Roofied: Drink spiking and how to stay safe

Rohypnol, as known as “roofies”, is a powerful benzodiazepine that has gained notoriety as a common form of date rape drug. The term “roofied” has now become synonymous with any form of sexual assault involving drugging the victim.

What does roofied mean?

To be “roofied” or “getting roofied” refers to an instance of sexual assault or rape where the victim has been spiked (given a substance without their knowing) with Rohypnol (flunitrazepam)

Rohypnol, or “roofies”, are a potent form of benzodiazepine that can cause sedation, unconsciousness, and memory loss (amnesia) if taken in large doses, which makes it a weapon of choice for sexual predators. 

They are also undetectable, having no smell, colour, or taste when dissolved in liquid. Most criminals who use roofies on rape victims will do so by picking targets in bars or clubs and spiking their alcoholic drinks with the drug.   

Roofies have become so synonymous with rape that the act of drugging someone's drink with any substance is collectively called “roofying”. Other substances that are often used in date rape offences include Ketamine (K, Special K) and Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) as they have similar effects to roofies.

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How long do roofies last?

The sedative effects of Rohypnol are up to 10 times stronger than Valium. This means the onset of roofies' actions on the body can appear within 20 minutes of being ingested and can last for over six hours. Some of the residual effects, such as memory loss and confusion and can last 12 hours or more after administration. 

Fact: Someone experiences some form of sexual assault every 98 seconds in the United States.[1]

GHB is another commonly used date rape drug. You can read more here about how long GHB lasts and how to spot signs of GHB spiking.

Why would someone roofie a drink?

There are many reasons a criminal may want to spike someone's drink with roofies in order to take advantage of them. The most common of these is sexual assault and rape. In fact, it is estimated that around 80% of all reported rape cases are date rape.[1] 

Despite roofies being mainly used in rape crimes, there are other reasons that someone may use the drug on another person. The most common of these are:

Violent assault - incapacitating a victim's ability to defend themselves gives an attacker an advantage when wanting to hurt them physically

Theft - It is easier for thieves to be able to take what they want from a person if they are unconscious. It also means they are less likely to be identified

Amusement - It may seem cruel and unusual, but some victims of being roofied have had it done to them just for the enjoyment of other people. 

Regardless of why roofies are used on others, any instance of someone using the drug on another person is a criminal offence. In fact, despite being a Schedule IV substance, possession, distribution and manufacturing of Rohypnol carry the same criminal charges as Schedule I substances such as heroin

Symptoms of being roofied

Rohypnol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which means that if you have been roofied you will often feel overly relaxed, sleepy, disorientated, and calm. 

The onset of roofies is very quick, which means victims may feel excessively drunk as though from nowhere. This is a major red flag that an individual has been spiked, especially if they have not consumed much alcohol. Below are strong indicators of being roofied:

  • Disorientation

  • Sleepiness

  • Sedation

  • Gaps in memory

  • Feeling paralysed

  • Loss of focus

  • Nausea

  • Loss of energy

  • Loss of muscle control

Another indicator that someone has been roofied is if they have been talking to strangers shortly before effects present themselves, especially if said strangers have bought them drinks.

How can I tell if I’ve been roofied the day after it happened?

Sadly, owing to the rapid nature of roofies affecting the victim and their sedative properties, many people do not realise they have been drugged until it is too late. As roofies cause gaps in memory, it is often difficult to recognise if you have been a victim the following day.

These symptoms are indicators that you may have been roofied, especially if you did not consume much alcohol at the time:

  • Extreme drowsiness

  • Nausea/vomiting

  • Aching muscles

  • Headaches

  • Photosensitivity

  • Confusion

  • Inability to remember large periods of time

  • Tingling sensation

While these symptoms closely resemble the effects of a hangover from alcohol, many victims do not identify that they have been raped. However, if you are in any doubt as to whether you have been the victim of date rape then it is vital you contact the emergency services to report a potential crime and to seek medical attention. 

