The spiking of drinks has long been an urban myth in this country, but court case after court case has lent it undeniable weight in America. Mark Perez, from Tallahassee in Florida, is serving an eight year jail term after pleading guilty to sexual battery of an incapacitated person. He raped a woman called Lisa after giving her a drink laced with Rohypnol. It took effect within 20 minutes. "You don't see, you don't hear, you don't know anything going on," she told a reporter from the Associated Press. "Nothing. You're like a dead person." There isn't really any other drug which has such a quick, blackout effect, certainly at higher doses (more than two 1mg tablets). After three pints Adrian and Rick had both lost their memory, and got so fed up of getting into messes they were glad when they ran out of Rohypnols. "I used to get paranoid, a bit rowdy on them," says Rick. "When you woke up, you'd be thinking 'what did I do last night?' You could remember where you started but nothing else after that." The drug's manufacturer Hoffman- LaRoche took the highly unusual step of providing educational and public service announcements to safeguard women against substance- assisted sexual assault. Rohypnol dissolves easily in all liquids and is colourless, tasteless and odourless. Its effects can last for up to 24 hours.
"I stopped using it as a sleeping pill a few months ago," says Graham, a thirtysomething DJ from the South of England. Why? "Because while they can put you to sleep, they can also make you quickly come up. When I asked my doctor for a different tablet, he told me it was becoming more widely used in clubs. Three of his patients had asked for them by name. He also said it was going to be banned soon."
If it is, then the information has yet to reach the Department Of Health. "It does have therapeutic use and can be prescribed," confirmed a spokeswoman. "We are aware of problems in America with it, but not of any in Britain." How many people have been prosecuted for selling Rohypnol they've either got themselves on prescription or bought from large- scale dealers? "I'm not aware of any," she replied.
Rohypnols can be bought in the original bubblepack packaging for as little as £7 for 10. The street price has been falling steadily over the last few years as supply more than keeps up with demand. Its growing popularity can only be underlined by its legality and cheapness. "It's prescribed in low doses because it can affect memory," Dr Alyson Bond, senior lecturer at the Institute Of Psychiatry in London, told Mixmag. "On its own it isn't that dangerous. You can be revived if you overdose. But if you mixed it with alcohol you could fall into a coma. There's evidence of a big problem in Europe, where it's injected intravenously, but not so much here. "It is potentially addictive," she added. "If people use it for a long period and then stop, they won't be able to sleep. It's no different from something like Valium in that respect." The drug's manufacturers in this country, Roche Products, are frantically trying to find out more information about its abuse. "It's just awful," says the company's spokeswoman, several times, as we talk about it being misused. "We are very concerned at the reports of the misuse of one of our medicines. Rohypnol is a safe and effective medicine prescribed only for severe sleep disorders. We fully support efforts that will discourage its misuse and abuse."
So even if its use as a recreational dance drug is not that attractive, Rohypnol is fast becoming the chillout drug of choice, and looks like it could follow tamazepams into dealer illegality. And is it worth it? Well, if you want to risk tranquilliser addiction, having unprotected sex you won't remember (potentially leading to HIV or pregnancy), make a dribbling mess of yourself in public, lose chunks of your life, and act like a different person then... no problem.
2. Try to miss out on smoking yourself senseless. That can almost put you back to the position you were in before you were at your highest. It can send you into a trippy experience where you don't know what's happening.
3. Herbal teas such as camomile can help reduce stress levels much better than a cup of strong coffee, but it's better not to take anything extra to come down.
4. Just as everyone reacts differently to stimulants, everyone learns their own strategy on how to come down. There is no universal truth.
5. Prepare yourself beforehand. The more tired and run down you are before you take drugs the worse you will feel afterwards. Know your limits and stick to them.
Information supplied by Lifeline, the Manchester- based drugs information agency.
Tel: 0161 834 7160.