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The Dangers of Rohypnol

Written by Shannon Weir, RN | Updated on Jan 28, 2023

shannon weir

Medically reviewed by Dr. Patrick J. Gallus, DO

Rohypnol is a powerful central nervous depressant. Most commonly used as a club drug, it is also notoriously used to perpetrate sexual assault. Using Rohypnol has serious side effects, and excessive use may lead to substance use disorder (SUD). When an individual regularly uses Rohypnol and decides to stop, withdrawal symptoms may occur. Withdrawal can be uncomfortable, frightening, and even life-threatening and should always be done with medical professionals.

What Is Rohypnol?

Rohypnol is the brand name for Flunitrazepam, a benzodiazepine that functions as a central nervous system depressant. The effects of it are similar to the effects of Valium, but Rohypnol is about ten times more powerful. The drug slows down the central nervous system by amplifying the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that inhibits the brain’s neurons’ activity. When a person takes it, they will experience sedation and relaxation. At higher doses, Rohypnol will cause a person to lose consciousness and experience amnesia.

Rohypnol is not legal in the United States but is legal in many countries worldwide to treat insomnia. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies Rohypnol as a Schedule IV controlled substance due to the potential risks of addiction.

Rohypnol is also known as a “forget-me-pill,” Mexican Valium, and roofies. It’s a club drug and tends to be used by young adults at bars, nightclubs, concerts, and parties. However, with COVID-19 social distancing and government shutdowns, much of the nightlife scene is closed down. This has not stopped virtual raves from happening where an astounding number of participants are still engaging in illicit substance use from home.

People may use Rohypnol as a recreational drug to get high, enhance the potency of marijuana and hallucinogens, and counteract the effects of cocaine, methamphetamine, and other illegal stimulants. Rohypnol users who want to experience the drug’s effects more quickly sometimes crush Rohypnol into powder and snort it or dissolve it in water to inject it.

The “Date Rape” Drug

“Date rape” drugs are substances used to incapacitate individuals to assault them more easily. In the 1990s, Rohypnol became famous as a drug for perpetrating sexual assault. A drink that has been “roofied” (adulterated with Rohypnol) may not look, smell, or taste any different than it did before the drug was added. However, a drink laced with it can quickly impact the way a person feels and acts.

Symptoms of being “roofied” include:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Impaired muscle control and psychomotor skills
  • Severe intoxication, even without alcohol
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors
  • Trouble breathing

If an individual suspects they or someone they know has been “roofied,” they should go to a safe, public space, find a trustworthy friend, and get medical help. The effects of “roofied” drinks often arise suddenly, typically within 15 to 30 minutes of being ingested.

When combined with alcohol, Rohypnol may cause blackouts in consciousness and memory.  A Rohypnol blackout can last as long as 24 hours. Victims of sexual assault that have ingested it may wake up without remembering anything, including how they arrived where they are or what happened to them while they were unconscious. In some cases, victims may also forget where they were or what they did for several hours before they were drugged.

The Effects of Rohypnol

The side effects of Rohypnol are usually not life-threatening, but they can be painful and distressing. The side effects of Rohypnol include:

  • Amnesia
  • Confusion
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Nausea
  • Nightmares
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors
  • Visual disturbances

It is possible to overdose on Rohypnol. A overdose most often occurs when someone takes the drugs while also drinking alcohol or using another depressant, especially another benzodiazepine. A overdose can be life-threatening and requires medical attention. Signs of an overdose include:

  • Coma
  • Depressed heart rate
  • Extreme sedation
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Speech impairment
  • Trouble breathing

If someone is experiencing a Rohypnol overdose, call 911 immediately.

Rohypnol Withdrawal

Excessive use of Rohypnol may lead to withdrawal symptoms when the use of the drug is stopped. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Intense anxiety
  • Light sensitivity
  • Muscle pain
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Sensation of tingling
  • Numbness in the arms and legs
  • Trembling

The severity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on how often individuals use Rohypnol, how much they use it, and if they use it with other substances. Detox should always be done with medical professionals to ensure safety and comfort. Medical detox is the first step in recovery; it is essential for successful aftercare and healing for patients experiencing withdrawal.

Rohypnol is the brand name for Flunitrazepam, a benzodiazepine that functions as a central nervous system depressant. It is ten times more powerful than Valium. It’s a “club drug” that tends to be used by adults at bars, nightclubs, concerts, and parties. It is also used as a “date rape” drug to incapacitate victims for sexual assault. The use of it has several adverse side effects that can be painful. If you want to stop using Rohypnol, it is best to seek help from a medical professional. Stopping the use of the drug may cause uncomfortable, frightening, and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we use proprietary, evidence-based medical protocols that prioritize our patients’ comfort and safety to guide them through the detox process. We do this by implementing The Gallus Method, which includes IV therapy, cardiac and video monitoring, 24/7 medical staff, and more. To learn more about how to stop using it and step into the world of recovery, contact Gallus Medical Detox Centers today at (720) 669-8178.

Shannon Weir, RN

Shannon Weir, RN is the Chief Nursing Officer at Gallus Medical Detox Centers. She has been a Registered Nurse for 30 years, Shannon’s experience ranges from critical care to flight nursing, medical detox, sexual assault exams, and SWAT nursing. Shannon has been with Gallus Medical Detox Centers since 2010 and is a vital part of our organization.

Last medically reviewed on February 25, 2021

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