Health Effects of Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam)

Health Effects of Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam)

Rohypnol is the brand name of a drug once commonly available in America; the name now also serves as a generic term widely used to describe all forms of flunitrazepam, a sedative-hypnotic drug that belongs to a class of substances called benzodiazepines. However, like all other flunitrazepam products, actual Rohypnol is banned from U.S. markets. Along with other drugs called ketamine and gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), flunitrazepam also belongs to an informal group of substances known in some contexts as “club drugs,” and in other contexts as “date rape” drugs. Use of flunitrazepam can have negative impacts on your health that range in severity from relatively minor to medically serious or potentially fatal.

The Basics

In addition to brand-name Rohypnol, flunitrazepam products available outside the U.S. are known by brand names that include Insom, Flunipam and Hipnosedon. In America, all of these products are commonly (and inaccurately) referred to as Rohypnol, or by the slang term “Roofies.” Much of the illegal flunitrazepam available in the U.S. ultimately comes from legitimate drug companies in Mexico. Since flunitrazepam is an illegal substance in America and has no allowable use in medical treatment, all users of the drug in this country qualify as drug abusers.

Like all benzodiazepines, flunitrazepam achieves its drug effects by increasing the effects of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitting chemical in the brain that helps make normal human function possible by controlling communication rates between various brain cells. Through their effects on GABA levels, benzodiazepines slow down brain cell communication and reduce overall activity levels in the brain and spinal cord (which, together, form the central nervous system). Specific results of this slowdown include sedation (reduction of any agitation or irritability) and reduction of anxiety-related emotions such as fear, uneasiness, worry, and dread.

Common Effects

Flunitrazepam comes in pill form, but some users crush these pills and then inhale them or ingest them with drinks or food. Once it enters the body, the drug exerts its effects on the central nervous system in roughly 15 to 20 minutes. These effects commonly last for 12 hours or longer, and in addition to sedation and anxiety reduction, they generally trigger muscle relaxation, unusually low blood pressure, garbled or slurred speech, confusion or disorientation, sleepiness, dizziness, altered vision, memory impairment, slowed reflexes, stomach distress, and headaches. Other common effects include nightmares, muscle tremors, and disruption of normal urination.

In addition to general memory impairment, flunitrazepam frequently produces a form of amnesia called anterograde amnesia. People with this condition commonly can’t remember what happened to them for an extended amount of time immediately following the onset of the drug’s effects. In some circumstances, the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, sexual predators purposefully introduce colorless, odorless, and tasteless forms of flunitrazepam into the drinks of unaware or unsuspecting people at parties and other common social gatherings. In combination with the advanced sedative effects of high doses of the drug, the presence of anterograde amnesia gives these predators a window to assault their victims and then disappear before anyone can easily identify them or link them to their crimes. It is this set of potential circumstances that gives flunitrazepam its well-deserved reputation as a “date rape” drug that facilitates a wide variety of sexual assaults.

Lethal Effects

As with any other benzodiazepine drug, high levels of flunitrazepam can depress the central nervous system below a sustainable point and trigger the onset of advanced medical problems such as severe interruption of the normal breathing reflex and a persistent, unresponsive state called coma. The same central nervous system disruption can produce a complete suppression of normal organ function that ultimately results in death. The potential for fatal consequences escalates dramatically in flunitrazepam abusers who simultaneously drink alcohol or take any other drug that contributes to a slowdown of normal activity in the central nervous system.

Dependence and Addiction

Like all drugs in its class, flunitrazepam produces significant risks for the onset of physical dependence in long-term or habitual users; this condition occurs when the body treats the presence of a drug as an everyday event and adjusts its “normal” baseline functions accordingly. Flunitrazepam use can also result in addiction, an extension of physical dependence that occurs when a user develops persistent drug cravings and starts to organize his or her daily routine (and moral, personal and social judgments) around the acquisition and use of the drug in question.

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