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Some substances that predators utilize are not as widely recognized. Etizolam, Clonazepam, and other research chemicals have been increasingly found in cases of rape.
Date Rape Drugs: It’s Not Just Roofies Anymore
Rape is a serious criminal act, with the potential for severe and lasting repercussions on the victim’s life. Rape involves sexually taking advantage of another person without their consent, and this includes having sex with a person who is incoherent or unconscious. Some perpetrators attempt to facilitate their assault by using substances that incapacitate their victims to varying degrees.
“Date rape” is a term that refers to a person forcing someone that they are socially, romantically, or casually involved with to have sex without consent. Often, this type of rape is conceptualized as a predator first drugging the victim and, next, sexually assaulting them. While this is sometimes the case, date rape more often involves the perpetrator taking advantage of their victim’s chosen insobriety. Perhaps they were out celebrating with friends and had a little too much to drink, or unknowingly mixed certain drugs, rendering themselves incapacitated. In either scenario, the rapist takes advantage of this too-intoxicated state and forever alters the victim’s life.
Regardless of whether the victim chose to ingest a substance or they were unknowingly drugged, it is vital to remember that rape is never the victim’s fault. Consent must be clear, and a lack of a stated “no” or “stop” does not constitute consent. A person who is not sober cannot consent to sex!
Nearly half of all sexual assaults involve alcohol 1, 2, 3 , but prevalence estimates for other sedative substances are not well known due to the shorter period of time that these drugs remain in the body. Some substances that are used to incapacitate people are well-known, such as Rohypnol (flunitrazepam), GHB, and ketamine, while others are not as widely recognized (clonazepam, etizolam, and other new substances). It is important to know the potential effects that these substances can have in order to recognize a risky situation and get out.
The Dangers You Know
Some substances used for date rape are relatively well-known. These include:
- Rohypnol (“roofies”).
- Ketamine (“special K”).
- Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (“GHB”).
These drugs all have similar depressant effects, but each one will affect a person a little differently, especially when combined with alcohol, which is commonly how these drugs are given to a victim (e.g., slipped into a drink).
Rohypnol (generic name: flunitrazepam) is often referred to by street names such as:
- The Forget Pill.
- La Rocha.
Rohypnol is a powerful benzodiazepine that is prescribed in certain countries to treat insomnia 4 . In the US, however, this drug is illegal due to its powerful effects and reputation as a date rape drug.
Rohypnol pills are tasteless, odorless, and colorless 4, 5 and easily dissolve in liquid, making it easy for perpetrators to discreetly incapacitate potential victims. Newer versions of the drug have a blue center that can turn a light-colored drink blue, but generic versions may still be colorless in liquids, making them dangerously disguisable.
Taken alone, Rohypnol produces feelings of 4 :
- Lessened anxiety.
- Eased muscle tension.
Effects can begin as early as 30 minutes after ingestion, peaking within 2 hours 5 . Even a dose as low as 1 mg can exert its effects for up to 8 hours 5 .
When consumed with alcohol, Rohypnol’s effects are enhanced to dangerous levels. Both substances have sedative effects that compound when taken together. Signs of being roofied include extreme drowsiness and even amnesia, meaning the person will not remember what happened during the time they were under the influence, depending on the amount consumed 4 .
Ketamine is a potent dissociative anesthetic medication with some hallucinogenic effects 6 . It can be obtained in clear liquid and white powder form, both of which mix easily with drinks, though they both have an extreme bitter taste.
The powder may even be cut with other powder substances such as cocaine, MDMA, or amphetamine for snorting and may be added to joints or cigarettes to drug a person without their knowledge. Ketamine is often referred to by the following names:
- Special K.
- Vitamin K.
- Kit Kat.
- Cat Valium.
Ketamine’s effects come on quickly, usually felt within 1-30 minutes of ingestion and lasting about an hour 7 . Depending on the dose, effects may range from sedation and pain relief to amnesia and dissociation, wherein the person feels removed from or out of control of her own body 6 .
These strong effects contribute to its involvement in date rape, as higher doses of ketamine may render a person unconscious or unable to move.
Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB)
GHB is short for gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid, a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Xyrem (sodium oxybate) – a prescription drug used to treat a condition known as cataplexy, as well as to manage the excessive daytime sleepiness associated with narcolepsy – is a branded, pharmaceutical form of GHB.
