What are Roofies?
Rohypnol (the brand name of Flunitrazepam), or "roofie", is a Benzodiazapine, a prescription pill similar to Valium. It has been illegal to bring this drug into the U.S. since 1996.
Roofies comes in 0.5 mg or 1.0 mg tablets, which are generally ground up and mixed into drinks. The older tablets look very much like aspirin and cost anywhere from $1.00 to $5.00; the newer pills, which contain a blue dye, are tan colored ovals (see photo).
What do Roofies do?
Roofies cause sedation, a feeling of extreme intoxication, and amnesia. The powdered pills are dropped into your drink by a man who wants to take sexual advantage of you. About 10 minutes after ingestion, you'll start to feel very drunk-like and have difficulty speaking and moving; eventually, you may pass out.
The drug's amnesiac effect lasts at least eight hours; even if you are not passed out, you'll have no memory of anything that occurred while you were under the drug's influence. Besides making you vulnerable to sexual assault, roofies can also cause seizures, coma, liver failure, and even death from respiratory depression.
How Can I Protect Myself?
Roofies may have a bitter taste when dissolved in alcohol; be alert to a strange taste in your drink.
When placed in a light-colored drink, the newer roofies will turn the beverage blue. If your waterorgin and tonic turns blue, dump it and become especially alert; someone has tried to drug you. The older roofies won't change the color of your drink.
If you suddenly feel unusually drunk after just a small amount of alcohol, quickly ask for help (preferably not from the strange man next to you at the bar who may have given you the roofie) - you might have just a few minutes of alert behavior left to you.
Don't drink anything you did not open yourself or that you didn't see being opened or poured.
Don't accept a drink from someone you don't know unless you see it being opened or poured by a bartender.
Always watch your drink at parties and bars. If you leave your drink unattended, get a fresh oneto be on the safe side.
Have a friend drive to and from a party or bar with you to lessen your chances of being taken advantage of.
Take care of your friends. If they seem disproportionately drunk and "out of it," they may have been slipped a drug. Don't leave them alone.
(Some of these tips are reprinted with permission from Iona College.)
What Should I Do if I Suspect I've Been Raped?
If you suspect that you have been sexually assaulted, do not shower, douche or otherwise destroy potential evidence.
Go to the hospital at once so that you will have evidence of the assault. Pressing charges is a big decision; if you decide to do so, a visit to the hospital after a suspected assault will provide you with an evidence sample.
Get support to help you through this traumatic event. Certainly you should inform friends you trust, and you should consider getting professional counseling.
All of that said, no need to be paranoid on your vacation -- having a drink with a new guy is a big part of the fun of traveling and meeting folks. Just be aware, and then get on with enjoying yourself!