rohypnol tablets made in Japan do not contain the dye.
Q. Who uses Rohypnol and how?
A. In addition to being used as a date rape drug, Rohypnol is used for its euphoria and relaxing effects. Rohypnol is also used to come down from a cocaine or crack cocaine binge.
Q. Why has there been an increase in teen use of Rohypnol?
A. First, Rohypnol is a low-cost drug, usually sold at less than $5 per tablet. Second, many young people wrongly believe it's a relatively harmless drug and that it is safe to buy because it comes in a pre-sealed, tamper-proof bubble pack. Third, many people mistakenly think that the drug cannot be detected with a urine test.
Q. What happens if a person takes Rohypnol?
A. Ultimately, this drug can cause a person to do and say things she would not normally want to. Because it has no strong taste or odor, victims whose drinks have been contaminated with Rohypnol don't realize what is happening.
Within 10-30 minutes after taking Rohypnol, a person may feel dizzy and disoriented. She will become confused and unable to make clear decisions. She may appear to be drunk, have blood-shot eyes and slurred speech. A person will feel too hot and too cold at the same time or feel nauseated. Ultimately, a person will find it difficult to speak and move, as she slowly loses coordination and control of her body before passing out. These effects peak within two hours, and can last up to eight hours. When combined with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or other drugs, Rohypnol is particularly dangerous because it leaves the victim with no memory of what has happened. "Blackouts" lasting eight to 24 hours are commonly reported among victims who become intoxicated on a combination of alcohol and Rohypnol.
Q. Is Rohypnol addictive?
A. It is not addictive but you can become physically dependent on this drug. Withdrawal symptoms include headache, muscle pain, confusion, hallucinations and convulsions. Seizures can occur up to a week after you stop using Rohypnol.
Q. Why is Rohypnol called a "date rape" drug?
A. Because of its ability to make victims lose self control and forget what happened during significant periods of time, Rohypnol has been used by criminals to rape unsuspecting victims. Girls and women around the country have reported being raped after Rohypnol was slipped into their drink by their attacker, causing them to let down their guard, fall asleep, or even become unconscious. Because it has no taste or odor, the victims usually don't realize what is happening. Rohypnol also has been called the "forget pill," "trip-and-fall," and "mind-eraser."
Q. What can I do to avoid becoming a victim of a date rape drug?
- Don't drink alcohol or use other drugs at social functions. They can affect your judgment and make it harder for you to stay in control.
- If you do drink, do not accept an open drink from anyone you don't know well enough to trust completely.
- At a bar or club, accept drinks only from the bartender, waiter or waitress.
- If you accept a drink from someone you do not know well, make sure it comes from an unopened container (bottle or can) and that you open it yourself.
- Never put your drink down and leave it unattended, even to go to the restroom.
- Do not drink from punch bowls.
- Remember that these drugs can be odorless, colorless and tasteless and can be added to ANY drink - even water.
- Tell other females you know about the effects of these dangerous drugs.
- If you think that you or a friend has been a victim, notify the authorities immediately.
Back to top
You can find out more about Rohypnol by contacting the National Women's Health Information Center (800-994-9662) or the following organizations:
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Phone: (888) NIH-NIDA (644-6432)
American Council for Drug Education
Phone: (800) 488-3784
American Society of Addiction Medicine
Phone: (301) 656-3920
Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse Phone: (401) 444-1817