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Rohypnol Addiction

Rohypnol (brand name version of flunitrazepam) is a benzodiazepine medication. Making, using, or selling this drug in the United States is illegal. But generic versions are made overseas.

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Like all benzodiazepines, Rohypnol can trigger brain changes leading to abuse and addiction. Quitting the drug cold turkey is dangerous, as seizures are part of the withdrawal process. Treatment programs can help you get sober safely.

What Is Rohypnol?

Quick Answer

Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine medication that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has never approved for medical use. People in other countries use it for insomnia.[1]

Rohypnol works as a muscle relaxant and sedative. For people with persistent insomnia, it produces sound sleep that lasts through the night. But these same properties can make Rohypnol an ideal date-rape drug.[1]

At high doses, Rohypnol can also produce euphoria while lowering inhibitions. Some people combine the drug with substances like cocaine for a long-lasting high with few unpleasant side effects. 

Street names for Rohypnol include the following:[1]

  • Circles 
  • Forget Pill 
  • La Rocha 
  • Lunch Money Drug 
  • Ropies 
  • Roofies 

Key Facts About Rohypnol Addiction

Key Facts

  • It’s difficult to determine how many people abuse Rohypnol regularly. Researchers don’t track this figure in annual reports.[2] 
  • Quitting Rohypnol cold turkey can lead to life-threatening seizures. They can appear within 24 hours to two weeks of drug cessation.[3]
  • Rohypnol is not FDA-approved. No doctor in the United States can prescribe this drug legally.
  • Rohypnol remains active in your system for about eight hours. It can be detected in drug tests for about seven days.[4]

Rohypnol Statistics 

  • Nearly 11 million American women have been raped while high on drugs like Rohypnol.[5]
  • Rohypnol is about 10 times stronger than Valium.[6]
  • Up to 18% of Americans have abused drugs like Rohypnol at least once.[7]
  • Emergency room visits triggered by benzodiazepine drugs have increased by 139%.[7]
  • Admissions to treatment programs for benzodiazepines tripled between 1998 and 2008.[7]

Why Is Rohypnol Typically Prescribed?

Rohypnol is illegal within the United States. No doctor practicing in this country can prescribe it. No American pharmacy can fill such a prescription either. 

In other countries, doctors use Rohypnol to treat insomnia. 

Is Rohypnol Addictive?

All benzodiazepines, including Rohypnol, can cause addiction. These medications work directly on brain systems associated with pleasure and reward. Their action can be persistent, causing chemical changes that limit your ability to control your actions. 

As benzo addiction deepens, people may take more of the drug to feel the effects that smaller doses once delivered. And they may keep taking the drug to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and overwhelming drug cravings. 

“Benzodiazepines are widely used in clinics and for recreational purposes, but will lead to addiction in vulnerable individuals.”[8]

Symptoms of Rohypnol Addiction 

Although an individual is more likely to become addicted to other benzodiazepine drugs, such as Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan, it’s possible to become addicted to Rohypnol. 

Recognizing the signs and symptoms can help you assist someone in need. They can be split into three categories.[1,2] 

PhysicalBehavioralPsychological
Muscle relaxationPoor decision-making abilitiesMemory loss
UnconsciousBlackouts up to 24 hoursConfusion
WeaknessExcitabilityLack of inhibition
Lowered heart rate

Side Effects of Rohypnol 

Rohypnol is powerful, and it can cause side effects when used for short and long periods. Problems tend to deepen with high doses.[1,2,5] 

Short-Term Side Effects 

Rohypnol often causes blood pressure to drop, as it is classified as a depressant drug. However, some individuals report having feelings of extreme excitement and even violent tendencies when using the drug.

Rohypnol causes memory loss in most individuals who take it.[9] It also can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and an upset stomach.[5]

Long-Term Side Effects

People who abuse Rohypnol for long periods can develop both physical and psychological dependence. They may be unable to quit using the drug, even if they want to do so.[2] 

Long-term use can also lead to cardiovascular issues, including heart attacks. This symptom can lead to collapse or death.[2]

Short-Term EffectsLong-Term Effects 
Sedation Physical dependence 
AmnesiaPsychological dependence 
Lack of coordinationCardiovascular symptoms 
Confusion Collapse 
AggressionDeath 
Slurred speech 
Sources: [1,2,5]

Rohypnol & Sexual Abuse 

Due to its ability to cause incapacitation, loss of inhibition, and memory loss or amnesia, sexual predators often use Rohypnol as a method of drugging their targets.[5] 

Being roofied means a predator slips a pill into the drink. Sometimes, these assaults happen in party situations. But Rohypnol can also be used in domestic violence episodes. 

In the past, it was impossible to detect the drug. Rohypnol manufacturers responded to societal outrage by making drinks turn bright colors when the drug is present. However, simply changing the color of the medication doesn’t always clue a person in if their drink has been tampered with. Many drinks are green and blue, which renders a blue- or green-colored powder indistinguishable in the drink. 

Other efforts have been made to help people detect date-rape drugs in their drinks. A date-rape drug test can detect Rohypnol and other drugs that are used to incapacitate victims, such as Xanax and Valium.

