Rohypnol (a.k.a. Roofies) Fast Facts

What you need to know about the infamous "date rape" drug

Close up of a single pill in man's hand

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Rohypnol is the trade name for Flunitrazepam, a drug that acts as a sedative, muscle relaxant, hypnotic, and antidepressant. While Flunitrazepam is called Rohypnol when marketed by Roche, it is also sold by other companies under the names Darkene, Flunipam, Flunitrazepam, Fluscand, Hipnosedon, Hypnodorm, Ilman, Insom, Nilium, Silece, and Vulbegal.

What Does Rohypnol Look Like?

Rohypnol is available as a pill that is commonly crushed and mixed into food or drinks and ingested. It can also be dissolved into a liquid and injected.

The present form of the drug is imprinted with the number 542 and supplied as a 1-milligram dose in an olive-green, oblong tablet which contains a blue dye that is supposed to be visible in the event the drug is added to a drink. Prior to that, Rohypnol was sold as a white 2-milligram tablet.

Why Do People Use Rohypnol?

As a prescription medication, Rohypnol is used as a pre-anesthetic medication and as a short-term treatment for insomnia. It may also be used to treat the depression resulting from the use of cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants.

As a recreational drug, Rohypnol—commonly known as a "roofie"(singular) or "roofies"(plural)—may be found at nightclubs, parties, and raves. The drug is used in connection with date-rape and robbery to incapacitate the victim and prevent him or her from recalling the crime.

What Are the Effects of Rohypnol Use?

The effects of Rohypnol use are usually felt within 15 to 20 minutes of administration and may last for more than 12 hours. Symptoms associated with the use of Rohypnol include drowsiness, lowered blood pressure, muscle relaxation, headache, visual disturbances, dizziness, slurred speech, poor reaction time, confusion, memory impairment, upset stomach, retention of urine, tremors, and nightmares.

One side effect associated with Rohypnol use is retroactive amnesia during which the person who took the drug can't remember events that occurred while under its influence. Although Rohypnol is a depressant, it may produce excitability, talkativeness, or aggressive behavior. An overdose of Rohypnol produces sedation, impaired speech and balance, respiratory depression, and potentially coma or death—which is why Rohypnol is sometimes used to commit suicide.

Why Is Rohypnol Illegal in the United States?

It is illegal to manufacture, sell, or use Rohypnol in the United States because taking it can produce physiological and psychological dependence and benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. The drug is legal in other countries, however, (e.g., Mexico) and is smuggled into the country through the mail or other delivery services.