Rohypnol (generic name flunitrazepam) is a well-known CNS depressant in the same class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are skeletal muscle relaxants and sedative-hypnotics (sleep-inducing) widely used for the treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders, anxiety and seizure disorders.
The effects of these drugs are dose-dependent. Lower doses cause sedation and relaxation and higher doses promote sleep. While Rohypnol is in the same class as Valium, it is 10x more potent and was never approved to be sold or used in the United States. They are smuggled into the U.S. packaged (disguised) as OTC cold medicine or contraceptive pills in 1mg or 2mg flunitrazepam concentrations.1
These tiny white pills are tasteless, odorless and can be dissolved undetected in liquid. After being heavily implicated in many date rape cases, Rohypnol was reformulated and are now come in oblong green tablets that turn blue when dissolved in liquid. It will then make a spiked drink easier to spot.
In the workplace, Rohypnol is not a standard test like the SAMHSA 5 which includes:
- Cannabinoids (Hash, Marijuana)
- Cocaine (Benzoylecognine, Crack, Cocaine)
- Amphetamines (Speed, Amphetamines, Methamphetamines?
- Opiates (Codeine, Morphine, Heroin, Opium)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
Employers who have reasonable suspicion that an employee who has reported for work is under the lingering effects of Rohypnol, may request that a test be performed on said employee. Reasonable suspicion is a common stipulation in drug free workplace policies.
Screening Cut-off and Detection Time
In drug screening, the cut-off level is that point which separates a negative and a positive test result. Screening cut-off levels are established where drug detection is optimized with the least probability for false positives. It is important to remember that a negative sample does not necessarily mean that it is drug-free, only that it contains a drug at a concentration that is below the established cut-off
|Urine (Flunitrazepam)||400 ng/ml||up to 72 hours from ingestion or 3-7 days (BZO)|
DEA Drug Class
Rohypnol is controlled under Schedule IV of the Controlled Substances Act, pursuant to a treaty obligation under the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. When flunitrazepam was placed temporarily under Schedule IV there was no evidence yet in the U.S. of Rohypnol abuse or trafficking. Schedule IV lists drugs, substances or chemicals that:6
- have a low potential for abuse compared to Schedule III drugs;
- have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.;
- may lead to limited psychological or physical dependence compared to Schedule III drugs.
Other Schedule IV drugs include:7
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Ionamin (phentermine)
- Valium Diazepam
- Xanax (alprazolam)
While Rohypnol is scheduled with other benzodiazepines as a Schedule IV drug, the Drug Induced Rape Prevention Act imposes, depending on quantity, the same penalties for trafficking Rohypnol as those imposed upon Schedule I, II and III substances.
Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) is a CNS depressant. These drugs are also called “downers”, sedatives or tranquilizers. They slow down brain activity, inducing a state of relaxation. Depressants are prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders.
Forms and Routes of Administration
Rohypnol preparations are typically 1mg or 2mg tablets. The routes of administration are as follows:
- Oral – the tablet is either swallowed, chewed or allowed to dissolve under the tongue. As a date rape drug, Rohypnol is simply dropped into the victim’s drink where it will dissolve undetected. The manufacturer responded to this by reformulating the drug and adding a blue dye so that it can be detected when used to spike a drink.
- Snorting – the tablet is crushed/pounded into powder form for snorting, as it takes effect quicker in this manner.
- Smoking – the crushed powder is sprinkled on marijuana joints so it can be smoked.
- Injection – the drug is dissolved in liquid and injected.
Rohypnol takes effect within 15-20 minutes after ingestion and stays in the system for at least 12 hours.
Rohypnol is actually a brand name for flunitrazepam. Other brands names for flunitrazepam per country are:
Argentina: Nervocuril; Primum; Rohypnol;
Austria: Guttanotte; Rohypnol; Somnubene;
Brazil: Rohydorm; Rohypnol;
Czech Republic: Rohypnol;
Chile: Ipnopen; Denmark: Flunipam; Ronal;
France: Narcozep; Rohypnol;
Greece: Hipnosedon; Neo Nifalium; Ilman Vulbegal;
Germany: Flunibeta; Fluninoc; Rohypnol;
Hong Kong: Flunita; Rohypnol;
Italy: Darkene; Roipnol; Valsera;
Portugal: Rohypnol; Sedex;
South Africa: Insom; Rohypnol;
Uses of Rohypnol
Medical/Therapeutic Uses for Rohypnol
- Treatment for insomnia
- Treatment of cocaine/crack withdrawal symptoms
Recreational Uses for Rohypnol
Unfortunately, practically all non-medical Rohypnol use are not intentional. The “user” almost always does not realize they’ve ingested it, as it has most likely been slipped into their (unattended) drinks at a club or party. Within minutes, the person taking the drug will feel incredibly relaxed or overly tired and wanting to sleep. They will not be totally unconscious but will not be in any position to understand, much less stop what is happening to them. They will be incapacitated from 8-12 hours. This drug can cause anterograde amnesia and upon waking, the victim will have no recollection of events.
- Lunch Money drug
- La Rocha
- Mexican Valium
- Decreased anxiety
- Impaired judgment
- Impaired mental functioning
- Impaired motor coordination
- Impaired reaction time
- Muscle relaxation
- Rapid mood swings
- Sleep/Loss of consciousness
- Slowed breathing
- Slurred speech
- Slowed heart rate
- Social isolation
- Violent temper outburst
- Cardiovascular collapse
- Physical dependence
- Psychological dependence
Rohypnol is highly addictive and can dominate a person’s life within only a few uses. The effects are worse when combined with other drugs, either in an effort to gain a more intense euphoric high or to mask the side effects of the other drugs. Within days of the last use of Rohypnol, withdrawal symptoms kick in. They can be so severe that users are driven to use again with even higher doses. It becomes a vicious cycle that the user soon finds he/she cannot get out of without help.
The history of Rohypnol is tightly intertwined with that of benzodiazepines. From the 1950s through the 1970s, Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann–La Roche was deep into work on benzodiazepines. They modified the basic benzodiazepine structure and came out with several tranquilizers, including Rohypnol in 1975.
The patent for Rohypnol was actually applied for in 1962, but it was only manufactured in 1972 and finally made commercially available in the European market in 1975.2 It was initially prescribed to sedate and induce sleep in patients suffering from severe insomnia or chronic pain disorders, but it did not take long for Rohypnol to surface as a recreational drug and reports soon came out that it was being used in criminal activities. At the time, the drug was legal in many countries but not in the United States3 where it was made a Schedule IV drug in 1983. Nevertheless, by the early 1980s Rohypnol entered the US markets through international purchases, and before the decade ended it has become a very popular recreational drug among young adults frequenting the club scene.
In 1995, the UN reclassified Rohypnol from a Schedule IV status to Schedule III. In the U.S., some states have it under Schedule I, while the DEA is reviewing possibly reclassifying it at a federal level. In 1995, the FDA banned ALL importation of Rohypnol into the United States.