Rohypnol - Use, Addictiveness, Symptoms, & Treatment

Rohypnol is known as the "date-rape drug." It is illegal in the United States. The drug is often smuggled in from other countries, such as Mexico. In other countries, Rohypnol may be medically prescribed to treat insomnia or anxiety.
Evidence Based
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What is Rohypnol?

Rohypnol is a fast-acting sedative that belongs to the drug class benzodiazepines. It slows down the central nervous system and can produce feelings of drowsiness, confusion, slowed reaction time, and loss of memory.

Rohypnol is a brand name for the drug “flunitrazepam” that people often use as a party drug. This drug became known as ‘the date rape drug’ based on its sedative and memory impairing effects that were commonly misused as an aid in sexual assault. It also gained popularity as a club drug.

Other street names for Rohypnol include:

  • Forget-Me-Pill
  • La Rocha
  • Roach
  • Ropies
  • Date rape drug

Rohypnol is a Schedule IV drug, meaning it has not been approved for medical use in the United States. The drug is often smuggled in from other countries, such as Mexico. Elsewhere in the world, Rohypnol may be medically prescribed to treat insomnia or anxiety.

Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) is a short-acting benzodiazepine that is available by prescription in South America and Europe but not in the United States. Its potency is about 10 times that of diazepam.

Weaver et al. 2015

How is Rohypnol Used?

Rohypnol comes in tablet form. It was originally made into a white tablet that was odorless and flavorless when dissolved in drinks. After its misuse in drug-assisted assaults, the drug now comes as a colored tablet. It adds color when placed in liquid.

Rohypnol comes in different forms, such as:

  • Taken orally in pill form
  • Dissolved in liquid and consumed as a drink
  • Ground up and snorted

Rohypnol can produce a ‘high’ and is often used in combination with alcohol for a combined intoxication effect, or used to reduce the come down from other drugs.

Rohypnol takes effect within 15 to 20 minutes of use. The effects can last between 4 and 6 hours.

Is Rohypnol Addictive?

As a benzodiazepine, Rohypnol has a high potential for addiction. Using the drug regularly—even at lower doses—can increase the chances of becoming physically or psychologically dependent.

There are many different ways that Rohypnol can impact the body that make it hard to stop taking it.

  • Drug craving — Taking a dose of Rohypnol is often followed by an intense desire for more. This can intensify when the drug wears off, or use is stopped.
  • Drug strength and mixing with alcohol — Rohypnol is approximately 10 times stronger than Valium and is often mixed with alcohol, which can intensify its effects
  • Dependence Taking the drug regularly can cause the body to become dependent on it to function normally
  • Withdrawal symptoms — Some people may continue drug use to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms

Side Effects

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Using Rohypnol can influence the functioning of both the body and brain. The side effects of Rohypnol depend on whether a person uses sedatives regularly, their dose, and the use of other drugs. Rohypnol has similar side effects to other, like Valium or Xanax.

Rohypnol, like other benzodiazepines, acts at the GABAA receptor. It can produce anterograde amnesia, in which individuals may not remember events they experienced while under the influence of the drug.

National Institute on Drug Abuse

In some cases, it can be difficult to recognize the signs of Rohypnol use, since it’s often used in a club or party environment or combined with alcohol. Some of the possible side effects of the drug include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Reduced anxiety or inhibition
  • Impaired judgment
  • Aggression
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Poor coordination
  • Headache
  • Slowed breathing
  • Amnesia (loss of memory)
  • Loss of consciousness

Using Rohypnol can make it hard for a person to function and can compromise their safety.

Risks and Dangers of Use

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As an illegal substance, it’s hard to know the exact dose and ingredients of Rohypnol each time it’s used. This can increase the risk of overdose, as a person may take too much or unknowingly be using another substance.

Additionally, possession or distribution of Rohypnol is illegal, and there are criminal risks of using this drug. As an illegal substance in the U.S., possession of Rohypnol is also a punishable offense and can result in jail time or heavy fines.

The physical risks of taking Rohypnol can be life-threatening. Additionally, they can be intensified if used with other depressants, such as alcohol or heroin. A person showing signs of a Rohypnol overdose should seek medical attention immediately. The signs of an overdose include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Low heart rate
  • Non-responsiveness

There are also long-term risks associated with Rohypnol. For example, using the drug in combination with alcohol has been linked to liver damage in animal studies, which suggests this may be a risk for humans as well.

Addiction Symptoms

Graphic human body showing symptoms.

Rohypnol has addictive qualities, and there’s a chance of addiction even if it is used in lower doses. Addiction is a serious illness and can prevent a person from living and functioning normally. The signs of addiction can often be difficult to detect, as Rohypnol use is often hidden or kept secret.

The signs of addiction may present in physical symptoms but can also be noticeable through changes in behavior. For example, signs of addiction can include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms when stopping Rohypnol use, like tremors, headaches, or sweating
  • Strong drug craving
  • Requiring a higher dose of the drug to produce the same ‘high’
  • Being secretive or on edge
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Stopping usual activities like work or social outings
  • Ignoring the consequences of using the drug

Treatment for Addiction

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Addiction is a serious mental health issue, but there are different treatments available to support recovery. Treatment for drug addiction usually includes several stages:

  1. Detox and withdrawal
  2. Inpatient treatment
  3. Outpatient treatment
  4. Aftercare

The initial stages of treatment include detoxing from the drug as it leaves the body completely. While some lower-risk patients may complete this at home, it is safest to withdraw at a hospital or inpatient facility. Inpatient treatment can also include ongoing therapy and learning new strategies to stay sober.

These therapies may include:

Many patients also complete outpatient treatment, which means continuing regular therapy while living at home. There’s no precise ‘finish line’ for addiction treatment, and many people will continue to keep up with therapy as part of their aftercare to support their ongoing sobriety.

There are different types of treatment available for those struggling with a Rohypnol addiction. Asking for help can be lifesaving, and can allow you to return to living life to the fullest.


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Resources

Drugs of Abuse: A DEA Resource Guide. Drug Enforcement Administration & US Department of Justice. 2017, https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/sites/getsmartaboutdrugs.com/files/publications/DoA_2017Ed_Updated_6.16.17.pdf#page=62

Club Drugs (GHB, Ketamine, and Rohypnol). National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014. https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/drugfacts_clubdrugs_12_2014.pdf

Weaver, Michael F. “Prescription Sedative Misuse and Abuse.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, vol. 88, 2015, pp 247-256. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553644/

Osayande, Airhomwanbor Kingsley et al. “Effects of Alcohol and Rohypnol Combination on the Liver Function of Adult Albino Rats.” American Journal of Chemistry and Materials Science, vol. 5, no. 3, 2018, pp. 28-33. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.19537.58729

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Updated on: August 7, 2020
Author
Addiction Group Staff
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