What Do Roofies Do? Rohypnol Medical Use For Sleep Aid

Last Updated: October 26, 2020

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

Flunitrazepam is a powerful hypnotic that is used in many countries. Although the Rohypnol medical use is most frequently associated with countering insomnia, it might also be used in anxiety treatment and early in anesthesia. There are also other multiple uses for Rohypnol that can put a person who uses the medication or other people in danger.

Rohypnol Uses

The majority of people looking for Rohypnol for sale needs it to ease their insomnia. Still, it is not solely what Rohypnol is used for.

Rohypnol For Sleep

The drug was originally developed in the 1970s as a medication to promote sleep. Rohypnol sleep aid was first sold in Switzerland in 1975. The benzodiazepine has spread to more than 60 countries, including the US, as it is an effective and powerful insomnia medication with fewer health risks than similar in action barbiturates present. However, as the rates of Roofies abuse in the United States skyrocketed, the drug was banned in 1997.

Rohypnol For Recreational Use

Considering what Roofies is used for, it is less recreationally attractive than many other prescription medications that are regularly abused. However, many find the sedating and relaxing effects of the drug pleasurable and misuse it regularly. Such Rohypnol drug use can be extremely harmful to a person’s health.

Rohypnol-Assisted Crimes

One of the most notorious Rohypnol tablets uses is spiking someone’s drink with the drug. Originally odorless and colorless, the pills used to be the first date-rape drug of choice. Although these days Roofies is specifically designed to be recognizable and is also banned in the US, the number of assaults associated with the use of this drug is still alarmingly high.

What Is Rohypnol Made Of?

All the properties of the medication are determined by what Roofies is made of. The main Rohypnol ingredient is flunitrazepam. It is a substance from the class of drugs called benzodiazepines that is approximately 10 times stronger than Valium. Flunitrazepam is a central nervous system depressant that has a sedating effect on a person. Rohypnol chemical formula is C16H12FN3O3, where C16H12 indicates that the compound is a benzodiazepine.

Rohypnol is lipophilic. Being fat-soluble, it is metabolized by the liver. The drug is also soluble in ethanol, making it particularly popular as a date-rape drug. Roofies effects result from the action of its active ingredient flunitrazepam and the three main metabolites: desmethylflunitrazepam, 3-hydroxyflunitrazepam, and 7-aminoflunitrazepam.

what is rohypnol made of

The non-active Roofies ingredients may include: 

  • blue dye in the core (used to help people identify the drug if it slipped into their drink)
  • lactose
  • microcrystalline cellulose
  • magnesium stearate
  • hypromellose
  • sodium starch glycolate
  • ethylcellulose
  • talc
  • titanium dioxide
  • ferric oxide
  • triacetin.

How Does Roofies Work?

What Rohypnol does to a person’s health, how long Roofies takes to kick in, and some other properties differ for each patient, as the individual characteristics determine exactly how their body will respond to the drug. However, the fundamental mechanism of action of the medicine remains the same, and accounts for its therapeutic effects.

The key to the sedating effects of the medicine lies in what Rohypnol does to the brain. Once it enters a person’s system, the drug rapidly binds to a specific type of receptors. These receptors are located in the groups of nerve cells that are responsible for memory, sedation, anxiety, and coordination. The receptors are sensitive to the levels of a certain neurotransmitter called GABA. When GABA is abundant, the receptors send a signal to reduce nerve activity in the brain. Benzodiazepines like Roofies bind to a specific part of the GABA receptor and boost its activity, effectively exerting a tranquilizing influence on the patient.

Warnings And Contraindications For Rohypnol Use

Considering what flunitrazepam is used for, it may not be suitable for certain categories of patients. The drug puts stress on the liver and kidneys, so it should be used with caution by those with pre-existing hepatic conditions or renal diseases. Patients who suffer from memory problems, headaches, nightmares, or bradycardia may experience worsening of the symptoms, as all of these are common side effects of flunitrazepam. In addition, Roofies can aggravate a person’s depression and other mental disorders associated with the lack of energy and hypersomnia.

rohypnol medical use warnings

Medical contraindications for flunitrazepam use include:

  • pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • CNS depression or coma
  • depression and suicidal tendencies
  • being allergic to the components of the medication
  • elevated carbon dioxide levels in the blood
  • liver failure
  • the drug should not be used by psychotic patients and children

Rohypnol Uses And A Patient’s Safety

The primary Rohypnol use is the short-term treatment of insomnia. The medication is a benzodiazepine with powerful tranquilizing effects, which also makes it suitable for the use in anesthesia. The main component of the medicine, flunitrazepam, binds to GABA receptors, resulting in sedation, muscle relaxation, and temporary amnesia. Due to these properties, a Rohypnol tablet can be used as a date-rape drug to facilitate sexual assault. In addition, Roofies is sometimes used non-medically to achieve high. Rohypnol used for recreational purposes can result in severe physical dependence and long-term damage to the central nervous system. In the case of developing an addiction, a person should contact a rehab center. It’s important as quitting the drug cold turkey results in an emergence of withdrawal effects that might require proper treatment.

Page Sources

  1. Center for Substance Abuse Research. Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol). 2013. http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/rohypnol.asp.
  2. Important Facts About Alcohol And Drugs. 53-82. https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/sites/default/files/appendix-d.pdf.

Published on: July 4th, 2019

Updated on: October 26th, 2020

About Author

Roger Weiss, MD

Dr. Roger Weiss is a practicing mental health specialist at the hospital. Dr. Weiss combines his clinical practice and medical writing career since 2009. Apart from these activities, Dr. Weiss also delivers lectures for youth, former addicts, and everyone interested in topics such as substance abuse and treatment.


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