Rohypnol is the trade name for the drug flunitrazepam, a medication used to treat severe insomnia in some countries, though it is not legal in the US. It’s a part of the benzodiazepine class of drugs along with Valium and Xanax. It produces a strong feeling of sedation and anterograde amnesia, meaning that people often don’t remember what happened while they were on the drug.
Like most drugs, Rohypnol use comes with a number of side effects, some of which are severe. The risk of experiencing adverse effects increases when the drug is abused, which is not uncommon. Rohypnol may be abused for the high or to self-medicate for insomnia. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of this drug is a reduction in delta wave activity in the brain during sleep, which is an indication of deep sleep stages. Therefore, extended use of Rohypnol to help a person sleep actually results in a reduction of sleep quality, producing drowsiness and sleepiness during the day.
Many people experience mild side effects when taking benzodiazepine drugs, but these effects often fade after a few days to a couple weeks. Common mild side effects of Rohypnol include:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
- Impaired judgment
- Gastrointestinal disturbance
- Urinary retention
- Reduced reaction time
- Muscle relaxation
In some cases, individuals may experience paradoxical effects – effects that are counter to the typical reactions to the drug. For Rohypnol, these can include excitability, agitation, anxiety, talkativeness, and/or aggression.
Sedation, reduced reaction time, and impaired judgment, while being mild effects when the individual stays at home, can become quite dangerous if the intoxicated individual operates heavy machinery, including vehicles. Many car accidents have been caused by people choosing to drive while impaired by drugs like Rohypnol.
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In high doses, Rohypnol can produce a number of very dangerous effects. The threat of severe side effects increases whenever the drug is abused, which includes mixing it with other intoxicants such as alcohol.
Rohypnol is a central nervous system depressant, meaning that it slows down the respiratory system and heart rate. If excessively high doses are taken or the drug is taken along with other depressants, this can result in severe respiratory depression. During an overdose, an affected person can start breathing so slowly and shallowly that not enough oxygen can reach the brain, or the individual may stop breathing altogether. If this happens, brain damage or death can occur in minutes. Because of these effects, Rohypnol is a commonly chosen drug for intentional overdose for the purpose of suicide. Studies conducted in Sweden found that Rohypnol was involved in 15 percent of all suicide cases, surpassed only by DXP.
Another unfortunate effect of Rohypnol is amnesia. Due to the combination of sedation and anterograde amnesia, Rohypnol has been known for its use as a “date rape drug.” Rohypnol – sometimes called “roofies” – can be slipped into a drink or simply given by a person the victim thought was trustworthy. The incapacitated victim can then be sexually assaulted and often wakes up with little to no memory of what happened to them. There have also been reports of people being robbed after being drugged with Rohypnol as well.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Rohypnol is the brand name for a medium-acting benzodiazepine, flunitrazepam. Like other benzodiazepines, this sedative-hypnotic can be prescribed to treat some medical conditions; for example, it’s used as a short-term treatment for chronic insomnia. Rohypnol also has a high risk of abuse, addiction, and misuse. It is not approved for use in the United States.
Rohypnol is famous for becoming one of the most widely used date rape drugs since it can be mixed into beverages and is nearly undetectable. It was also widely abused in the 1990s as self-medication for people who struggled with stimulant abuse and addiction; it was used to ease withdrawal symptoms or hangover-like symptoms from drugs like cocaine or amphetamines. It is 10 times more potent than diazepam, or Valium, which is a commonly prescribed benzodiazepine medication.
How Does Rohypnol interact with other drugs?
Because Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine, it is likely to interact with other medications, illicit drugs, and supplements that other benzodiazepines interact with. Some of these include:
- Opioids or narcotics
- MAO inhibitors (antidepressants)
- Other benzodiazepines
- Muscle relaxers and other CNS depressants
- Grapefruit juice or grapefruit
- John’s wort
Flunitrazepam is a very potent benzodiazepine, so when it is mixed with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol, opioids, barbiturates, marijuana, or similar drugs, it is very likely to enhance the effects of these intoxicants, which can lead to poisoning or overdose.
Can you overdose on Rohypnol?
Rohypnol’s potency means that it has a very high risk of overdose. If a person ingests Rohypnol for nonmedical reasons, like when getting high, they are likely to overdose. Rohypnol’s association with date rape means it is closely associated with alcohol consumption; mixing alcohol and benzodiazepines increases the risk of overdose.
Symptoms of overdose include:
- Extreme fatigue or sleepiness
- Falling asleep followed by an inability to wake up
- Mental confusion
- Reduced reflexes
- Loss of coordination
What harm does Rohypnol do to the body?
Both the brain and the body can suffer serious effects from ingesting Rohypnol, either alone or in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Dangerous side effects include:
- Low blood pressure
- Reduced, irregular, shallow, or depressed breathing
- Drowsiness and relaxation, leading to sleep
- Loss of physical coordination
- Physical weakness
- Memory impairment, including short-term amnesia
- Extreme confusion
- Tremors or twitching
In addition to dangerous mental and physical side effects, it is possible to become dependent on, tolerant to, or addicted to Rohypnol. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can include seizures, mood disorders, or chronic insomnia; it can also lead to overdose and death.
What are the comedown effects of Rohypnol?
After a person’s body metabolizes an intoxicating drug, and begins to expel the substance, the individual’s high will dissipate, and they will begin to experience adverse emotions and physical symptoms. This is called the “comedown,” although the term can also refer to physical symptoms persisting after substance abuse for the next 24-48 hours.
Rohypnol became popular as a drug to ease a person’s comedown from stimulant drugs, like crack cocaine or methamphetamine. However, the drug itself has many adverse effects, including causing the user to become more suggestible or pliable and anterograde amnesia, or the inability to remember what happened while intoxicated from Rohypnol. People who have ingested Rohypnol report feeling the next day as if they had “the worst hangover they’ve ever had,” so comedown symptoms are similar to those of a hangover from alcohol: nausea, headache, sensitivity to stimuli, dehydration, and physical weakness.
What forms does Rohypnol come in?
Flunitrazepam primarily comes in the form of a pill. Originally, the drug was manufactured as a white tablet, but due to concerns about it being used as a date rape drug, Rohypnol now comes as an olive-green pill with blue speckles at its core. The blue interior dyes light-colored drinks blue, so a person will know if their drink has been tampered with; however, generic versions of flunitrazepam may not take this precaution.