“Date rape drugs include flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), and ketamine. These drugs are sometimes called ‘club drugs’ because they are often used at dance clubs, concerts, bars, or parties. Most drugs, including club drugs, have nicknames that change over time or are different in different areas of the country.”[5]

Rohypnol Overdose 

Using Rohypnol in excessive amounts or combining it with alcohol or other drugs (particularly other benzodiazepines and opioids) can cause an overdose.

When someone overdoses on Rohypnol, they might exhibit symptoms like slurred speech, respiratory issues, passing out or loss of consciousness, disorientation, hallucinations, and intense abdominal pain. Severe cases of overdose can result in seizures, coma, and even death.[1]

It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you or someone you know has overdosed on Rohypnol. If you experience odd symptoms and believe you have been given the drug, seek urgent medical attention. 

Tell a friend you need help. Since you could potentially pass out quickly, communicate your concern as soon as possible.

“From 2019 to 2020, benzodiazepine overdose visits per 100,000 emergency department visits increased (23.7%), both with (34.4%) and without (21.0%) opioid co-involvement.”[10]

Rohypnol Withdrawal 

While it is uncommon, it is possible to become physically dependent on Rohypnol. If you then suddenly stop taking it, withdrawal symptoms can occur, just as they can with any benzodiazepine drug.

Common withdrawal symptoms include the following:[3]

  • Depression 
  • Confusion 
  • Headaches
  • Tingling 
  • Drug cravings
  • Seizures 

Getting Treatment for Rohypnol Addiction 

If you have been using Rohypnol for any reason, you need addiction treatment. Any use of Rohypnol is considered abuse since the drug is illegal in the U.S.

A comprehensive approach to addiction treatment will include medical detox, therapy, and ongoing support.

Supervised Taper

Medical supervision is needed for benzodiazepine withdrawal. Generally, a tapered approach is recommended. A doctor may switch you to a long-acting benzodiazepine and then taper you off that drug over weeks to months.

Do not suddenly stop taking any benzodiazepine, including Rohypnol, on your own after you’ve been using it for a while. A cold turkey quit could result in life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Consult a physician regarding the best path forward.

Medical Detox 

Your supervised detox program might involve tapering your benzo dose. But it may also involve getting help with abuse of other drugs, such as alcohol and painkillers. 

If you’ve abused multiple drugs at once, a detox program could help you get sober from all of these substances. A team watches over you around the clock to ensure that you get sober safely and avoid relapse. 

Rehabilitation 

Support is a key component of successful recovery from substance use disorders. In addition to support from family members and friends, you’ll participate in helpful activities during rehab and beyond.

Your rehab program might include nutritional support to help your body heal from drug use. You may benefit from meditation and yoga classes to help you calm your mind. And you may attend support groups. 

Many of these elements are included in an inpatient rehab program. As you get better, you may transition to outpatient rehab

Behavioral Therapy 

The core of your addiction treatment program will consist of therapy, often including both individual therapy sessions and group sessions. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly beneficial in helping individuals identify behavioral patterns that result in addiction. CBT can also equip individuals with healthy tools for dealing with life without returning to drug abuse. 

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) may be useful for some people too. This is a form of CBT that involves questions and answers to deepen your understanding of how the addiction has changed your life. 

If Rohypnol was at all related to sexual trauma, you’ll need to address that trauma in therapy as well. Confirm any addiction treatment program you choose has experience dealing with assault recovery.

Rohypnol Addiction Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about Rohypnol addiction.

What is Rohypnol typically prescribed for?

American doctors can’t legally prescribe Rohypnol. In other countries, doctors use the drug to address insomnia. 

Can you get addicted to Rohypnol?

Yes. Like all benzodiazepines, Rohypnol can cause brain changes leading to addiction. 

Is it easy to quit Rohypnol?

No. Benzodiazepines can cause life-threatening symptoms when you try to quit cold turkey. Work with a doctor to get sober safely. 

Is Rohypnol the same as a roofie?

Some people use the two words interchangeably. 

Profile image for Dr. Alison Tarlow
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated January 17, 2024
Resources
  1. Rohypnol. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Published April 2023. Accessed July 28, 2023.
  2. Rohypnol. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Published November 2016. Accessed July 28, 2023.
  3. Greenberg, M. Benzodiazepine withdrawal: Potentially fatal, commonly missed. Emergency Medicine News. 2001;23(12):18. DOI: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000292622.83311.c3
  4. Drug rape information. Life Centre. Accessed July 28, 2023.
  5. Date rape drugs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Published February 22, 2021. Accessed July 28, 2023.
  6. A contemporary facet on Rohypnol: A date-rape drug. Jain P, Kanwal N. MOJ Toxicology. 2018;4(1).
  7. Schmitz A. Benzodiazepine use, misuse, and abuse: A review. Ment Health Clin. 2016;6(3):120-126. Published 2016 May 6. doi:10.9740/mhc.2016.05.120
  8. Tan KR, Brown M, Labouèbe G, et al. Neural bases for addictive properties of benzodiazepines. Nature. 2010;463(7282):769-774. doi:10.1038/nature08758
  9. White AM. What happened? Alcohol, memory blackouts, and the brain. Alcohol Res Health. 2003;27(2):186-196.
  10. Trends in nonfatal and fatal overdoses involving benzodiazepines: 38 states and the District of Columbia in 2019-2020. Liu S, O’Donnell J, Gladden R, McGlone L, Chowdhury F. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published August 27, 2021. Accessed July 28, 2023.
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