Rohypnol is a trade name for flunitrazepam, a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Flunitrazepam is also marketed as generic preparations and other trade name products outside of the United States.
Like other benzodiazepines, Rohypnol produces sedativehypnotic, anti-anxiety, and muscle relaxant effects. This drug has never been approved for medical use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. Outside the United States, Rohypnol is commonly prescribed to treat insomnia. Rohypnol is also referred to as a “date rape” drug.
Rohypnol is smuggled into the United States from other countries, such as Mexico.
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Prior to 1997, Rohypnol was manufactured as a white tablet (0.5-2 milligrams per tablet), and when mixed in drinks, was colorless, tasteless, and odorless. In 1997, the manufacturer responded to concerns about the drug’s role in sexual assaults by reformulating the drug.
Rohypnol is now manufactured as an oblong olive green tablet with a speckled blue core that when dissolved in light-colored drinks will dye the liquid blue. However, generic versions of the drug may not contain the blue dye.
Methods of abuse
The tablet can be swallowed whole, crushed and snorted, or dissolved in liquid. Adolescents may abuse Rohypnol to produce a euphoric effect often described as a “high.” While high, they experience reduced inhibitions and impaired judgment.
Rohypnol is also used in combination with alcohol to produce an exaggerated intoxication.
In addition, abuse of Rohypnol may be associated with multiple-substance abuse. For example, cocaine users may use benzodiazepines such as Rohypnol to relieve the side effects (e.g., irritability and agitation) associated with cocaine binges.
Rohypnol is also misused to physically and psychologically incapacitate victims targeted for sexual assault. The drug is usually placed in the alcoholic drink of an unsuspecting victim to incapacitate them and prevent resistance to sexual assault. The drug leaves the victim unaware of what has happened to them.
Like other benzodiazepines, Rohypnol slows down the functioning of the CNS producing:
- Drowsiness (sedation), sleep (pharmacological hypnosis), decreased anxiety, and amnesia (no memory of events while under the influence of the substance)
Rohypnol can also cause:
- Increased or decreased reaction time, impaired mental functioning and judgment, confusion, aggression, and excitability
Rohypnol causes muscle relaxation. Adverse physical effects include:
- Slurred speech, loss of motor coordination, weakness, headache, and respiratory depression
Rohypnol also can produce physical dependence when taken regularly over a period of time.
High doses of Rohypnol, particularly when combined with CNS depressant drugs such as alcohol and heroin, can cause severe sedation, unconsciousness, slow heart rate, and suppression of respiration that may be sufficient to result in death.
Drugs with similar effects
Drugs that cause similar effects include GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) and other benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (e.g., Xanax), clonazepam (e.g., Klonopin), and diazepam (e.g., Valium).
Legal status in the United States
Rohypnol is a Schedule IV substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Rohypnol is not approved for manufacture, sale, use, or importation to the United States. It is legally manufactured and marketed in many countries. Penalties for possession, trafficking, and distribution involving one gram or more are the same as those of a Schedule I drug.