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Rape Drug
New Jersey Star Ledger
Oct 15, 1996

Viewpoint Section

The medical literature will tell you that there are legitimate uses for the drug Rohypnol. And in 1898, heroin was a cure for morphine addiction.

Rohypnol is a potent tranquilizer, and on the street, where it goes by the name "roofies," college kids, and some remarkably younger, know it enhances the effects of alcohol. They may not know that too much alcohol enhances the chances of an overdose.

In law enforcement circles, where they call it the "date rape drug," they will tell you about a rapidly growing number of cases involving Rohypnol slipped into a drink to incapacitate someone for a rape. Because of the drug's amnesia-causing properties, the victim can't remember what happened. It's the perfect weapon for a rapist because it leaves the victim vulnerable and reduces the chances of successful prosecution.

Those are reasons that newly signed federal legislation makes the drug illegal and adds 20 years to the sentence of anyone convicted of using Rohypnol or other drugs to commit rape. The federal government should also follow Florida's lead and classify Rohypnol as a Schedule 1 drug, which means that nationwide it would be in the same category as heroin and LSD.

The drug is made by the Swiss firm Hoffmann-La Roche, which has its U.S. headquarters in Nutley. Roche officials say that the drug has been put to legitimate medical use in 64 other countries and has proved a safe and effective prescription drug when used as directed. The company says Rohypnol should not be put in the same class as substances which have no medical use.

Rohypnol has never been approved for medical use of any kind in this country. It is not marketed legally in this country. U.S. medicine does not seem to have suffered without it and won't if Rohypnol is slapped with the Schedule 1 tag, as it should be. If Roche officials want to debate about Rohypnol, let them debate the question of whether they need to make it at all - not that someone else wouldn't try.

Heroin originally was used for the legitimate medical purpose of getting people off other forms of opium. Unfortunately, the very properties that made it a great drug for that purpose also made it a great drug for misuse, and that's why heroin is on the Schedule 1 list.

Rohypnol should be on the list because of the harm people can do when they use it themselves and because of the harm people can do when they use it against others.