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The Tragic Problem of Rohypnol, Roofies, and Trauma

In the early 1990s awareness increased about a drug that was often referred to as the “date rape” drug. Known on the streets as “roofies,” Rohypnol has never been approved for any medical use in the United States. Therefore, it is illegal to manufacture, distribute or possess Rohypnol in this country.

According to the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica – UCLA Medical Center, Rohypnol is the brand name for flunitrazepam. This drug is a benzodiazepine, which is the same category as medications, such as Valium and Xanax. Benzodiazepines are used primarily to produce sedation, sleep or muscle relaxation; to reduce seizures and anxiety; and to produce anterograde amnesia, a desired effect for some surgical procedures.

How is Rohypnol Used?

Since Rohypnol is illegal in the United States, the drug is smuggled into the country in pill form, crushed into powder or even in liquid form. People who intend to use the drug on an unsuspecting victim will often place either the pill or powder into a drink because it dissolves quickly and has no smell or taste.

What Are the Effects of Rohypnol Use?

The physical effects of Rohypnol may be noticeable within twenty to thirty minutes after ingestion, can last for several hours, and can include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Dis-inhibition
  • Impaired judgment
  • Reduced levels of consciousness

As a result, in a social setting that involves alcohol, many people who observe a person who has ingested Rohypnol will assume that the person is merely drunk. His or her speech may be slurred and the user may have difficulty walking – both common symptoms associated with excessive drinking.

However, a greater cause of alarm is when Rohypnol is combined with alcohol or other drugs. The combination can produce extremely low blood pressure, respiratory depression, difficulty breathing, coma or even death.

Trauma Associated with Rohypnol-Induced Rape

Woman hiding faceUnderstanding the impact of drugs that were used to facilitate rape was an assignment that the U.S. Attorney General gave to the Department of Justice in 1997.

The report, entitled, Drug-Facilitated Rape: Looking for the Missing Pieces, has provided considerable insight on this topic. While the research was unable to give specific statistics about the occurrence of drug-facilitated rape, it did provide several insights into the trauma associated with the rape.

Not surprisingly, many victims were as traumatized by the cruel and criminal act of being given the drug as they were by the physical rape that also occurred. Having been deprived of the ability to think clearly and having lost the ability to recall events causes many victims to struggle with a significant sense of powerlessness. Many victims of trauma suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms that include having recurrent, intrusive recollections, thoughts, flashbacks and nightmares.

To add insult to injury, for drug-induced rape victims, they are unable to have these flashbacks of a real experience and often have even more frightening assumptions because they do not know what in fact happened to them.


Reactions to Trauma Caused by Rohypnol-Induced Rape

Many people who endure a Rohypnol-induced rape do struggle with severe stress disorders that require care and treatment. Started in 1999, is a nonprofit health organization that has a mission to provide free, unbiased information to people facing mental and emotional health challenges.

In their article on Emotional and Psychological Trauma, people who suffer with trauma can experience a range of emotional, psychological and physical symptoms including the following:

  • Shock, denial or disbelief
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling disconnected or numb
  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Being startled easily
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Edginess and agitation
  • Muscle tension

Even experiencing these symptoms for a short period of time can have a significant negative impact on a person’s quality of life. Without treatment, these symptoms rarely diminish on their own, thus causing even more stress and discomfort in a person’s life.

Treatment for Trauma Caused by Rohypnol-Induced Rape

Many people struggle with the post-trauma healing process and are unsure of when to seek treatment. identifies several conditions that should cause people to consider getting help, including the following:

  • Having trouble functioning at home or work
  • Suffering from severe fear, anxiety or depression
  • Unable to form close, satisfying relationships
  • Avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma
  • Emotionally numb and disconnected from others
  • Using alcohol or drugs to feel better

There are a variety of treatment options that are geared especially for dealing with trauma. It may make sense for you to understand your options and then seek a therapist who specializes in providing the treatment modality that you think will work best for you. Two common treatment options are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you process and evaluate your thoughts and feelings about a trauma and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), which is designed to unblock traumatic memories so that you can work through them.

Regardless of the treatment method you choose, getting help should be your first priority. It is important for you to get treatment as soon as possible to mitigate the chance for your symptoms to worsen over time.


Get Help for Trauma

At a time that you are feeling a loss of power, it is important to reach out to get the treatment you need. We can help you do this, so please call our toll-free helpline today at 760.548.4032. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about treatment for trauma.