GHB commonly goes by the following names:
GHB is produced naturally in the body in small amounts, but it can also be synthesized in a lab 8 . Manmade GHB is commonly found online and on the streets and is regularly adulterated with various caustic chemicals used at some point during the process of its illicit production, including sodium hydroxide (e.g., lye – found in some drain cleaners). GHB is sought out by recreational users for its CNS depressant effects (i.e., a sedative, relaxing high that can leave a person drowsy, confused, and amnesic 8 .)
GHB is found in both a powder and liquid form, and both dissolve easily in liquid. It is colorless, odorless, and has a slight salty taste that can be masked easily by strong flavors 8 . Effects can come on within 10 to 20 minutes, lasting up to 4 hours 9 . When combined with alcohol, the depressant effects are enhanced, leading to extreme sedation and memory problems, ultimately leaving a person vulnerable to assault.
What About Alcohol?
Alcohol is a drug that has widespread, prevalent use. Many people enjoy its inhibition-lowering effects, but unfortunately, some people use it to take advantage of others. Almost half of all sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by either the rapist or the victim 1, 2, 3 , but this is not an excuse.
Remember, an intoxicated person cannot consent to sex.
Some substances that predators utilize are not as widely recognized. Etizolam, Clonazepam, and other research chemicals have been increasingly found in cases of rape.
Etizolam (aka “etizzy”) is a tasteless medication related to benzodiazepines that is not approved for medical use in the US. The drug can be obtained in both pill and powder form, and it produces depressant effects including 10 :
- Muscle relaxation.
- Memory loss.
In animal studies it has been found to be up to 10 times more potent than Valium 10 . Similar to “roofies,” ketamine, and GHB, etizolam’s effects are enhanced when combined with alcohol, leading to its growing reputation as a date rape drug.
Clonazepam (trade name: Klonopin) is a benzodiazepine medication, similar to Rohypnol. It is commonly referred to by the names “KPin” or “Pin”).
Clonazepam dissolves very quickly in liquid, and has little to no taste—in fact, it might even taste slightly sweet, which can be easily masked by other strong flavors. Effects include:
- Extreme drowsiness.
- Problems with memory.
- Blurred vision.
- Loss of coordination.
All of the effects listed above are heightened by co-consumption with alcohol, making it a dangerous substance in the hands of a would-be rapist 11 .
Many substances with similar effects to these date rape drugs are being developed every day. These drugs, sometimes labeled “research chemicals,” are constantly evolving and changing formulations to escape regulation.
These drugs vary widely in formulation but most will produce confusion, disorientation, and memory problems in the drugged individual.
Rape is never the victim’s fault—the fault lies solely with the perpetrator. However, there are some precautions you can take that may help you stay safe and avoid being drugged:
- Be aware of the people in the room. This includes being aware of other potential victims and anyone who appears incoherent or unaware of her surroundings. If anyone seems suspicious or predatory, steer clear and pay attention to how close they get to people and drinks. If you find yourself feeling suddenly and severely intoxicated, ask for help from a friend in getting home safely. Likewise, offer help to those who appear to be severely intoxicated and at-risk.
- Keep track of what substances you and others are using. Along similar lines, avoid taking substances (including drinks) from a person that you do not know. While we do not endorse the illicit use of recreational drugs, if you do find yourself in a situation where drugs have been obtained from someone you don’t k now, you may consider using a testing kit to check the ingredients and ensure that they aren’t lying about what they’re giving you. Certain substance combinations can be especially debilitating, such as benzodiazepines and alcohol, cocaine and ketamine, and many other drug blends with interactive effects. While the best prevention method is not to take any drugs, using a testing kit can help you avoid dangerous drug mixtures and adulterated substances.
- Always watch your drink! It can be dangerously easy for a predator to slip a drug into someone else’s drink—it only takes one moment of distraction. Even though it can be inconvenient, keeping your drink in hand or in sight is the best way to ensure that nothing goes into it. In addition, never take a drink from a stranger unless you watched it be prepared and brought to you. If someone offers to buy you a drink and you accept, go with them to the bar and grab it yourself rather than trust them to bring it back to you.
If you see a person in a dangerous situation, especially if you see someone being drugged, taken advantage of, or assaulted, step in and help them. This can include taking immediate action or even calling for help from police and others nearby. Everyone has to work together to prevent rape, and looking out for one another is the best way to foster a network of safety.
