What Is Rohypnol?

Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam) is a Benzodiazepine with general properties similar to those of other central nervous system (CNS) depressants like Valium. In Europe and South America, the drug is used for the short-term treatment of insomnia and sleep disorders. Like with many drugs used to facilitate sleep, users of Rohypnol may develop a Rohypnol addiction. A powerful tranquilizer that is capable of rendering someone unconscious within minutes, Rohypnol can be taken by mouth as a whole tablet, crushed and snorted up the nose, injected, or dissolved in a liquid. The tablets are typically odorless, tasteless, and dissolve undetectably in liquid. In response to reports implicating Rohypnol in drug-facilitated sexual assaults, its manufacturer reformulated the tablets in an effort to prevent abuse. The drug now also comes in the form of green tablets that include a dye that turns blue when dissolved in liquid, making the drug more easily detected in some drinks. However, the original white tablets are still regularly available and sold illegally.

Rohypnol is legally manufactured and available in about 60 countries around the world but is neither legally manufactured nor approved for sale within the United States. Rohypnol is categorized in the US as a Schedule IV narcotic, but the penalties for possession, trafficking, and distribution of Rohypnol are equal to those of a Schedule I substance. Possession of the drug is a third degree misdemeanor; selling it is a fourth degree felony. Individuals in the United States have used Rohypnol illegally since the 1990s, often to help mitigate the depression that results from using Stimulants such as Cocaine and Methamphetamine. Rohypnol is also frequently used in the commission of sexual assaults, which is why it is often knowns as the “Date Rape Drug.”

The most common names for Rohypnol are Roofies, Forget-Me Drug, Date Rape Drug, Roche, and Ruffles. Teenagers and young adults, primarily individuals aged 13 to 30, are the principal users of Rohypnol. Most users are male. The drug is popular on high school and college campuses and at raves and clubs. According to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, nearly 2% of high school seniors in the US report having used Rohypnol at least once in the past year.

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Rohypnol Addiction: Side Effects

Rohypnol enters the bloodstream quickly, and users/victims often feel the effects within 15-20 minutes after ingestion. Rohypnol can cause sedation that lasts up to 12 hours. Peak effects of the drug take place between 45 minutes and 2 hours after ingestion, causing most to lose consciousness. A single 2-milligram pill has the same potency as a 6-pack of beer, but the effects of the substances differ. Users can experience extreme sedation, dizziness, and loss of bodily control. Rohypnol causes a state of intoxication where users don’t care about what they do; nor can they stop what happens to them. Users also have great difficulty remembering what happened while they were under the influence of the drug; it wipes the memory.

Rohypnol use causes a number of adverse effects, which may last 12 hours or more, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Deep sedation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired motor functioning
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgement
  • Slurred speech
  • Headache
  • Aggression
  • Stomach disturbances
  • Excitability
  • Relaxation or calmness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Respiratory depression
  • Memory loss
  • Blackouts up to 24 hours
  • Intoxication
  • Lack of inhibitions
  • Poor decision making
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weakness
  • Visual disturbances
  • Overdose
  • Coma
  • Death

Individuals who abuse Rohypnol often experience drowsiness, headaches, memory impairment, nightmares, confusion, and tremors. Although the drug is classified as a CNS depressant, Rohypnol can also induce aggression or excitability in some people. Rohypnol users who inject the drug expose themselves to additional risks that are associated with intravenous administration and needle sharing, including contracting HIV and Hepatitis.

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Rohypnol Addiction

Regular use of Rohypnol results in increased tolerance to the drug, requiring users to take larger doses over time to achieve the same effect. Chronic or continued use of Rohypnol can result in physical dependence and the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and include headache, muscle pain, confusion, anxiety, restlessness, tension, numbness, delirium, shock, insomnia, and convulsions. Seizures caused by withdrawal from Rohypnol may occur more than a week after use has stopped. Regular use of Rohypnol over an extended period may also result in physical dependence and addiction.

Many individuals that are addicted to Rohypnol will combine the drug with other substances, such as alcohol or Cocaine. Mixing sedatives like Rohypnol with alcohol can be extremely dangerous and potentially lethal, as both are CNS depressants and can slow breathing and heart rate. At high doses, the body may shut down and cause the individual to go into respiratory distress.

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Rohypnol Abuse And Sexual Assault

Rohypnol has been widely used in the United States to commit sexual assaults due to its ability to sedate and incapacitate unsuspecting victims. Due to the undetectable formulation of the drug, attackers are able to slip Rohypnol into unconsenting victims’ drinks. The effects of the drug physically incapacitate the victim and cause impaired judgment or even full black outs, making the individual more vulnerable to sexual assault and rape. Because of the memory loss and confusion under the influence of this drug, rape cases associated with Rohypnol are difficult to prosecute. Victims may not be able to clearly recall the assault, the assailant, or the events surrounding the assault.

Sexual assault is common on college campuses, and this is largely due to the presence of drugs and alcohol. One study found that 15% of young women experienced incapacitated rape during their first year of college. These female students were taken advantage of while unconscious and therefore unable to give consent. Another recent study revealed that about 1 in 13 American college students report having been drugged or suspecting that they were drugged. Drink spiking, or adding drugs to a person’s drink without their knowledge or consent, is one of the most common ways in which college students facilitate sexual assault. Of the students who reported being drugged, 79% were female. Those who drugged others, or knew someone who had done so, reported that Rohypnol was used 32% of the time.

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Rohypnol Statistics

1 in 3

Men

When surveyed, 1 in 3 collegiate men said they would use Rohypnol to facilitate a date rape if it could be guaranteed that they wouldn’t be caught afterward.

10x

Stronger

Rohypnol is 10 times stronger than the drug Valium.

2

Percent

According to the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey, almost 2% of American high school seniors self-report using Rohypnol at least once during the past year.

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Get Help For Rohypnol Addiction

If you or a loved one have a Rohypnol problem, there is help available. Contact a treatment provider today. Treatment providers are available to answer any rehab-related questions.

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Author

Jena Hilliard

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  • Jena Hilliard earned her Bachelor’s of Arts degree from the University of Central Florida in English Literature. She has always had a passion for literature and the written word. Upon graduation, Jena found her purpose in educating the public on addiction and helping those that struggle with substance dependency find the best treatment options available.

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Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

Theresa Parisi

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  • Theresa Parisi is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) with over 12 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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