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Flunitrazepam is a strong benzodiazepine that is used in some countries—excluding the United States—to treat insomnia and as a pre-surgical sedative.

9 Minute Read | Published Oct 03 2023 | Updated Feb 28 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Ashley Bayliss
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Ashley Bayliss
Reviewed by

Common Trade Names: Rohypnol, Flunitrazepam Mylan (in Sweden and Iceland), Hypnodorm (in Australia)

Flunitrazepam is a short-acting benzodiazepine that possesses properties that are similar to diazepam. It engenders potent sedative, hypnotic, anti-anxiety, and skeletal muscle relaxant effects, which make it a popular drug to abuse among those who desire to take advantage of these properties. Its powerful sedation properties has also gained for it a notorious reputation for being a popular date rape drug.

Under the federal drug scheduling system, flunitrazepam is classified as a Schedule IV substance, which means it has a low potential for abuse and dependence relative to other scheduled drugs. However, the drug has never been approved for medical use in the U.S., where it is currently considered an illegal substance.

What Does Flunitrazepam Treat?

In places where its use is legal, such as Japan and Australia, flunitrazepam is often used in the short-term treatment of insomnia due to its tranquilizing effect.

It is also used to make patients feel calm prior to giving anesthesia when undergoing surgery. This medication is usually taken as a tablet, available in 1mg and 2mg forms in countries where it is legal.

How Flunitrazepam Is Abused

Since it is a strong tranquilizer, flunitrazepam has been widely used as a date rape drug. It has been abused not only to incapacitate victims but also to produce amnesia in sexual assaults and drug-facilitated rapes. Additionally, the drug has also been reported to have been used to facilitate theft.

To prevent the drug being used to commit such crimes, some manufacturers have been incorporating blue dye into flunitrazepam tablets to make them more visible when they are mixed into beverages.

Outside of sexual assault and theft, the drug has also been abused by recreational users and those who try to self-medicate to take advantage of its porperties. Here are just some of the ways it is misused:

  • Consumption in amounts not prescribed by physicians
  • Crushing flunitrazepam tablets and inhaling the powder through the nostrils (snorting)
  • Taking flunitrazepam in combination with alcohol and other substances like opioids to produce exaggerated intoxication
  • Taking flunitrazepam to relieve the side effects of other drugs like cocaine

Repeated use of flunitrazepam through these methods can lead to a buildup of tolerance to the substance over time, making the individual dependent on it. Developing addiction to the drug is also possible.

Flunitrazepam Drug Interactions

Concomitant use of flunitrazepam with other substances that also produce central nervous system (CNS) depression can magnify the CNS depressant effect of the former.

Other CNS depressants include:

  • Alcohol
  • Other benzodiazepines like alprazolam, diazepam, clonazepam, lorazepam, and triazolam
  • Barbiturates like mephobarbital and pentobarbital
  • Non-benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics like zolpidem, eszopiclone, and zaleplon
  • Opioids like codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, meperidine, methadone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone

Flunitrazepam Side Effects

The side effects you may experience almost immediately after taking Flunitrazepam may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation or sleep
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired reaction time
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Impaired mental functioning
  • Weakness
  • Headache

In addition to the symptoms listed above, flunitrazepam may cause more serious adverse effects such as:

  • Slow heart rate
  • Slow breathing
  • Severe sedation
  • Unconsciousness

If you observe any of these symptoms in yourself or another individual, it’s best to contact 911 and get immediate medical assistance to avoid further complications.

Long-Term Effects of Flunitrazepam

Continued use of flunitrazepam over an extended period of time can result in some long-term side effects, including:

  • Physical and psychological dependence
  • Flunitrazepam addiction
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Possible risk of fetal harm in pregnant women

Signs of Flunitrazepam Overdose

Overdosing on flunitrazepam places an individual in severe medical risk. As such, it’s imperative to contact 911 if you or another person is experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Breathing difficulty due to suppressed respiration
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Sever sedation
  • Unconsciousness

Symptoms of Flunitrazepam Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) details 11 criteria to diagnose substance use disorders (SUD).  These 11 symptoms represent the pathological behaviors relating to drug addiction, including addiction to benzodiazepines such as flunitrazepam.

  1. Taking flunitrazepam in much higher amounts or for longer than intended
  2. Attempting to lessen use or completely stop using flunitrazepam, yet not being able to do so
  3. Spending an excessive amount of time for acquiring, using, or recovering from use of flunitrazepam
  4. Intense cravings and urges to use flunitrazepam
  5. Flunitrazepam use causing problems with ability to manage obligations
  6. Continued use of flunitrazepam despite it causing interpersonal or relationship problems
  7. Giving up important activities because of flunitrazepam use
  8. Repeated use of flunitrazepam even when it puts you in danger
  9. Continuing flunitrazepam use despite it causing or worsening physical or psychological problems
  10. Needing higher and higher amounts of flunitrazepam to achieve the desired effect (tolerance)
  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more flunitrazepam

People who have been taking flunitrazepam for too long or in very high amounts are more likely to develop tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

Flunitrazepam Withdrawal Symptoms

Abrupt cessation following chronic flunitrazepam use can also cause the emergence of benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Headache
  • Pain in the muscles
  • Confusion
  • Severe anxiety
  • Tension
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Numb or tingling feeling on the hands or feet
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Shock
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures

These withdrawal symptoms are an indicator that you have developed a dependence on flunitrazepam. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve addicted to the substance, since addiction is a brain condition that is characterized by compulsive use of the drug despite the consequences. However, abruptly stopping use of flunitrazepam after chronic use can be dangerous and even fatal. As such, it’s important to seek advice from a medical professional who can help you create an effective detox plan to remove the drug from your system.

