Flunitrazepam (formerly marketed under the trade name Rohypnol in North America, pronounced ) is a drug which is a benzodiazepine derivative. It has powerful sedative, anxiolytic, and skeletal muscle relaxant properties.
Drug-facilitated Sexual Assault
Flunitrazepam 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 flunitrazepam 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 flunitrazepam-facilitated rapes have occurred in the past. 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 flunitrazepam 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 flunitrazepam-facilitated rape, he or she should get laboratory testing for flunitrazepam 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 flunitrazepam can demonstrate its use.
In the United Kingdom, the use of flunitrazepam other "date rape" drugs has been connected to stealing from sedated victims. One expert quoted in a British tabloid estimated that up to 2,000 individuals are robbed each year after being spiked with powerful sedatives , making drug-assisted robbery a more common problem than drug-assisted rape.
Criminals sometimes use flunitrazepam before committing robbery as it has a calming and anti-emotive effect. This allows the criminal to perform the robbery without becoming anxious. Flunitrazepam is also known to induce anterograde amnesia making police interrogations more difficult.
In a notable flunitrazepam related case, Selina Hakki was found guilty in December 2004 of using flunitrazepam to drug wealthy men and rob them of their clothes and accessories in the UK.
Although flunitrazepam has become widely known in USA 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, rave party attendees, and heroin and cocaine users (who call a dose of flunitrazepam a "roofie") for recreational purposes, including:
To produce profound intoxication (Kurt Cobain overdosed on a mixture of flunitrazepam 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.
Flunitrazepam is usually consumed orally, and is often combined with alcohol. It is also occasionally insufflated (i.e. tablets are crushed into powder and snorted). In some European countries, there was an alcohol solution of flunitrazepam (Darkene), abused by injection, with very strong effects.
Flunitrazepam is considered to be one of the most addictive of the benzodiazepines, along with clonazepam, midazolam, temazepam, lorazepam and alprazolam. Its use causes several notable side effects, including:
- Loss of motor control
- Lack of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Gastrointestinal disturbances, lasting 12 or more hours.
- Respiratory depression in higher doses
Long-term use of flunitrazepam can result in psychological and physical dependence and the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued. Flunitrazepam impairs cognitive and psychomotor functions, affecting reaction time and driving skill. The use of this drug in combination with alcohol potentiates these side effects, and can lead to toxicity.