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Rohypnol Abuse Among Adolescents

Group of teens partying.

What Is Rohypnol?

Benzodiazepine drugs like Rohypnol work by altering electrical signals within the brain. A traditional user takes a dose right before bed, and within minutes, that dampened electrical activity makes a user feel sedated and sleepy. That person might be able to go to sleep with Rohypnol, while sleep might evade that person in a sober state.

Traditionally, sedative-hypnotic drugs aren’t considered addictive, because people who take them are much too tired to abuse them. The drug just wipes people out and wears them out, so they don’t have the ability to stay awake and binge on Rohypnol. If the drug is working properly, it might not be an attractive drug to abuse either, as few teens want to take drugs that put them into a deep sleep state.

However, there are some people who just don’t feel overly sedated on Rohypnol. They might feel calm and relaxed, and they might feel as though the world is moving just a little bit too fast, but they might not be so overwhelmed that they’re ready for sleep. To these people, Rohypnol just feels pleasant. It’s not stupefying.

A typical Rohypnol abuser, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, is a male between the ages of 13 and 30. Men like this use Rohypnol in party situations, hoping to enhance the sights and sounds they’ll encounter at a rave. Or they might use Rohypnol simply to relax and ease the stresses of adolescents.

Each hit these users take can do a great deal of damage. Electrical impulses, long numbed by Rohypnol exposure, can become unaccustomed to a normal firing rate. That means people who attempt to cut back on their Rohypnol doses or stop them altogether might feel so overwhelmed and altered that they might have seizures. An episode like this could be so scary and scarring that a teen might not even attempt sobriety again. To them, it might not seem like a safe thing to do.

A Rohypnol Crisis

When families discuss addictions, they often start talking about “hitting bottom.” The idea is that people who have addictions may not see the need to change their habits until something really terrible happens to them. At that point, they’ll see the need for therapy and change, even though it may have been something they’ve denied in the past.

Roofie being added to drink.When it comes to Rohypnol, that bottom can come between the walls of the emergency room. When addictions progress and people lose control of their drug use, they can begin to take larger and larger doses of drugs until they’re taking doses that are so big that they override the body’s vital functions. A Rohypnol user could collapse in the middle of a party due to drug use, and that person could awaken surrounded by doctors.

A review in American Family Physician suggests that people who come to emergency rooms due to drugs taken in clubs are often provided with supportive care, which might include:
  • Medical monitoring
  • IV fluids
  • Cooling baths
  • Frequent bedding changes

Doctors are reluctant to treat these overdose situations aggressively, the authors say, because they’re not often sure what drugs people take in clubs. Could it be Rohypnol or something else? Is alcohol mixed in? Until people can speak, teams tend to resist aggressive care.

But once people awaken and are able to discuss what happened, teams can develop the programs that can help. For people who abuse Rohypnol, that help might involve a tapering dose of drugs.

Rohypnol is similar to more familiar benzodiazepine drugs like Valium, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administratio. These drugs cause the same sense of sedation and relaxation, and in theory, they need a similar course of treatment that allows the brain to come to sobriety in a slow and controlled manner. In the early stages of treatment, people might still take Rohypnol, but their doses might get smaller each day.

Once people do get sober, they can participate in therapy sessions that can help to preserve their sobriety. For teens, this often involves a mix of relapse-prevention techniques along with life skills and social skills coaching.

Teens drinking at club.Teens who use Rohypnol may be doing so in order to cover up for some sort of social skill that they lack. Instead of learning how to feel comfortable in a crowd, for example, they may use Rohypnol to help them relax. Instead of focusing on interpersonal communication skills, so they can talk openly with friends, they may use Rohypnol to soothe their inner voices of doubt, so conversations come quicker.

Therapy is designed to help teens examine all of these hidden factors that keep them using drugs. When teens emerge from programs like this, they’ll have skills that can keep them away from Rohypnol. But they’ll also have skills that can help them to succeed in life. In a way, entering rehab could be the best thing that ever happened to these young people. Everything they learn there could help them to deal with life in a whole new way in the future.

Enrolling a teen in a program will involve a little homework on the part of parents. They’ll need to examine their insurance benefits, so they’ll know what programs will and will not be paid for by their policies. They’ll need to examine each program in detail, to determine that it offers the right mix of services for the child.

At Next Generation Village, this investigation is easy. Qualified and experienced staff members are on hand around the clock to answer questions. These staff members can liaison with insurance companies directly, so families have one less task to handle. Interested parties can call the number on this page.

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