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Use of Rohypnol® Spreading, NIDA Panel Says


September 1995

The NIDA Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG) warned on June 16 that use of Rophynol® is spreading, especially among adolescents ("Drug Abuse Alert: Rohypnol," CESAR Fax, University of Maryland Center for Substance Abuse Research, June 19, 1995).

Rohypnol®, or flunitrazepam, is a member of the benzodiazepine family and is not legal in the U.S., even with a prescription. It is 10 times more potent than Valium® and causes muscle relaxation and can cause amnesia for up to 8 hours. It is manufactured and distributed in Europe and Latin America by Hoffman-La Roche to treat sleep disorders (see "Abuse of Sedative 'Rophies' on the Rise in Florida," NewsBriefs, February 1995).

Treatment providers say Rohypnol® (pronounced "row-hip-nol") is used in conjunction with other drugs, notably alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine, to increase the effect. On the street, it markets for $2-$3 per pill, and is sometimes sold in the original packaging.

Drug enforcement officials have known about use of Rohypnol® in Florida and Texas for about three years, but they say seizures of the drug have now been made in 13 states. The DEA has made about 1000 seizures of the drug. Currently, Rohypnol® is a Schedule IV drug, but the DEA is seeking to move it to Schedule I status, which would provide them more power to enforce against its use. In February, the DEA seized 57,570 doses in McAllen, Texas.

Al Wasilewski, spokesperson for Hoffman-La Roche, told NewsBriefs on August 8 that abuse of Rohypnol® does not necessitate additional controls and enforcement. "[Rohypnol® abuse] should be addressed on the treatment and education side, on the level where abuse takes place," he said.

[See also, "Experts Fear Sedative Gaining Favor in Streets," USA Today, June 20, 1995, p. A1; "'Rophies' Reported Spreading Quickly Throughout the South," Drug Enforcement Report, June 23, 1995, p. 1.]