What is it?
This family of depressants affects the central nervous system and
is widely prescribed for the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, and
prevention of seizures and muscle spasms. Most patients use it as
prescribed, but adolescents and young people who abuse these drugs
are seeking a “high.” Physical dependence can be caused by high
dose or long-term use. The drug is also doctor-shopped by adult
users. Drug abusers often use benzodiazepines to “come down,” or
ease withdrawal from a stimulant drug, such as methamphetamine.
High doses of these drugs, with alcohol alone or other depressants,
can cause death. A benzodiazepine that is illegally marketed in the
U.S., flunitrazepam (rohypnol) is a dangerous, long acting “club
drug,” that can be mixed in a victim’s drink. This has notoriously
resulted in sexual assault. Common prescription benzodiazepines
include the trade names Valium, Xanax, Librium, and Ativan.
Rohypnol may be called rophies, roofies, and roach. Others slang
terms include benzos, downers, tranks.
How is it used?
These drugs are most commonly taken in pill form, but can be used
in powder form and mixed in water or drinks. They are sometimes
taken in combination with other drugs or alcohol. They are also
used by abusers with GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) and similar drugs
that are marketed as nutritional supplements.
Signs of usage:
Those who take rohypnol are in a near trance-like state or appear
drunk, even with hangover like effects in withdrawal. Those who
take high doses of other benzodiazepines may appear drunk or
Effects of usage:
In prescription form, benzodiazepines are therapeutic, but
long-term use can cause addiction. Used to get a high or induce a
drunken-like state, the drugs lessen inhibitions and impair
judgment. Rohypnol causes a stupor-like state.
How long do the effects last?
The effects of rohypnol are fast-acting and can last 4 to 8 hours.
Short-acting benzodiazepines have a half-life of less than 12
hours. Intermediate-acting compounds have a half-life of 12-24
hours, and may cause inattention or sluggishness the morning after
Effects of withdrawal:
Withdrawal symptoms are mainly anxiety-related. These effects
occasionally go on for months, and may include insomnia and
gastrointestinal problems, even when use is gradually reduced.
Abrupt discontinuation of prescription benzodiazepines can cause
these symptoms as well as seizures and hyperactivity.
Rohypnol causes sedation and sluggishness and can also cause
amnesia, resulting in a person not remembering what happens during
the drug-induced stupor. Users are at a high risk for sexual
assault. The effects of benzodiazapine may linger for hours,
causing inattention to tasks, such as driving. For some users, the
use of benzodiazepines can cause high anxiety and irritability
instead of the intended sedation. At high doses, and/or with other
drugs, benzodiazepines can be deadly.
Effects of prolonged usage:
Even when used therapeutically, benzodiazepines can cause decreased
attention span when used for more than a year. Physical addiction
can occur with abuse or even prolonged therapeutic use.
Usage by youth:
Rohypnol is characteristically a “club” drug taken by young people.
It is hard to determine the use of this drug as a date rape or
club-rape drug because often the victim has no memory of the
assault. When adolescents abuse prescription benzodiazepines, they
take higher doses for a kind of drunken high.
The use of rohypnol as a “club” drug is so dangerous that the
manufacturer and U.S. agencies have been working to reduce its
availability in this country. However, rohypnol and other socalled
“club” drugs are currently available on the Internet. Young people
are also taking the drug in combination with growth hormones and
GHB in cleaning solvents.
*Information provided by Dr. Barbara
A. Krantz, Chief Medical Officer at the Hanley Center
*First Check Diagnostics Corp. is offering these resources for
informational purposes only, and the Hanley Center is no way
affiliated with any of the entities that provide the