Rohypnol: Physiological effects

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 3:17 pm

Like other sedative/hypnotic drugs, Rohypnol produces a drowsy, relaxed feeling similar to being drunk. Muscles feel relaxed and speech may be slurred. Blood pressure can drop dangerously low. The effects of Rohypnol may last anywhere from two to eight hours, depending on the person taking it and the dosage they are taking. Some people report experiencing the physical effects for up to 12 hours or even longer. The drug may also cause insomnia when taken at high doses or when taken chronically by abusers who have become physically dependent.
Some effects that Rohypnol can produce include:
• fearlessness/loss of inhibitions
• impaired judgment
• impaired coordination
• confusion/disorientation
• nausea
• dizziness
• unsteady walk
The day after taking Rohypnol, many people report what feels like the worst hangover they have ever had. This feeling may last anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. This sensation is one reason many people who have been victims of Rohypnol-assisted assaults do not immediately realize what has happened. Instead, they may simply assume they drank too much the previous night, even though they may not remember drinking particularly heavily.
Although the drug acts as a depressant in most people, it may cause aggression and excitability in others. In one Swedish study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry Law, nearly all teenage juvenile offenders who frequently abused Rohypnol had committed serious violent crimes, including impulsive violence. They reported increased feelings of power and self-esteem, reduced fear and insecurity, and an increased sense that “everything was possible” when taking Rohypnol.
Harmful side effects
In addition to memory loss, confusion, dizziness, and sleepiness, Rohypnol also causes a decrease in blood pressure; stomach and intestinal upset; and urinary retention.
A person who has overdosed on Rohypnol needs immediate medical attention, usually in a hospital emergency department. If the person is conscious, they may be induced to vomit or they may be given gastric lavage, otherwise known as “having your stomach pumped.” Doctors also may give the person activated charcoal, which can reduce the amount of Rohypnol that is still being absorbed by the person’s body. Depending on symptoms, doctors also may need to monitor the person’s breathing and heart rate. In some cases, doctors also will administer another drug, called flumazenil, which can successfully reverse the adverse effects of Rohypnol on the central nervous system.
Rohypnol overdose alone is unlikely to be lethal, but the risk of coma and death increase significantly when Rohypnol is combined with alcohol or other drugs.
The number of hospital emergency department visits involving Rohypnol increased from just 13 cases in 1994 to a high of 624 cases in 1998, according to the DAWN. A disproportionately high percentage of these Rohypnol-related visits — more than 50% — involved Hispanic individuals. Also, many of these visits involved other drugs, with cocaine being the most frequent drug used in combination with Rohypnol.
Long-term health effects
Even when taken at recommended dosages, Rohypnol can cause dependence and addiction among frequent users. Some people addicted to Rohypnol experience seizures when they attempt withdrawal from the drug. The U.S. Department of Justice says such seizures may occur among chronic users after as little as one week without Rohypnol.
Long-term users may also experience headache, muscle pain, extreme anxiety, tension, confusion, irritability, and restlessness when they stop taking Rohypnol. Symptoms can also progress to more severe problems, such as numbness and tingling of the arms and legs, loss of identity, hallucinations, delirium, convulsions, shock and heart failure.
People who have been taking more than 6 mg of Rohypnol per day for a month or longer will experience the most severe symptoms when the drug is stopped. Fortunately, unlike barbiturates, large doses of benzodiazepines such as Rohypnol are rarely fatal, except when taken in combination with alcohol and/or other drugs.

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