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I was wondering how the term roofies has come to be. They use the term in many movies and TV series. I know what it means, so I'm not asking for an explanation, but for those who may be wondering, it's a date rape drug.

Date rape drug refers to a drug that can be used to assist in the execution of a sexual assault, such as date rape. One of these drugs is called Flunitrazepam, most commonly known as Rohypnol. One of the street names for Rohypnol is roofies.

All the horrible deeds aside, I think the street name, roofies, is pretty funny and I can't connect it with anything.

Is the name derived from something, or is it just a random word, unrelated to anything?

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If any of the moderators think this should have a NSFW tag, or something similar, feel free to edit the post. Thanks! –  RiMMER May 27 '11 at 22:32
    
I had always thought that it came from 'Rufinol', another brand of the same drug. Turns out however, that 'roofies' seems to have come first and 'rufinol' has then developed as a mispronunciation as 'Rufinol' does not in fact exist. I am also curious, now. –  Karl May 28 '11 at 6:10
    
This question SO reminds of "The Hangover" :D –  abhiii5459 May 29 '11 at 7:42
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Just speculation, but we're talking about drug users here right? If you look at Rohypnol quickly or perhaps in a drug-altered state, and read it as Rophyol. Rophy becomes Roophy becomes Roofie? –  Sam May 30 '11 at 5:00
    
I don't think anyone takes this drug on purpose because they want the effect (typical connotation of "drug users") nor do they look at the label before or after taking it. This is a drug that exists pretty much exclusively for giving to other people without their knowledge or consent. The label-readers don't take it. –  Kate Gregory Feb 24 '13 at 13:49
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6 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Quick searching reveals these other names for Rohypnol (which is pronounced row-hip-nole, if you were wondering):

  • rowies
  • rophy
  • ruffles
  • roachies
  • cock smack
  • roofies
  • ruffies
  • ruff up
  • rib
  • roach 2 (R2)
  • roche
  • rope
  • ropies
  • circles
  • circes
  • forget it
  • poppers
  • forget-me-pill
  • Mexican Valium
  • mickeys
  • forget-me-nows

It is kind of a long list but a few of these have more obvious origins. Roche is a common name for Hoffmann-La Roche who marketed the drug and easily accounts for the roach and roche variants. The drug itself has similar effects as valium, which would explain Mexican Valium and most of the other names are varied pronunciations of either roche or rope. The latter is "row-hip" without the "ih".

Bouncing from the row- and rope- pronunciations into a ruff- or roof- opening is understandable. If you transposed a few letters in the drug name you can find "roph" which is actually how I thought the drug was pronounced: "roe-fih-nal". I have no idea why I saw it that way, since it makes no sense at all. But there it is. Another potential mispronunciations is "roe-hif-nole" which again wouldn't actually work with the name but it sure sounds like a drug. Mushing "roe-hif" into "ruff" would be like mushing "row-hip" into "rope".

Another potential path is "ruff up" -> "ruffies" -> "roofies".

For what it is worth, some English dialects pronounce ruff and roof the same, which could account for the two variations: roofies and ruffies would sound the same as well.

So, all of that said, I wasn't able to find a history chronicling the street names of Rohypnol. Conjecture is probably the best we can do without finding a dedicated study but I don't think roofies is a drastic step from the drug name to bother looking into it further.

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"mickeys" are "Mickey Finns", the slang name of chloral hydrate, a quite different compound to flunitrazepam, mixed with alcohol. –  JdeBP Jun 10 '11 at 14:27
    
@JdeBP: Interesting. I just pulled the names from a list attached to Rohypnol; it wouldn't surprise me if a few were wrong. –  MrHen Jun 10 '11 at 15:24
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I remember reading in National Geographic that the term roofies came from the roofers working after hurricane Andrew.

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I recall a story that in the US its name started in Florida after hurricane Andrew ('92)-(the big one during the first Pres. Bush term) when a large number of males from other parts of the country (and parts South??) were brought in to re-roof the thousands of houses damaged by the storm. They did that all week, and then on the weekends, some were tempted to use this new "recreational" drug on Sat. and Sunday.

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Apparently it didn't mean that originally. It only meant:

Origin: 1990–95; allegedly from its use by roofers

I suppose it has to come to mean what it now means through usage in context

Here's the link: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/roofies

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I'd like the person who down-voted me to explain what was wrong about my answer, then maybe I could improve it. –  Thursagen May 28 '11 at 2:57
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I didn't downvote it, but the question makes clear that Rohypnol and flunitrazepam are the same thing. –  phenry May 28 '11 at 16:01
    
@phenry, I wasn't pointing out that the pill was flunitrazepam, I am pointing out that it is used by roofers, and eventually got termed as roofies. –  Thursagen May 30 '11 at 10:32
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(1) What's your source (2) What basis is there for suggesting roofers would use a hypnotic? –  Marcin May 30 '11 at 12:36
    
I didn't vote you down, but I'm with Marcin. If you'd linked a source for that quote, it wouldn't look quite so much like it was achieved through the rectal extraction technique. Additionally, I'd think people working in places that require good balance to keep you alive (like roofs) would want to avoid using drugs known for making people uncoordinated. –  T.E.D. Jun 9 '11 at 16:29
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Here in the USA, I generally hear the drug pronounced as if the name is "Roo-fee-nol". "Roofies" would be a pretty natural shortening of that.

What I don't know is which one came first. Its possible the odd pronunciation followed the nickname, rather than the other way around.

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I live in South Australia. Here they're called rowies [PDF: ~150 KB] as in Rohypnol.

When you take the drug you'll get central nervous system (CNS) depression including slurred speech. In benzodiazepine overdose, slurred speech can be quite marked. CNS depression is rather more severe when benzodiazepines such as flunitrazepam are taken with alcohol.

It's not too far-fetched to think that it went something like this:

Rohypnol --> rowies --> roofies --> rrrrhhhgh --> [sleep].

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