What to Do if You Think You’ve Been Drugged
First take a moment to remind yourself that no matter what happened, it is not your fault.
If you are out on the town and suddenly feel significantly more intoxicated than you believe you should—especially if you’ve been hanging around or talking to a new person—you may want to take cautionary steps to ensure your own safety. If you know that something is not right, tell someone—your friends, the bartender, a bouncer—or even just call a cab to take you home. If you’ve been drugged, you need to get to a safe place as soon as possible or try to make sure someone is looking out for you.
If you do not remember what happened the night before and you suspect that someone may have raped you, first take a moment to remind yourself that no matter what happened, it is not your fault.
Fuzzy memory of the night before and extreme hangover symptoms may indicate that you were drugged. Here are some things that you can ask yourself to give you a better idea of whether or not you were drugged:
- Do I feel like something happened but I can’t remember?
- Are there any marks on my body that might indicate sexual assault such as bruises?
- Are my clothes disheveled?
- Does it seem like I was feeling stronger effects than would be expected?
- Was there anyone that gave me an odd or uncomfortable feeling?
A victim of drugged rape may not be aware of what happened until many hours afterward 12 . Because many of these drugs process through the body within this timeframe, there may be no way of knowing that drugs were involved. Regardless of whether the substance is cleared from the body or not, it is vital to get care right away by going to a hospital or rape crisis center. If you can, have a trusted friend or family member drive you and bring a change of clothes to the hospital/center because they will take the ones that you woke up in for evidence.
In order to preserve as much potential evidence as possible, do not urinate, shower, wash your hands, brush your teeth, eat, or drink before you go to a hospital or crisis center. This period of time is going to be difficult, as the doctors have to make sure to get all possible evidence they can.
From the hospital or crisis center, call the police. They will have you run through your memory of what happened, and may want to collect further evidence from the area where you believe the assault happened—even a drinking glass or bodily fluids on the bed can help further the investigation. Be sure to tell the police everything you can, remembering that nothing you did justifies sexual assault.
Once you are out of the hospital, seek comforting support. Counseling and therapy are invaluable resources for those coping with sexual assault. Calling a crisis center or drug abuse hotline can help you connect with someone who knows how to help victims of rape cope with all the emotions and changes that come from such an experience. The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE is a great resource for those recovering from sexual assault.
Healing yourself after rape is never easy, but taking all possible steps to ensure that your rapist is caught and convicted and that you have the love, support, and skills training that you need will help you to heal.
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These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word ‘roofie.’ Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
probably by shortening & alteration from Rohypnol, a trademark name for the drug
First Known Use
1994, in the meaning defined above
The first known use of roofie was in 1994
Dictionary Entries Near roofie
Cite this Entry
“Roofie.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/roofie. Accessed 10 Feb. 2023.
: a tablet of flunitrazepam used illicitly
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Rohypnol, commonly known as “roofies,” is not approved for use in the United States. Nonetheless, like other benzodiazepines, it is classified by the DEA as a Schedule IV substance, indicating that it has a lower potential for abuse than other drugs and does have some legitimate medical purpose.
Rohypnol, along with GHB, is among the best-known date rape drugs. Despite its relatively low scheduling, it is frequently abused for its sedative properties.
What Are Roofies?
Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) and other benzodiazepines (e.g., Ativan, Xanax, and Valium) act as central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Roofies are reportedly ten times stronger than Valium and is commonly used in other countries such as those in Europe and Latin America for the treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders.
Rohypnol As a Date Rape Drug
There have been a large number of cases of unintentional Rohypnol use. During the college years, an estimated 1 in 4 women experience date rape or attempted rape, and a significant amount of these incidents involve substances such as Rohypnol and alcohol.
Rohypnol was first synthesized in Switzerland in 1975, intended for medical use. Soon, however, instances of misuse were reported throughout Europe. Sexual predators began frequently employing the use of Rohypnol by secreting dropping a pill in a person’s drink without their knowledge. After it quickly dissolves and is consumed, the perpetrator is free to take advantage of the unsuspecting victim who ingested it.
Rohypnol has been most commonly found as a white, odorless and flavorless drug, making it almost impossible to detect when it’s been slipped into a drink. Some manufacturers reformulated it into green tablets that make drinks blue when mixed, making it more identifiable. Both types of pills are still being produced, however, and cases of date rape involving use of the drug are still a problem in the United States.
