Many stories about prescription drug abuse begin with a warning regarding the storage of powerful drugs in the family medicine cabinet. Often, addictions to these drugs begin when one member of the family has a valid prescription, and other people choose to dabble and take the drugs on their own, even though they’re not needed. Rohypnol is different. This is a powerful drug, and it is a target of abuse, but according to The Partnership at Drugfree.org, it’s not a legal medication within the United States, meaning doctors can’t prescribe it and pharmacies can’t sell it. People who want to abuse this drug must buy it illegally, and those who do so might face very serious consequences.
Power in a Pill
Rohypnol is sold in tablet format. In the past, the pills were odorless, tasteless and colorless, and they could quickly dissolve in water. This format made pill taking easy, as the drug could just slide into a drink and slosh down the throat with the next sip. In 1997, however, the manufacturer of the drug changed the formula of the drug, adding in a dye that would change the color of a drink when the pills dissolve, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. This change came about due to concerns about the abuse potential of Rohypnol. When the pills weren’t detectable, it was all too easy for would-be rapists to drug their victims and commit their crimes. That’s much harder to do when the pill has the ability to change the color of a drink. The new formulation has no effect on the people who take the drug for recreational purposes, however, and there are many people who fall into this category.
Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine medication. Drugs like this can soothe an overactive mind, allowing a person with anxiety or insomnia to feel protected, soothed and relaxed. All drugs in this category are considered dangerous, as they tend to boost the production of chemicals the brain associates with pleasure and reward. Rohypnol might be considered especially dangerous, as the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland reports that the drug is 10 times more potent than the benzodiazepine drug Valium. Drugs that are this powerful can do intense damage, and addictions can quickly follow.
- Reduced inhibitions
- Impaired judgment
People who abuse multiple drugs might also target Rohypnol in order to help them deal with the effects of the other substances they use. People who take heroin, for example, might take Rohypnol to enhance the pleasant high they feel, while people who abuse cocaine might use Rohypnol in order to help them come down from an intense high.
While some of the sensations associated with Rohypnol seem fun or interesting, there are some changes that just aren’t that amusing.
For example, some people who take the drug experience:
- High blood pressure
- Urine retention
- Fluid in the lungs
- Gastrointestinal upset
The drug can also cause a form of amnesia, in which the person finds it difficult to recall the events that took place while the intoxication was underway. This attribute of the drug made it an ideal tool for rapists, as it could allow them to commit crimes without getting caught, and the same sort of difficulty could happen to people who take Rohypnol voluntarily. They may awaken with the realization that something has happened, but they may be completely unable to name who the perpetrator was or how the situation took place.
Rohypnol can also cause a deep sensation of sedation, which might allow people to become crime victims, as they might be asleep and unable to fight back. Sedation like this is typically considered dangerous, as very sedated people can sometimes die due to their slow breathing rates. Researchers at the University of Washington report that this concern is rare with Rohypnol and overdoses are rarely fatal, but those who combine the drug with alcohol may find that they need the help of a team of emergency room workers. The sedating power of both Rohypnol and alcohol can combine and cause such profound changes that people might fall into a coma, unable to respond to the world around them.
A Slow Recovery
People who use Rohypnol occasionally may deal with very unpleasant and persistent consequences, and among those, addiction might be the most severe. The drug causes such powerful changes in the chemical levels in the brain that a person can simply feel as though life isn’t worth living unless the drug is available. Everything the person does or thinks about might revolve around the use and abuse of the drug, and all other needs might pale in comparison to the need to feed the addiction. Deep down inside, the person might want to change and get better, but the road to recovery for a person with a Rohypnol addiction can be long.
The sedation benzodiazepines can cause can come to seem normal to the cells of the brain, and when the drug is gone and the brain cells attempt to return to a normal level of functioning, the cells can overreact and trade electrical signals in a rapid, wild and chaotic fashion.
During this process, people might feel:
- Unable to sleep
- Sensitive to light
Within days, the symptoms can increase in intensity, and sometimes, people develop intense seizures as they withdraw. The electrical storm inside of their brains sweeps through their bodies, and they lose all control. Some people have only one seizure, but others have many, one right after the other. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the withdrawal process from Rohypnol can be life-threatening, and for that reason, people simply must check into a medical facility for help. The program might take three to five days to complete, or in some cases, people might taper away from the drugs slowly over a multi-week period.
When the detox process is complete, people who were addicted to Rohypnol can benefit from therapy programs in which they discuss the reasons they began taking the drug, along with the reasons they’d like to change. They can develop self-soothing behaviors that can allow them to deal with cravings without relapsing, and support groups can help them to stay sober in the weeks that follow. These programs can take months to complete.
In a perfect world, people wouldn’t dabble with this very dangerous drug and develop a condition that must be treated. But research suggests that some people are abusing this drug voluntarily. For example, in the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey, 1.3 percent of high school seniors admitted that they’d used Rohypnol within the month prior to the survey. Studies like this seem to suggest that there are people developing problem behaviors related to this drug, and since many of these people are young, the problem might grow in the future.
Families who spot the addiction in someone they love can do their part to help by confronting the person about the issue and looking for treatment programs that can help. At Axis, we can assist. We offer treatment programs that can help people to understand their fixation on Rohypnol, and we can even work with people who have mental illnesses lying beneath their destructive use of drugs. Our individualized treatment programs begin with a comprehensive assessment, followed up by individualized therapy provided by credentialed drug and alcohol addiction treatment specialists. We also provide adjunct therapies like acupuncture and hypnotherapy, to help people make a robust recovery in a holistic manner. We can help smooth your entry into our program by providing insurance coverage verification, and we can even arrange travel, if you live far from our facility. Please call us to get started.