The history of rohypnol, or flunitrazepam.
Walking down the carpeted, cinderblock hallway I see legs sprawled out on the floor. I run to them and they are my room mates. She is totally out. The heavy steel door is pressing against her middle. I open it, her body lies flat and unmoving. I jam the door with a shoe and roll her over on her side. Grabbing a blanket off her bed I spread it out next to her, and roll her over onto it. I tug at the end of it and pull her into our room. I kick the shoe and the door shuts hard.
Rohypnol was first introduced in 1975. It is a benzodiazepine. Most drug tests will detect benzodiazepines for a maximum of 72 hours after it was taken. Most general benzodiazepine detection tests will not detect Rohypnol: the drug requires a test specifically designed for that purpose.
Just outside the front doors of our dorm it is Fallfest, THE party. We’ve only been here for 3 short days. The industrial windows in our room are open and I can hear people cheering and laughing. Big music booms from big speakers. I knock on the door of my RA. Not home. I dig out her cell number. No answer. I put my hand over my room mate’s mouth and feel hot air blowing from her. I roll her further on her side and set alarms every hour to check on her. She doesn’t change her position all night.
I barely sleep and the next morning I am roused by the sound of her groaning. “What happened?” She says, not seeming to want a real answer but I tell her anyways.
“I was at a frat house. I was with friends.” She says without much alarm.
“You must have been roofied,” I say to her.
These are some of the common names for Rohypnol. Whitleys, Trip-and-Fall, Ruffies, Rophies, Rope, Roopies, Roofies, Roches, Roach-2, Roach, Mind Erasers, Rib, Lunch Money, R-2, Poor Man’s Quaalude, Mexican Valium, LA Rochas, Forget Pill, and Circles.
“Hah, that doesn’t happen. I just had too much to drink.” She says cavalier.
“You were passed out in our doorway. Totally unresponsive. I’ve seen plenty of really drunk people. You were gone.” I say, almost pleading with her to take this seriously.
“Sure, you’ve seen plenty of drunk people.” She says to me sarcastically. I have seen plenty of drunk people. I think to myself. I’ve been hanging around parties since I was a tiny child; big get togethers at my mom’s house and flatwater boating trips where the beer flows.
I give up on my roommate. I let it go.
I wake up with my car door hanging wide open. The air is cold against my bare arms. I sit up from the back of my seat and my vision swirls around for a moment. My head throbs as I start to get my bearings. It feels heavy on my shoulders as I lean forward. I look in front of me and there are pretty lamp posts and one of those old street clocks. Behind that is a strange amphitheater and then shimmery water. Ruby McQuain Park. I am down by the Westover Bridge.
If enough of the drug is taken, a person may experience a state of automatism or dissociation. Once the drug’s effects wane, a user might experience drowsiness, headaches, memory impairment, dizziness, nightmares, confusion, and tremors.
I was JUST sitting at the bar in Gibbie’s. A crowd had started to gather out front of the bar for WVU’s homecoming parade. I had gotten a single beer, a stout, and was sipping on it slowly.
Rohypnol was previously available in a white tablet that would dissolve clear and have no taste. More modern versions come with a green or blue core that tints light-colored beverages in hopes of detection. The blue color that results from mixing Rohypnol often is masked by serving blue tropical drinks or by serving the drink in a dark or opaque container. Some generic versions of the drug may not contain the blue dye.
I got that beer around 6:15. Time. What time is it? I reach for the ignition. My keys are there, and I turn them over. The car starts and the clock on the dash says 11:32. 5 hours. I lost 5 hours of time.
I stand up out of my car holding onto the door for stability and find my phone on the ground. 22 missed calls, 14 text messages. “Are you ok?” “Carmen, where are you?” “What happened?” “Do you know where you are?” “What the fuck?” “Where the fuck are you?” My boyfriend. I was supposed to get dinner with my boyfriend. Fuck.
I feel disheveled as I call him. The phone rings about a half-second before he picks up. “Carmen, are you ok?” He says panicked.
“I don’t know, I’m not sure what’s going on.” I say confused and tired. I lean against my car and stare at the train station building as he tells me what he knows.
“You called me, you said you were in someone’s apartment by the water. You didn’t know whose apartment or whether it was the Mon or not. You said you were in a room by yourself, you had locked the door. You said no one was trying to get into the room, you said you heard voices outside. You said you would call me back. And this is the first I’ve heard from you since. What the hell is going on? Are you drunk? We were supposed to get dinner.”
I listen and try to keep up with his speedy delivery. “I was getting a beer and watching the parade. I don’t know what happened. I woke up in my car, the door was hanging wide open.” My purse. My money. I turn around and look in the car and see my purse. I sit down in the seat again and look for my wallet. It is here. Thank gawd.
“Where are you?” He asks. I hear him being angry with me. Short.
“I’m at Ruby McQuain.” I say back, feeling confused and a little afraid and wondering if I have done something that deserves his temper.
“Do I need to come get you?” He says, sounding burdened.
“No.” I say and I gather myself. I rub my face with both hands. “I’m going to my apartment and then I’m going to the hospital,” I blurt out as I fold my phone over. Hung up.
I go to the hospital. “Do you want a rape kit done?” the doctor asks. Yes. “Do you want antibiotics to prevent STD’s blah, blah, and blah?” Yes. “Do you want the morning after pill?” Yes. I eat awful hospital food and take about 20 pills. I get a shot in my butt cheek. My head thumps under the florescent lights.
The rape kit. I stand on a sheet of paper while I take off my clothes. I don’t get my clothes back. I pee in a cup. Cotton swabs, they go everywhere. The examiner collects biological evidence, such as saliva, blood, semen, urine, skin cells and hair by taking swabs of the victim's skin, genitalia, anus and mouth. They scrape under my nails and run a comb over my hair. I stand naked in the blue light as the shutter of a camera drops. The victim's body is photographed head to toe to preserve evidence of bruising and injuries. I don’t have any bruising or injuries. I am tired, and this feels pointless.
When I leave the hospital, it is 4:45 in the morning. The town is quiet. I only see a couple cars on the way to my apartment on Willey Street. I lie in the shower for hours. I live in one of those old buildings with endless hot water. It runs over my sad body. I call my mom. She drives the hour to visit and cleans my apartment and makes me tuna melts. She rubs my head and takes care of me.
My brother calls. Mom told him. “I am going to find whoever did this to you and kill them, Carmen.” He says definitively. “How can we find them? Do you have any idea who did this?” I don’t. I hear him be frustrated and helpless on the other end. I’m frustrated and helpless too.
I get my test results back. Flunitrazepam. Positive. Rohypnol. The word negative is repeated over and over next to the list of STD’s. There is no evidence of sexual assault. I take a deep breath and let out a tremendous weight when I exhale. No. Evidence. Of. Sexual. Assault.
Rohypnol has been used in the commission of sexual assaults.
It is difficult to estimate the number of Rohypnol-facilitated rapes in the United States.
To protect yourself from possible date-rape drug dosing:
1. Never put your drink down. Keep your drink in your hand, even when you go to the bathroom.
2. If your drink is out of your sight, even for seconds, get a new one.
3. Don’t accept a drink from anyone—unless you can watch the bartender pour it.
4. Don’t share drinks.
5. Don’t drink from punch bowls or open containers.
6. Don’t drink anything that tastes even a little strange. Sometimes, GHB can taste salty.
Rohypnol costs about $5 per dose and is easily attained.