Rohypnol (flunitrazepam), most commonly known as a date-rape drug, continues to be abused among teenagers and young adults, usually at raves and nightclubs. The drug remains readily available, mainly through pharmaceutical operators located in Mexico, especially Tijuana.
Rohypnol is marketed by Hoffman-La Roche Inc., and is legally sold in LatinAmerica and Europe as a short-term treatment for insomnia, and as a preanesthetic medication. One of the significant effects ofthe drug is anterograde amnesia, a factor that strongly contributed to its inclusion in the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act of 1996. Anterograde amnesia is a condition in which events that occurred while under the influence of the drug are forgotten.
Rohypnol is available as a .5-milligram and 1-milligram oblong tablet, as well as a 1-milligramper milliliter injectable solution. Hoffman-La Roche phased out the 2-milligram dose tablet from 1996 to 1997, and is currently phasing out the round, white 1-milligram tablet. The licit market for the drug is currently supplied with a 1-milligram dose in an olive green, oblong tablet, imprinted with the number 542. The new tablet includes a dye that, according to Hoffman-La Roche, will be visible if it is slipped into a drink. Reports indicate that Rohypnol is often sold for between $2 and $5 per dosage unit, although it may sell for from $10 to $30 per dosage unit.
In addition to the chemically induced amnesia, Rohypnol often causes decreased blood pressure, drowsiness, visual disturbances, dizziness, confusion, gastrointestinal disturbances, and urinary retention. Users of the drug report effects similar to intoxication, yet claim that they wake up the next morning without a hangover. Adding to the popularity of the drug is the perception that the drug cannot be detected in a urinalysis. While the drug can be detected (2-milligram doses can be detected within 72 hours of ingestion), it does break down very quickly, and many commercial toxicological screens do not detect flunitrazepam. In sexual assault cases, forensic laboratories need to screen for the flunitrazepam metabolite, 7-amino-flunitrazepam, using gas chromatography and/or mass spectrometry.