Date Rape Drugs

Rohypnol

What is Rohypnol?

Mention the drug Rohypnol anywhere in the United States, and a single phrase comes to mind: date-rape drug. That association burned itself deeply into our collective psyche in recent years after multiple incidents of sexual assault were linked to the drug, a fast-acting sleeping pill that had the peculiar distinction of being both potent and undetectable when slipped into an unsuspecting woman's drink. And despite recent changes in the drug's formulation (so it now leaves tell-tale blue tracers and floating particles when mixed with liquids), it's likely to remain the "date-rape drug" in the public mind for a long time, if not forever.

Facts on Rohypnol

  • Street Names:
    Roofies, rophies, roachies
  • Appearance:
    White tablet, scored on one side with the manufacturer's name (ROCHE) above the number 1 or 2 (reflecting 1- or 2-mg dosage) imprinted on reverse.
  • Effects:
    Like all depressants, Rohypnol reduces anxiety and induces sleep, but with a difference-several, in fact. Subjectively, users are more likely to experience intense intoxication at low doses, particularly when the drug is used with alcohol. In addition, complete or partial amnesia is a common side effect of Rohypnol.
  • Risks/side effects:
    Besides amnesia, side effects include rapid mood swings and violent outbursts of temper. Overdose is also a potentially life-threatening complication, especially since Rohypnol is so often used with alcohol.
  • Duration:
    Effects begin 20-30 minutes after ingestion and typically continue for 8-12 hours. Rohypnol does not stay in the body for a long period so it is important to get medical treatment as soon as possible to detect the presence of the drug.
  • Medical Uses:
    Although Rohypnol has never been approved for use in the United States, it is widely used throughout the rest of the world as both a tranquilizer and a treatment for insomnia. It is also used as a preoperative sedative prior to surgical procedures.
  • Legal Issues:
    Rohypnol was never sold legally in the United States, but prior to 1996 individuals were permitted to bring back a 90-day personal supply of the drug when returning from other countries. This loophole was closed for good by the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention Act, which banned all possession of Rohypnol in the United States.

GHB

What is GHB?

GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a chemical that's leaped into the limelight recently, due to its popularity in alternative culture and its semi-legal status. Sold over the counter as a dietary supplement for years, distribution was halted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1990. Since then, sale has been banned nationwide, while possession remained legal---until individual states began banning it in 1997, due to its alleged links to incident of date rape.

Facts on GHB

  • Street Names:
    Liquid 'X', Liquid 'E' (due to similarities in effect to the psychedelic drug "ecstasy"), GBH, easy lay, grievous bodily harm.
  • Appearance:
    A clear liquid, GHB is often mixed with juice to conceal its metallic taste.
  • Effects:
    First synthesized by a French researcher in the 1960s, GHB is structurally similar to the neurotransmitter GABA and triggers a variety of effects in the body, apparently by temporarily increasing the supply of both GABA and dopamine in the brain. At moderate doses, GHB induces a state of relaxation, euphoria, and disinhibition similar to alcohol. At higher does, GHB can induce sleep so deep it has been mistaken for coma.
  • Side Effects/ Risks:
    Since GHB occurs naturally in the human body (and serves as a chemical precursor in the production of GABA), it seems relatively nontoxic. Still, synthetic forms of GHB can irritate the stomach and cause nausea or vomiting. Confusion and impaired motor skills may also occur, particularly at high doses, but food can reverse these effects.
  • Addiction Potential:
    Although tolerance to GHB's effects appears with long-term use, it does not produce physical dependence. GHB may be habituating. however, particularly for those with a history of drug abuse or alcoholism.
  • Duration:
    Effects begin within 5-20 minutes of ingestion and last 1-3 hours, but can be prolonged through repeated dosing. GBH does not stay in the body for long periods of time so it is important to get medical treatment as soon as possible to detect the drug's presence.
  • Medical Uses:
    GHB is used in Europe as a general anesthetic and to aid during childbirth. It has also been used to treat both insomnia and narcolepsy, and tried as a treatment for alcoholism.
  • Trends:
    Following incidents of drink "spiking" and allegations that GHB was used in incidents of date rape and sexual assault, several states have recently passed laws to control both sale and possession of GHB. Similar legislation has been introduced in Congress, still pending at this time, to reclassify GHB as either a Schedule I or Schedule II Controlled Substance.