It is also important not to wash yourself or any clothing from the night before in case evidence is destroyed. Also, try to speak to friends who may have been with you at the time to see if they can confirm any details. 

For further help and support with the aftermath of rape, speak to one of the many charities that specialise in helping people who have been the victim of sexual assault. There are links to these charities at the bottom of this page.

How long do roofies stay in your system?

Traces of Rohypnol leave the body very quickly, making it difficult to be detected in most standard drug tests. Urine samples need to be collected in just 72 hours and saliva and drug tests are normally ineffective in under 24 hours. More elaborate hair follicle testing can be conducted after 72 hours but may produce a false-positive result if other benzodiazepines are present in the system. 

However, there are a range of benzodiazepine home testing kits that are easy to use and provide accurate results. You can find some of them on Amazon and via other distributors

Read here to find out more about how long drugs and alcohol stay in your system

How to avoid being roofied

While it is never the victim's fault for being exposed to roofies, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of becoming a victim. While some of these may seem like common sense, many people who have been roofied fall victim to simple techniques used by criminals

  • Pour your own drink when possible

  • Don’t leave your drink unattended

  • Don't accept a drink that you haven’t seen be prepared

  • Avoid drinks with large containers such as punch bowls

  • Stay with your friends and by drinks together where possible

  • Always test a drink first, don’t drink it if it looks/tastes/smells odd

  • If you feel very drunk, stop drinking and seek help

What should I do if I think my drink has been roofied?

  • If you feel like your drink may have been roofied then it is important to get somewhere safe as soon as possible. Only seek help from people you trust and not someone you just met.
  • If you are with friends, let them know that you may have been spiked and ask them to help you get home

  • If you begin to feel faint, sick or are unable to stay awake then you may need to seek help from the emergency services or a medical professional

  • Do NOT seek help from strangers. If you are alone then ask for help from emergency services or speak to the bar staff.

  • Try not to be alone or go somewhere with someone you don’t know. If waiting for emergency services then try to do so in a public area and do not go anywhere secluded. 

  • Spiking is illegal and should be reported to the authorities. Even if you manage to get somewhere safe and recover without further crimes being committed against you, a police report should be filed and any relevant drug testing to identify roofies in your system should be taken.

What to do if you or a friend have been roofied

If you are with a friend who you suspect has been roofied then it is important to stay with them and make sure they are safe. Here are some steps to take to ensure they are safe and looked after:

  • If in a bar or club, notify the staff, management, or security.

  • Stay with them at all times and keep talking to them.

  • Try to keep them awake and call emergency services if their condition worsens.

  • Don’t let them go home on their own or with a stranger.

  • Don’t let them drink any alcohol.

If the emergency services are required, then speak to the attending paramedic and let them know what you know they have consumed as accurately as you can.

If you see someone you don’t know but suspect may have been roofied then notify security or a member of the bar staff. If you are worried for their safety or feel they are being coerced or manipulated against their will then notify authorities or interject if safe to do so.

Rape, sexual assault, and harassment helplines and support

Dealing with the fallout of sexual assault can be extremely traumatic. In fact, 94% of women experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following a rape incident.[2]

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault or rape and need guidance and support, then speak to a rape crisis team in your area. They will be able to offer counselling, arrange health screenings, and advise about pursuing criminal charges against attackers.

If you have been the victim of rape or sexual assault, then speak to someone today.

RAINN National Sexual Assualt Hotline - North America

Rape Crisis - UK

She Will Survive - India

Respect Government Helpline - Australia

Commonwealth Say no More - Botswana

Rape Crisis Network Europe - Europe

Rape Crisis - South Africa

Centre Against Abuse - Bermuda

*Note: These countries and continent’s have been selected based on the highest reported cases of rape per capita globally. If your country is not listed then please see the Handbook of International Centers for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Harassment which was compiled by the University of Minnesota.