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DEA Recommends Putting “Date Rape” Drug in Same Category as Heroin, LSD

June 21, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Drug Enforcement Administration says the illegal sedative Rohypnol, nicknamed the ``date rape″ drug, should be put in the same category as heroin, cocaine and LSD in the next three months.

The agency recommended that the drug, connected to more than 2,400 criminal investigations nationwide, be declared a Schedule 1 drug to increase penalties for Rohypnol trafficking, smuggling and misuse, DEA spokesman Jim McGivney said.

The Health and Human Services Department will study the medical effects of the drug, and within the next few months could decide with the DEA to reclassify it.

``We have seen an increase in abuse potential and actual abuse,″ McGivney said. ``Even if you don’t discuss the sexual allegations, the drug can be very problematic.″

Ten times more powerful than Valium, Rohypnol has been used to incapacitate unsuspecting people, leaving them with no memory of an assault or robbery. It also is used to extend or ease the effects of other drugs.

Rohypnol has been banned in the United States since March but is used legally in 64 countries prior to surgery and to treat insomnia.

Declaring Rohypnol a Schedule 1 drug, the highest level of control, would provide a minimum 10-year prison term for smuggling offenses and allow prosecutors to seek the same sentences that apply to sales and possession of heroin and cocaine.

The requirements for a Schedule 1 drug include potential for abuse, ease with which a person can become addicted, actual abuse, and whether the drug is accepted for a legitimate medical use, McGivney said.

Rohypnol meets many of those requirements, including having no accepted medical use in the United States, he said.

Now, the sedative is classified as a Schedule 4 drug, along with Valium. Under this classification, penalties for possession or smuggling of Rohypnol are so light that a person would have to carry more than four pounds of pills, McGivney said.

The drug _ a small, white tablet known as ``roofie″ that has no taste or odor when dissolved in a drink _ sells illegally for $1 to $5 per pill on the street.

In ``roofie rape,″ victims who are slipped the drug become dizzy and disoriented and have trouble moving their arms and legs. Ultimately, they pass out and have little or no memory of what happens next.

Officials from Hoffman-LaRoche Inc., whose parent company manufactures and markets Rohypnol, said Thursday they were ``absolutely appalled″ by the use of the sedative in sexual attacks.

``We are strongly in favor of very strict penalties for any person who traffics, misuses and abuses Rohypnol,″ Vice President Carolyn Glynn said. ``We do not think rescheduling is an appropriate action.″

The Nutley, N.J.-based company, which is a U.S. affiliate of Roche Holding Limited of Basel, Switzerland, announced last week it is converting to a smaller dose pill that will not dissolve as easily in a drink to help prevent abuse.

Until March, individuals were allowed to bring a three-month ``personal use″ supply of Rohypnol into the United States. But after increasing reports of rape, the DEA, Customs Service and Food and Drug Administration banned the drug from the United States.

Before recommending reclassifying Rohypnol, the DEA documented more than 2,400 federal, state and local criminal investigations involving Rohypnol between 1993 and March 1996, McGivney said.

Already Rohypnol is classified as a Schedule 1 drug in Minnesota and Oklahoma, McGivney said. Florida and Texas are in the process of reclassifying the drug, he said.

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