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What Is Rohypnol?

Rohypnol (pronounced: ro-HIP-nol) is the brand name for a drug called flunitrazepam. It's is in the same family of relaxants as Xanax and Valium, although Rohypnol is much stronger. This powerful sedative can cause drowsiness and amnesia (memory loss).

Rohypnol has never been legal in the United States, though it is used in some countries to treat insomnia. Rohypnol has a reputation as a "date rape drug" because sexual predators sometimes use it to drug people they plan to assault.

Rohypnol is usually taken by dissolving it in liquid and drinking it. Name-brand Rohypnol is a green caplet that turns liquids blue when it dissolves, making it easier to see. Generic versions of the drug come as white pills, many with the word "ROCHE" stamped on them. These versions of the drug have no color, smell, or taste when they're dissolved in liquids. People who use Rohypnol also may swallow the pills or grind them into a powder and snort it.

Short-Term Effects

Rohypnol makes most users feel sleepy and relaxed. In rare cases, Rohypnol can make the user more excitable and aggressive.

The effects of Rohypnol usually begin 15 to 20 minutes after taking the drug and last for 4 to 6 hours. Some lingering effects of the drug may last for 12 hours or more.

Larger doses of Rohypnol can lower the user's inhibitions and cause blackouts and memory loss. People also can black out or not remember anything when they take Rohypnol with alcohol or other drugs.

Other short-term effects include:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • tremors
  • nightmares
  • slurred speech or problems speaking
  • impaired mental functioning and judgment
  • impaired limb and muscle control
  • amnesia

Long-Term Effects

Despite its reputation as a date rape drug, most Rohypnol is taken by people who believe it gives them a high. Some people use drug over a long period, and may develop a tolerance to it and have to take larger doses to feel the same high. Long-term use of larger amounts can cause dependence on the drug — in other words, addiction.

Other long-term effects include:

  • impaired sexual function
  • sleep problems
  • respiratory problems
  • depression and other mental health issues

Other Possible Problems

Taking too much Rohypnol at one time, or taking it with other drugs or alcohol, can cause a person's heart rate and breathing to slow to the point where he or she dies.

Some people take Rohypnol with cocaine or heroin. This greatly increases the chances of bad side effects and death.

Rohypnol affects a person's judgment, including making decisions about having sex or using condoms. This puts Rohypnol users at risk for getting an STD.

Rohypnol is illegal in the United States and is considered a Schedule IV controlled substance — it's not approved for sale, use, or importation. People who possess or willingly taking Rohypnol can receive the same punishment as users of Schedule I drugs (LSD, heroin), such as hefty fines and jail time.

Giving someone Rohypnol without his or her permission with the intent to rape or sexually assault the person can add 20 years to a jail sentence.

How Can Someone Quit?

Rohypnol can be addictive and very difficult to quit. Quitting all at once ("cold turkey") can cause tremors, respiratory problems, and seizures.

To avoid serious complications, people trying to kick a Rohypnol habit should do so under the supervision of a doctor or licensed therapist. When someone wants to quit Rohypnol, it often means going to a rehab facility or treatment center where users can ease themselves off the drug gradually.

If you think you might be addicted to Rohypnol, talk with a counselor or join a support group. These things can be a good first step toward quitting.

Avoiding Rohypnol

Saying "no" if someone offers you Rohypnol is one way to avoid the drug. But what if it's slipped into your drink? Because some versions of Rohypnol have no color, smell, or taste, there's no clue that a drink may be spiked. So avoiding Rohypnol also means staying aware of what's going on around you at parties, raves, or clubs. Never accept an open drink from a stranger or someone you don't know well or completely trust. Always keep your drink with you so there's no chance for someone to slip Rohypnol or another drug into it.

Watch out for your friends at parties, clubs, or raves, and ask them to keep an eye on you so you can all stay safe. If someone passes out, get the person to a hospital right away.

If you find out that someone used Rohypnol to commit a sexual assault, tell the police, even if the person who did it is a friend. It can be hard to turn in a friend, but it's the right thing to do. Plus, if you knew what was going on but don't speak up, you might be in trouble too.

Reviewed by: Julia Brown Lancaster, MSN, WHNP-BC
Date reviewed: February 2014