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Side Effects of Rohypnol

Side effects of Rohypnol include sedation, drowsiness, disorientation, euphoria, loss of consciousness, memory lapses, and loss of muscle control. With repeated use, Rohypnol can lead to physical dependence and addiction.

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In the United States, Rohypnol is a banned substance and only used illicitly.

Why Is Rohypnol Used?

Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) is in the benzodiazepine class of drugs. It is a powerful depressant that is about 10 times more potent than Valium.

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The drug is widely available in Europe, Mexico, and Colombia, where it is prescribed for the treatment of severe sleep disorders. Although it is still legally manufactured in other countries, it is not approved for sale or manufactured in the United States. Illegal use of Rohypnol in the U.S. started in the early 1990s. 

Rohypnol was initially produced as a colorless, tasteless, and odorless white tablet. Due to sexual predators using it to spike drinks and incapacitate victims, some Rohypnol manufacturers designed the drug in other colors, like blue, to increase visibility. However, the original form of the drug still remains in circulation.

Side Effects of Using Rohypnol 

Rohypnol effects usually last for around 12 hours and start within 30 minutes of taking the drug. Depending on the dose amount, side effects can gradually increase, or they can seem to hit suddenly and without warning. 

Side effects will also depend on how the drug is administered. If a person did not knowingly take Rohypnol, the onset of effects will be very confusing and disorienting. 

Short-Term Effects

Rohypnol will produce many short-term side effects just like other benzodiazepines. Short-term symptoms of Rohypnol use generally include the following: 

  • Euphoria
  • Extreme brain fog
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Feelings of extreme drunkenness
  • Lapses in memory
  • Loss of consciousness

Rohypnol will also augment the effects of any other substances used in conjunction with it, including alcohol, marijuana, other benzodiazepines, and opioids. The dangers associated with Rohypnol use increase exponentially when the drug is taken with other substances, particularly alcohol or opioids.

Long-Term Effects

Rohypnol is not a drug that is commonly abused on a long-term basis, as other benzodiazepines are generally preferred. Long-term symptoms of using Rohypnol include the following:

  • Addiction
  • Physical dependence
  • Intense (and sometimes dangerous) withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing use
  • Cognitive impairment

Rohypnol & Date Rape 

Rohypnol is termed the date rape drug because of this. While some people experiment with Rohypnol knowingly for its benzodiazepine effects, others are given the drug without their knowledge to facilitate date rape or other forms of sexual assault.

As Rohypnol tablets are usually odorless and tasteless, they may easily be slipped into drinks. People, generally women but sometimes men, who are given this drug then become victims of sexual assault. Victims often awake with no memory of what happened to them. 

Signs that a person has been drugged with Rohypnol include the following:

  • Mobility issues
  • Slurred speech
  • Lazy or drooping eyes
  • Sudden changes in mood and behavior
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness

Never leave your drink unattended when in social settings like bars and nightclubs. Stay in contact with friends you go out with, and try to avoid being alone with anyone you have just met. 

If you believe you might have been given Rohypnol or any other drug, immediately tell someone. If you can’t find your friends, tell people around you that you may have been drugged. Ask them to not let you leave with anyone. 

If you have been taken advantage of after being dosed with Rohypnol, seek medical attention. Take care of your health first to ensure your overall safety. You can also report the incident to local law enforcement as soon as possible. 

Signs & Symptoms of Rohypnol Withdrawal

Cases where individuals use and abuse Rohypnol knowingly are rare, especially when compared to other benzodiazepines that are more frequently abused, such as Valium, Xanax, and Ativan. 

Although Rohypnol is one of the least likely benzodiazepines to be abused or misused intentionally, abuse can still occur. If this is the case, addiction treatment can help.

Just like any other benzodiazepine, Rohypnol can cause both psychological and physical dependence. Rohypnol can induce physical and psychological dependency quickly, even after only a short time of use.

Signs of Rohypnol abuse include the following:

  • Engaging in drug-seeking behavior
  • Putting oneself in risky and unsafe situations to acquire the drug
  • Inability to meet school or work obligations
  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Slurred speech
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Financial issues
  • Social detachment

Signs of Rohypnol withdrawal include the following:

  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Elevated blood pressure

Rohypnol-induced withdrawal symptoms can vary greatly, depending on personal physiological factors, one’s psychological state, and the amount and frequency of use. If an individual has become physically dependent on Rohypnol, they should not stop taking the drug suddenly. Medical detox is required to safely wean the person off the benzodiazepine, and most often, they will be switched to a long-acting benzodiazepine for the tapering schedule.

Signs & Symptoms Rohypnol Overdose

Signs of a Rohypnol overdose include extreme drowsiness, hallucinations, blurred or distorted vision, dizziness, confusion, disorientation, mood swings, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and overall incapacitation.

If an overdose is suspected, seek emergency medical care. Prompt treatment can ensure your safety. 

The U.S. Department of Justice warns that high doses of Rohypnol can cause severe sedation, slowed heart rate, respiratory issues, and loss of consciousness. An overdose of Rohypnol can ultimately cause suppression of respiration that can result in permanent brain damage or even death. 

Updated February 7, 2024
Resources
  1. Effects of Concomitant Benzodiazepines and Antidepressants Long-Term Use on Social Decision-Making: Results From the Ultimatum Game. (June 2022). Frontiers in Psychology.
  2. Benzodiazepines. (November 2022). StatPearls.
  3. Upregulation of Uric Acid Production and Caspase 3 Signalling Mediates Rohypnol-Induced Cardiorenal Damage. (February 2022). Cardiovascular Toxicology.
  4. Suppression of Glutathione System and Upregulation of Caspase 3-Dependent Apoptosis Mediate Rohypnol-induced Gastric Injury. (May 2022). The Redox Report.
  5. Drug Fact Sheet: Rohypnol. (April 2020). U.S. Department of Justice.
  6. Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use. (August 2013). American Family Physician.
  7. Drug-Facilitated Date Rape. (July 2001). CMAJ.
  8. The Date Rape Predator Drug: Rohypnol. (May–June 2017). Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological and Chemical Sciences.
  9. Acute Intoxication Caused by Overdose of Flunitrazepam and Triazolam. (December 2012). The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology.
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