How Are Roofies Used?
Rohypnol pills are often swallowed, either with water or alcohol, or chewed and then dissolved sublingually (under the tongue). Pills typically come in 0.5-2 mg doses, but users may take many to intensify the effects. Some users will crush the pills and snort the remaining powder, smoke it with marijuana, or sometimes even inject it.
Also, people who use heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, or LSD might use Roofies to either amplify the positive effects or temper the adverse effects of these drugs. Rohypnol and alcohol is, unfortunately, a popular and infamous combination at both clubs and parties. Once Rohypnol enters the body, effects take about 20 minutes to onset and can last for 12 hours or longer.
Origins of Rohypnol in the U.S.
Although physicians do not prescribe Rohypnol in the U.S., there is enough demand that shipments have frequently been smuggled in from abroad. It may be procurable by asking around at a club or on the Dark Web, as drug trafficking websites have illicit substances to be ordered and shipped to addresses in the U.S.
In 1996, the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention Act increased the restrictions and penalties associated with the use of the drug. Being found in possession of Rohypnol can lead to a fine and up to 3 years in jail, and importation or distribution is punishable by as much as 20 years.
Symptoms of Rohypnol Abuse
Some people, especially teenagers and young adults, abuse Roofies in an attempt to manage co-occurring mental health disorders, such as anxiety or insomnia, or solely for the sedative high that Rohypnol induces.
If someone is abusing Rohypnol, you might notice some warning signs, which can include the following:
Effects of Rohypnol Abuse on the Brain
Roofies work to depress brain function and CNS activity, and it can accomplish this to a profound degree. It has a potent tranquilizing effect, and many users have described it as “paralyzing.” This dramatic reduction in activity in the brain and body is compounded when it is used in conjunction with alcohol.
This overall effect helps to explain why people who have the drug slipped into a drink without their consent become vulnerable and incapacitated. Death from an overdose of Rohypnol is much more likely to occur when alcohol use is involved.
Other mental side effects of Rohypnol can include:
Effects on the Body
The incapacitating effects caused by Rohypnol are both physical and psychological. As brain activity slows dramatically, the body’s functions will also experience a similar reaction. Some of these effects may be evident to others, but some are internal, and may not be identified until they result in a medical emergency.
Physical side effects of Rohypnol may include the following:
Rohypnol Addiction and Withdrawal
If a person begins regularly abusing Rohypnol, he or she may soon discover that habit can be quite challenging to quit. Both psychological and chemical dependence hallmark Rohypnol addiction. These conditions are more like two sides of the same coin.
Psychological dependency becomes apparent when the person starts engaging in compulsive drug-seeking behaviors to fulfill an emotional need. This type of dependence can develop with regard to the use of nearly any psychoactive substance—marijuana, for example. Rohypnol, just like cocaine and heroin, can also result in what is called a chemical or physiological dependence.
When a person misusing Rohypnol discontinues drug use, he or she may encounter highly unpleasant symptoms of drug withdrawal. This effect is the result of the body’s intense reaction to the drug’s sudden absence and is a tell-tale sign that the person is chemically dependent.
Withdrawal symptoms of Rohypnol addiction can include the following:
Rohypnol withdrawal can induce seizures up to a week after a person’s last use. Rohypnol treatment typically consists of a prolonged supervised detox period that often involves a drug taper or gradual reduction in doses over the course of several weeks.
Many cases of addiction develop as users are simply trying to avoid withdrawal. If you recognize symptoms of Rohypnol misuse in yourself or someone you love, you should seek help as soon as possible to prevent further abuse and the myriad of risks associated with this behavior.
Getting Help for Rohypnol Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to Rohypnol, other drugs, or alcohol, the best path to recovery is through specialized treatment. This path may entail detox, followed by a partial-hospitalization or outpatient program.
Through the use of comprehensive treatment programs, Midwood Addiction Treatment offers help to those who are motivated to recover from substance abuse. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that is most effectively treated using an integrated approach that includes therapy and medication, as well as holistic elements, such as proper diet and exercise.
Our team of addiction specialists employs evidence-based services vital to the process of recovery, such as psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and aftercare planning. We are dedicated to providing people with the tools, resources, and support they need to become sober, prevent relapse, and foster satisfying lives, free from the use of drugs and alcohol!