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What Makes Rohypnol Different from other Substances?

Rohypnol, a brand name for flunitrazepam, is a unique substance. It differs from other legal and illegal drugs used today. It’s a benzodiazepine, so it has similar chemical properties as other sedative-hypnotic drugs like Xanax or Valium. Unlike these products, Rohypnol has not been approved for use in the United States. Other countries may prescribe it to treat insomnia and other health issues, but its risks typically outweigh its benefits.

Why Is Rohypnol Illegal?

Rohypnol has a high risk for dependence, addiction, and other serious health effects. This is why it is illegal to manufacture, possess and use Rohypnol in the United States. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean it can’t be easily found. The drug is notoriously smuggled across the Mexican border into the States. It is also available to purchase online. Rohypnol has a unique legal status.

It’s classified as a Schedule IV drug, but because it isn’t approved for medical use, trafficking the drug results in the same penalties as for Schedule III, II or even I drugs.

Why Is Rohypnol a Problem?

Rohypnol was most popular in the early 90s. This is when it earned its label as a “club drug” and a “date rape” drug. This drug is notorious for its connection to sexual assaults. The drug is commonly given to a victim because it can induce sleep, relax the muscles, and interfere with memory. Sexual assault victims are unable to resist and often have trouble remembering the assault or recalling important details when the drug wears off. Rohypnol can come in colorless, odorless, and tasteless forms which is how sexual predators sneak the drug into drink or food.

How Does Rohypnol Work?

Rohypnol comes in pill form. However, when it is misused, most people crush up the pill and snort it or add it to a drink. Individuals may liquefy the crushed substance and inject it in order to achieve even quicker results. Rohypnol works by enhancing the activity of GABA (gamma anion butyric acid). GABA is a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger in the brain. It tells the brain to calm down or to slow certain activity. Rohypnol increases the release of GABA. This in turn impairs several different processes including memory, thought processes, cognition, muscle coordination, and emotional reactions.

What Are the Risks of Rohypnol Use?

There are several negative effects of Rohypnol use. These risks and dangers can arise after just a single time using. Common side effects of Rohypnol use include the following:

  • Retroactive amnesia
  • Drowsiness
  • Visual disturbances
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Memory impairment
  • Tremors
  • Night terrors
  • Poor reaction time
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Impaired speech
  • Seizure
  • Respiratory depression
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

While Rohypnol differs from other benzodiazepines in many ways, it doesn’t differ in its ability to interfere with health and wellbeing. It too can cause physical and psychological dependence and produce withdrawal syndrome. But even here it isn’t the same as other drugs.

Sedation explains, “The sedative, antianxiety, amnesic, and muscle-relaxing properties of flunitrazepam are similar to those of diazepam except that its sedative and sleep-inducing properties are more pronounced and longer lasting than those of diazepam.” Flunitrazepam is 15 times stronger than diazepam, another benzodiazepine drug.1

This makes addiction much more likely and use much more risky. It makes getting treatment for Rohypnol use, abuse or addiction that much more essential.

What Happens During Rohypnol Treatment?

Rohypnol treatment usually begins with detox. During medically supervised detox services, patients receive 24-hour-a-day medical monitoring and personal assistance as they overcome withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of Rohypnol withdrawal can include the following:
  • Aggression
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Coma

Attempting to detox without professional help is dangerous and difficult. And detox is just the beginning of a person’s recovery journey. It’s followed by a comprehensive rehab program to help an individual address the factors influencing drug use and keeping him or her trapped in the cycle of addiction. Anyone can break from Rohypnol and other addictions, but it takes support and treatment.

Find Treatment for Rohypnol or Other Benzodiazepine Addiction

If you are ready to learn more about treatment for Rohypnol or other benzodiazepine addiction, you can call our toll-free helpline any time. Get immediate help from a recovery professional, and let us answer your questions, provide information about addiction, and connect you to the treatment options that are right for you. We can help you find the people and services that will work for you and your unique recovery needs.

By Alanna Hilbink

1Malamed, Stanley ed. Sedation. 2018.