What to Know About Rohypnol (flunitrazepam)

Whiskey or bourbon in a shot glass and pack of pills
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Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) is an illicit drug that belongs to a class of depressants called benzodiazepines. It works by dramatically slowing the function of the central nervous system, but is approximately 10 times more potent than, say, Valium (diazepam) and results in sedation deep enough to render a person who takes it completely incapacitated. For this reason, it is best known as the "date rape drug" as it has been used to facilitate sexual assault. Rohypnol also is abused as a recreational, or "club" drug, often in conjunction with alcohol. Although Rohypnol is used for medicinal purposes in certain other countries, it is not approved for manufacture, sale, or use in the United States where it is classified as a Schedule IV drug.

Street Names

Besides the date rape drug, Rohypnol also is known as circles, forget pill, forget-me-pill, la rocha, lunch money drug, Mexican valium, pingus, r2, Reynolds, roach, roach 2, roaches, roachies, roapies, robutal, rochas dos, rohypnol, roofies, rophies, ropies, roples, row-shay, ruffies, and wolfies.

Use and Abuse

Rohypnol is an olive green oblong tablet produced by the pharmaceutical manufacturer Hoffman-La Roche. In Europe and Latin America, due to its quick-acting effects, it sometimes is prescribed as a short-term treatment for insomnia or given to help relax someone prior to receiving anesthesia.

In the United States, Rohypnol is used recreationally as a party or club drug, mostly by adolescent boys and young men between 13 and 30. Those who abuse Rohypnol often combine it with alcohol, usually beer, in order to produce an exaggerated high. Part of the appeal of Rohyphol as a party drug is its low cost—about $5 per tablet.

People addicted to certain other drugs, such as cocaine, ecstasy, or amphetamines, sometimes turn to Rohypnol to relieve side effects of withdrawal such as irritability and agitation.

However, Rohypnol is most notorious as a date rape drug. It has no flavor and dissolves easily in liquids. It can be slipped into a victim's drink without their knowledge, quickly leaving them incapacitated and vulnerable to sexual assault.

When dissolved in a light-colored beverage, Rohypnol will dye the drink blue, but it is not discernible in dark beverages like bourbon or cola.

Side Effects

Within 10 minutes of ingesting Rohypnol, a person will begin to experience its initial effects—nausea, feeling too hot and too cold at the same time, dizziness, confusion, and disorientation. They may have trouble speaking and moving, become socially inhibited, and have visual disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, and urine retention.

Their blood pressure will drop and they will become drowsy and eventually black out (lose consciousness.) Side effects of Rohypnol typically peak within two hours but can persist for up to eight hours. Most people who take the drug have no memory of what happened while under its influence.

Although it's unlikely you'll remember what occurred while under its influence, if someone slips you Rohypnol there are clues to be aware of:

  • Feeling intoxicated without having drunk much (or any) alcohol
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Finding yourself in a certain location without knowing how you got there
  • Waking up feeling confused or hungover
  • Being unable to remember anything after having a drink

To protect yourself, be wary of accepting drinks from anyone you don't know or trust. Never leave a drink unattended or take your eyes off of it.

Signs someone else has taken Rohypnol (knowingly or unknowingly) include:

  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Extreme and uncharacteristic indecisiveness
  • Exaggerated intoxication
  • Aggressive or excited behavior
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Increased or decreased reaction time

Addiction

Recreational use of Rohyphol can result in tolerance, meaning more and more of the drug will be necessary to achieve the desired high, and dependence, which is marked by a driving need to use the drug in order to mitigate the harsh effects of withdrawal, such as.

People who become addicted to Rohypnol will experience these withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop taking the drug. Some can be fatal so it's advisable to quit taking the drug under a doctor's supervision.

Interactions

The combination of Rohypnol with alcohol or another drug such as heroin can lead to an overdose or even death. Emergency medical help is vital for anyone who experiences the following after having combined Rohypnol with another substance:

  • Severe sedation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Slow heart rate
  • Slowed or troubled breathing

A Word From Verywell

Although it isn't manufactured or even prescribed in the United States, Rohypnol is surprisingly easy to obtain and inexpensive to purchase. Parents and caregivers of teens and young adults should be aware of the signs of drug use as well as the potential dangers of being slipped an illicit drug. Keeping the lines of communication open about the dangers of drugs isn't always easy but it's a goal worth striving for.

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