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Abuse of Sedative "Rophies" on the Rise in Florida


February 1995

Drug abuse experts in Florida are warning that they are seeing more and more cases of abuse of the sedative flunitrazepam, called "rophies," a contraction of Rohypnol®, a trade name ("Florida Sees Rising Abuse of Drug Known as 'Rophies,'" Drug Enforcement Report, Dec. 23, 1994, p. 1).

A branch of the Hoffmann-La Roche Company manufactures the drug in various Latin American countries, including Venezuela and Colombia. Al Wasilewski, spokesperson for the company, told NewsBriefs that Rohypnol® is part of the benzodiazepine family of sedatives, which includes Valium®, Halcion® and Xanax®. The drug is prescribed in Latin America as a sleep inducer. Wasilewski said Rohypnol® is not available legally in the U.S.

The Up Front Drug Information Center in Miami is calling the drug "the Quaaludes of the 1990s." While the apparent surge in use has been limited to Florida, drug enforcement officials think that use may be spreading. The Drug Enforcement Administration Miami office is reporting more arrests associated with the drug. No statistics on rates of use were reported.

Rophies are used illegally in conjunction with alcohol or heroin to increase the depressant effect, or with cocaine to "come down" from a high.

Drug Enforcement Report quotes law enforcement officials saying that "mules" carry the drug from Colombia into the U.S. Wasilewski said that the drug has been traced to mail drops around the U.S. It is unclear at this time, he said, whether the drug smuggled into the country is real or counterfeited Rohypnol®.

[Authorities may be hyping the newest drug "problem," but there are as of yet no numbers to support the assertion that use of "rophies" is rising dramatically. "Rohypnol®" or "Hypnol"? -- a new drug menace -- without data. -- EES]