What Is Rohypnol?
Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) is a benzodiazepine with general properties similar to those of other central nervous system depressants like Valium. In Europe and South America, it is used for the short-term treatment of insomnia and sleep disorders. Rohypnol is 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 or injected, or dissolved in a liquid prior to drinking. The tablets are typically odorless, tasteless, and dissolve undetected in liquid. In response to reports implicating Rohypnol in drug-facilitated sexual assaults, the 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 U.S. 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. Since the 1990s, individuals in the United States have used Rohypnol illegally, 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, and 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 Study, nearly 2% of high school seniors in the U.S. report having used Rohypnol at least once in the past year.
Common Side Effects of Rohypnol
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 takes place between 45 minutes and 2 hours, causing most victims to lose consciousness. A single 2-milligram pill has the same potency as a 6-pack of beer, but the effects slightly 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:
- Deep sedation
- Impaired motor functioning
- Muscle relaxation
- Impaired judgement
- Slurred speech
- Stomach disturbances
- Relaxation or calmness
- Slowed breathing
- Respiratory depression
- Memory loss
- Blackouts up to 24 hours
- Lack of inhibitions
- Poor decision making
- Low heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Visual disturbances
Individuals who abuse Rohypnol often experience drowsiness, headaches, memory impairment, nightmares, confusion, and tremors. Although the drug is classified as a central nervous system 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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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 then 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 central nervous system 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
Nick-named the “date-rape drug,” Rohypnol has largely been 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 nonconsenting victims’ drinks and simply wait. The effects of the drug physically incapacitates the victim and causes impaired judgment or 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 exposure of drugs and alcohol. One study found that 15 percent of young women experienced incapacitated rape during their first year of college. These female students were taken advantage of while unconscious and therefore could not give consent since they did not know what was happening. Another recent study revealed that about 1 in 13 American college students report having been drugged, or suspect that they were drugged. Drink spiking, or adding drugs to a person’s drink without his or her knowledge or consent, is one of the most common ways in which college students facilitate sexual assualt. Of the students who reported being drugged, 79 percent were female. Those who drugged others, or knew someone who had done so, reported that Rohypnol was used 32 percent of the time.
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1 in 3
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.
Rohypnol is 10 times stronger than the drug Valium.
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.
Get Help for Rohypnol Addiction
If you or a loved one are addicted to Rohypnol then the best path towards recovery is through professional treatment. If you’re ready to end your battle with addiction but are unsure of where to start, contact a dedicated treatment provider today. Treatment providers are available around the clock to answer any questions that you may have.