Flunitrazepam Detox

Detoxification, or detox, is one of the first steps in the recovery process for people who have flunitrazepam use disorder. This process entails the gradual removal of the substance from the body to avoid acute withdrawal and to safely achieve a substance-free state. The following steps are part of a typical flunitrazepam detox program:

  • The patient will be assigned to a team of professionals who will monitor their status around-the-clock and ensure their comfort and safety throughout the detoxification process.
  • Both drug replacement therapy and gradual dose reduction can be used to wean the patient off the substance, especially when they start to develop withdrawal symptoms.
  • Switching the patient to a benzodiazepine with an even longer half-life than flunitrazepam may be advised by the doctor.
  • The patient can be given other medications, as well as IV fluids and nutritional supplements to boost their health further during the detox period.

Find a Flunitrazepam Addiction Treatment Center Today

If you’ve somehow been managing to acquire flunitrazepam in the United States even though it is not available as a prescription drug in the country, and you’ve become a chronic user of the drug as a result, it’s time to think about getting help. Continued abuse of flunitrazepam can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction, so it’s best to seek professional treatment if you or a loved one is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction due to flunitrazepam.

Treatment for flunitrazepam addiction is best done in specialized settings like inpatient and outpatient facilities.

  • Outpatient flunitrazepam addiction treatment: Patients who experience mild withdrawal symptoms may be classified as lower-risk individuals who can be treated under an outpatient setup. If your doctor recommends this type of treatment, you will be glad to know that you can continue many of your everyday activities while attending scheduled treatment sessions at an assigned facility.
  • Inpatient flunitrazepam addiction treatment: Individuals that exhibit moderate to severe symptoms will likely need to be treated at an inpatient facility, where they can receive the best level of care from highly qualified medical professionals. If you are recommended to undergo inpatient treatment, you’ll benefit from the 24/7 care and monitoring afforded by a team of professionals. You will also receive a combination of treatment methods, like individual therapy, group counseling, family therapy, and drug education classes, which are designed to help you achieve sobriety.

Treatment is generally individualized, and psychotherapy is recognized as an effective approach in treating patients. These treatment modalities have been shown to be effective at making patients discontinue their use of drugs, especially when combined with dose reduction techniques.  Individual or family counseling can help in changing a person’s attitude toward drug use and help in building better coping skills. It has also been shown that undergoing therapy helps people become more compliant with their treatment regimen.

Meanwhile, counselors are trained to help with other needs people undergoing drug rehabilitation may have. These needs vary from one person to another and may include finding support groups that fit the person or making friends with others who are in a similar stage of recovery. They may also need help in terms of finding socioeconomic support, like those related to education, housing, and employment. Counselors can likewise help them with these concerns by pointing them in the right direction.

Get the Quality Treatment You Deserve

If you or someone you care about is using flunitrazepam, we are here to help and guide you. Better Addiction Care advocates for the recovery of all individuals struggling with substance use disorder.

If you have an existing insurance policy, we can check for you if it provides coverage for addiction treatment services. Just call (800) 429-7690 to speak to a recovery support advisor, who will be able to help you determine your insurance status. If you don’t currently have insurance, don’t worry. There are plenty of other ways to fund your treatment. The important thing is for you to take that very important first step in your rehab journey. We can also help you find a proper treatment facility.

A Brief History of Flunitrazepam

Benzodiazepines were first discovered by the pharmaceutical company Hoffman-La Roche in the 1950s. This happened during the search for alternatives to barbiturates like phenobarbital, which had many side effects. Flunitrazepam was first discovered in 1962, and along with other benzodiazepine drugs, it came into common use in the 1970s. However, by the 1980s doctors had observed and voiced out their concerns regarding these drugs’ potential for abuse and dependence.

Flunitrazepam has been considered an illicit drug in the U.S. ever since it came into medical use in 1974. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) never approved its sale in the country. The biggest source of the supply that users in the U.S. have access to Mexico, where the drug is still commonly used and smuggled across the border. It is also considered illicit in the United Kingdom, but some countries in Europe such as Germany, Sweden, and Iceland still use it legally as an insomnia treatment and as a pre-surgery sedative. However, it is highly regulated in these places due to the abuse and dependence risk.

Flunitrazepam is classified as a Schedule IV drug, in the U.S., which means it has a relatively lower abuse and dependence risk compared to other drugs like opioids. However, it is not licensed to be sold in the U.S. Thus, possession of the drug is a criminal offense punishable by a prison term and a fine. Each state has its own specific penalties for drug possession.


bullet National Library of Medicine, PubChem (2021)
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bullet U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2016)
"Rohypnol: Flunitrazepam. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (n.d.)
"Benzodiazepines Drug Profile"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (2020)
"Drug Fact Sheet: Rohypnol"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet US. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2018)
"Drug Facts: Prescription CNS Depressants"
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bullet Healthdirect Australia (2021)
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bullet Therapeutic Goods Administration, Department of Health, Australia (2021)
"Prescribing Medicines in Pregnancy Database"
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bullet American Psychiatric Association (2013)
"Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.)."
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bullet Brett, J. & Murnion, B. (2015)
"Management of Benzodiazepine Misuse and Dependence. Australian Prescriber."
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