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Rohypnol Abuse

Rohypnol is a sedative, hypnotic drug. Most people know it as the date rape drug or as “roofies.” This is because, as the Foundation for a Drug-Free World[1] explains, when taken the, “person experiences loss of muscle control, confusion, drowsiness and amnesia.” Some seek these effects recreationally. Those who take the drug without knowing it find themselves paralyzed. They may be aware of everything going on around them or to them. They may wake up with no memory of what happened. Individuals take advantage of these effects to commit rape, theft and other crimes.

A study published in Psychology of Violence[2] found, “More than 1 in 13 students reported being drugged (462 students, 7.8% of the sample, reported 539 incidents).”

Drugging is not an urban legend. It happens, and it happens more frequently than many suspect. Rohypnol is the most famous date rape drug, yet substances such as GHB and ketamine are similarly used. Rohypnol and rape can lead to or worsen substance abuse problems. Others may turn to Rohypnol after a traumatic experience. Huffington Post[3] explains, “Trauma can lead to self medication (prescription or otherwise) to numb the pain in an attempt to dilute the reality of the occurrence; which in turn can lead to dependency and/or addiction.” Rohypnol and other drugs promise easier sleep, less anxiety and forgetfulness. Drugs worsen problems rather than provide easy answers. Do not ignore rape or other trauma. Do not let substance abuse worsen an already emotional, painful experience. Trauma impacts your life and the life of your loved ones. It is okay to ask for help with co-occurring trauma and substance abuse issues. The Canyon provides compassionate, understanding and effective integrated treatment. Our treatment addresses substance use and issues related to it. Therapists help patients safely explore past trauma and develop healthy ways to cope. We help you find real answers and move forward.

Rohypnol’s Background

rohypnol abuseRohypnol did not begin its life as a criminal aid. Scientists had high hopes for its medical use. They designed Rohypnol to be a powerful benzodiazepine, one of a class of drugs used before surgery, to treat anxiety and in other medical situations. In fact Rohypnol is still a popular medication in many countries. The Center for Substance Abuse Research[4] (CESAR) shares, “It is the most widely prescribed sedative-hypnotic in Western Europe and is legal in many countries.” It is not legal in the United States. Even though it is legal elsewhere, governing bodies recognize its abuse potential. CESAR continues, “Reports of Rohypnol misuse in Europe surfaced in the 1970s, and in 1995 the United Nations reclassified it from a Schedule IV to a Schedule III drug, which requires more thorough record keeping of its legal distribution than was previously in place.” Rohypnol has been misused for nearly as long as it has been available. Some of this misuse is for theft or date rape purposes. Other use involves personal abuse for recreation or self-medication.

Rohypnol is most famous as a “date rape” drug because it is a powerful sedative. These side effects are desirable for other reasons too. Many abuse the drug by taking it intentionally. Rohypnol can and is used recreationally.

Individuals may take it alone or in combination with other substances. They may turn to Rohypnol to self-medicate insomnia, anxiety, pain, traumatic memories or other health issues. Because others abuse the drug by using it to aid theft, rape or other crimes, individuals taking Rohypnol may find their problem is ignored or misunderstood. Personal Rohypnol abuse does not get the same media attention. This should not be the case. Any drug abuse is harmful regardless of whether individuals direct use inward or outward. There is no wrong time or situation to ask for help. The Canyon is here for you whenever you have questions or concerns about your or a loved one’s substance use.

What Does It Do?

Rohypnol slows breath rate, heart rate and other essential functions. It clouds judgment and delays reaction time. Rohypnol can lead to overdose death on its own. It also contributes to the prescription drug abuse problem. Philly Magazine[5] explains, “Between 2003 and 2011, benzodiazepines and cocaine were detected in combination with opioids in approximately 90% and 70% of deaths, respectively…Benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Klonopin and Rohypnol.” Heroin and other opiates tend to get the most media attention, yet deaths involving opiates typically also involve drugs like Rohypnol. Rohypnol is also deadly if mixed with milder-seeming substances. Alcohol is commonly used and widely available. It is also potentially deadly on its own and even more so when used in conjunction with Rohypnol.

Protecting yourself or a loved one from overdose begins with ending polydrug use. It begins with getting help for Rohypnol abuse and for the use of any other drugs. Reach out to us at The Canyon and begin your recovery journey today.


[1] http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/prescription/rohypnol.html. “Rohypnol.” Foundation for a Drug-Free World. Web. 4 Jan 2017.

[2] https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/vio-vio0000060.pdf. “Just a Dare, or Unaware?” Psychology of Violence. 23 May 2016. Web. 4 Jan 2017.

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carole-bennett/the-road-to-addiction—h_b_247534.html. “The Road to Addiction: How Trauma Can Lead to Addiction. 1 Sep 2009. Web. 4 Jan 2017.

[4] http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/rohypnol.asp. “Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol).” Center for Substance Abuse Research. 29 Oct 2013. Web. 4 Jan 2017.

[5] http://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/12/09/heroin-opioid-overdose-philadelphia/. “There’s a Good Way to Fight Heroin Overdoses, but You’re Going to Hate It.” Philly Magazine. 9 Dec 2016. Web. 4 Jan 2017.

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