Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) is often called the “date rape” drug. It is a strong sedative that causes decreased brain function and can lead to physical dependence and addiction.
Signs And Symptoms Of A Flunitrazepam Addiction
Flunitrazepam works in the central nervous system (CNS) to calm anxiety, reduce muscle tension and ease insomnia. Regular use can lead to addiction when a person takes more of the drug to avoid withdrawal and craves the positive feeling it gives them.
Flunitrazepam addiction can negatively affect judgment, impulse control and concern for one’s own safety.
A sign that someone may be suffering from flunitrazepam addiction is a shift in behavior toward less social inhibition. They may also experience decreased coordination, slurred speech and dulled reflexes.
These effects may be accompanied by symptoms such as:
- extreme muscle relaxation
- decreased blood pressure
- impaired memory
Flunitrazepam abuse can also cause anterograde amnesia, which may erase all memory of the event that occurred when a person took the drug and affect the ability to establish new memories.
What Is Flunitrazepam?
Flunitrazepam is a benzodiazepine branded as Rohypnol. Benzodiazepines are sedative-hypnotic drugs that decrease brain activity and relax the body and are classified as central nervous system depressants.
Other benzodiazepines include lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium), which are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Flunitrazepam is 10 times stronger than Valium, which raises concerns about its safety.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has not approved flunitrazepam as a legal medication in the U.S. It is still used for medicinal purposes in many other countries, such as Europe and Mexico, and it is smuggled into the U.S. for illicit use.
In the U.S., flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) is known as the “date rape” drug, and is also called roofies, ruffies, rope, la rocha, Mexican Valium, forget-me-pill, wolfies and circles.
It is a small, round, white tablet with no taste or odor that dissolves quickly, making it easy to put into someone’s drink unnoticed. Its sedative effects paired with alcohol make it difficult for a victim to remain conscious or coherent.
The U.S. government passed an act in 1996 to prevent drug-induced rape. It set a greater penalty on manufacturing, possession and importation of flunitrazepam. It also focused on increased punishment for those who use flunitrazepam on victims of sexual assault.
The original manufacturer of Rohypnol responded to reports of assault by changing the pill to a green oval shape and adding blue dye that seeps into liquid when it dissolves. However, generic versions don’t have these features, and flunitrazepam is often packaged to look like a legal substance, such as birth control, so it can be smuggled into the U.S.
Effects Of Flunitrazepam On The Brain
A neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is responsible for calming brain function and naturally reducing anxiety. Flunitrazepam works with GABA to further slow brain function and produce relaxation or sedation.
GABA is also responsible for regulating dopamine levels. A 2012 study on benzodiazepines showed that drugs like flunitrazepam reduce the functioning of GABA receptors, which lowers inhibition of dopamine production. This causes the brain to produce more dopamine than usual.
Increased levels of dopamine result in a warm, pleasurable feeling. This, paired with its relaxing effects, is why flunitrazepam is referred to as a “club drug” and is taken recreationally. Some people may also take flunitrazepam to manage withdrawal from other drugs, such as cocaine. Such uses can easily turn into addiction.
Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) Addiction And Withdrawal
Usually, flunitrazepam is taken orally—swallowed, chewed or dissolved in liquid. It takes effect in 15 to 20 minutes and can last around 12 hours. It may produce a faster effect when crushed and snorted or dissolved and injected.
Someone suffering from addiction may use flunitrazepam with other substances, such as marijuana, heroin or alcohol. Heroin and alcohol, also central nervous system depressants, especially increase the effects of flunitrazepam. When these substances are used together, there is more risk of blackout, respiratory depression and death.
When someone takes flunitrazepam frequently, the body builds a tolerance to it, which means a higher dose is required to produce the same results. This can create dependence, which leads to withdrawal symptoms if a person stops taking the drug.
Flunitrazepam withdrawal symptoms include:
- muscle pain or tension
- tingling of extremities
Treatment For Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) Addiction
The first step toward treatment for flunitrazepam addiction is detoxification to clear the drug from the body. Medically-supervised programs are available to ease this process for those suffering from uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
There are currently no medications approved for treating flunitrazepam addiction. Other treatment options are available and may include behavioral therapy and counseling. Inpatient drug rehab centers offer specialized programs based on a patient’s needs to help individuals overcome addiction and move forward with their lives.
Contact us today to learn more about treatment options for flunitrazepam addiction.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration—Drug Fact Sheet: Rohypnol