Club drugs are named because of their popularity for use at nightclubs, dance clubs, raves, and general parties. They are preferred by individuals who enjoy these locations because they enhance the experience of the event. Club drugs often cause euphoria and sociability, increasing a person’s sense of empathy, making them more talkative, and causing certain psychoactive effects, such as enhancing perceptions of sound and color. They may also increase energy or include strong hallucinogens.
A list of common club drugs include:
These drugs are most likely to be used by young people, some as young as middle school students. MDMA is typically the most commonly used club drug. Methamphetamine is also a commonly used drug, but it isn’t always associated with the club drug lifestyle. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 12 percent of individuals aged 18-25 have used MDMA at least once in their lifetimes.
Many users of club drugs are not sufficiently educated on the dangers of club drugs, including the possibility off addiction, overdose, and other dangerous health effects. Certain club drugs like GHB and Rohypnol are also sometimes used to sedate people without their knowledge in order to sexually assault them, earning them the title of “date rape drugs.”
Where Do Club Drugs Come From?
Most club drugs are manufactured illegally, though some have legitimate medical uses and may be obtained with a prescription. MDMA, GHB, methamphetamine, and LSD are most often made in illicit labs and then sold to young people at clubs and parties or on the street.
Meth in particular is notorious for being made in illegal “meth labs” that can be found in trailers, basements, or garages. Meth is easy to make, as it’s created from a combination of common household chemicals and over-the-counter cold and flu medications, and it’s highly addictive, making it quite profitable. Of course, using and mixing all these chemicals is incredibly dangerous. People have been killed by the fumes created by this process or from explosions due to the misuse of the volatile chemicals.
Ketamine may come from an illegal manufacturer, but it’s also an important and common medication used in hospitals for anesthesia and to sedate patients. It can also be prescribed to people with chronic pain and then sold or given away, though this practice is illegal, as is taking ketamine without a prescription issued to the individual taking it. There have also been cases of people stealing the drug, particularly from veterinary clinics due to the fact that it works better to sedate animals than humans.
The reason that MDMA is such a common club drug is due to the fact that it’s so effective in enhancing the party experience. The nickname ecstasy comes from the fact that the drug tends to make people feel very happy and loving. It enhances certain senses, such as touch and the perception of colors, making soft sensations feel especially pleasurable and bright colorful objects like glow sticks very attractive. In general, people on MDMA often feel like everything is wonderful.
There are, however, negative and even dangerous effects of MDMA, especially if it’s combined with alcohol and vigorous dancing. These can include:
- Hyperthermia (abnormally increased body temperature)
- Teeth grinding
- Muscle cramps
- Irregular heartbeat
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure
Overdose deaths from MDMA are rare. During the period between 1997 and 2007, only 605 cases of death from this drug were reported in the UK. Hyperthermia may actually be the most dangerous effect of this drug. This combined with dehydration can lead to muscle deterioration and kidney problems, particularly during long bingeing periods.
GHB is a depressant that is sometimes used as a treatment for narcolepsy, though its most common use is likely recreational. This club drug is unusual in the fact that it can cause stimulant effects at low doses, as well as euphoria and increased sociability, acting similarly to MDMA. Due to this and the fact that it often comes in a liquid form, it’s often called by the street names liquid ecstasy or liquid X.
At higher doses, the depressant properties tend to kick in, resulting in drowsiness, visual disturbances, depressed breathing, and memory disturbances. These effects, particularly the drowsiness and amnesia, make it popular as a date rape drug. The liquid and powder forms are colorless and odorless, making it easy to slip the drug into drinks.
Due to the fact that it depresses the respiratory system, it should never be taken with alcohol. Doing so can trigger a dangerous overdose in which the affected individual can stop breathing. GHB overdose symptoms include:
- Slow or irregular breathing/heart rate
- Weak pulse
- Cold, clammy skin
- Severe drowsiness
- Bluish skin, lips, and/or fingernails
- Loss of consciousness
Any of these symptoms after the ingestion of GHB should be considered a medical emergency.
Ketamine is classified as a dissociative drug due to the fact that it can cause a feeling of detachment from the self, the body, and the outside world. These states are referred to as depersonalization and derealization. Even at lower doses, ketamine can produce a trance-like state and sedation.
At high doses, people can experience what is commonly called a “K-hole.” This involves extreme dissociation along with visual and auditory hallucinations. People in this state may seem awake but unresponsive, laying on the floor, unable to move. However, individuals exhibiting symptoms of this state should be closely monitored as they are close to overdose. They can also become active, wander off, and cause harm to themselves due to their lack of connection to reality and hallucinations. People have also been known to commit suicide during a ketamine high.
LSD is very much a hallucinogen. It’s generally used exclusively for its vivid visual hallucinations. It can also cause altered awareness of one’s perceptions, feelings, and sensations. It is not considered to be addictive, but continued use over time often results in an increased chance of negative hallucinogenic experiences, commonly referred to as “bad trips.” These can lead to adverse emotional effects, including:
- Intrusive thoughts
- Suicidal ideation
A 2008 study found that around 3.1 million people in the US aged 12-25 reported having used LSD at least once. It’s not as common for LSD to be used as a club drug as other drugs like MDMA, but it is often taken as part of a group activity. It also may be used for spiritual purposes in some cultures.
Meth is a powerful stimulant, creating a surge of energy and activity. People on meth often describe feeling invincible, like they can achieve anything. The effects of meth don’t last long, especially because it’s most often snorted, smoked, or injected for a faster, euphoric high. Because of this, and because of the opposing “crash” that produces negative effects, it’s common to binge on meth, taking more each time the high fades.
This drug is strongly associated with a number of severe and lasting negative health effects. These can include:
- Itching, eventually resulting in sores
- Dental problems
- Irregular heart rate
- Extreme weight loss
- Increased body temperature
- Mood swings
- Violent behavior
Studies have found that long-term use of this highly addictive drug can significantly change the structure of the brain. This is why emotional and cognitive problems often persist long after an addicted person stops taking meth.
This drug is classified as a benzodiazepine – a group of drugs that includes Xanax and Valium. It’s illegal in most areas, but is sometimes used to treat severe insomnia due to its sedative effects. Rohypnol is also a central nervous system depressant and its effects are somewhat similar to those of alcohol, particularly in regard to drowsiness and impaired coordination.
At high doses, Rohypnol can cause people to pass out or become barely conscious. It also produces anterograde amnesia, meaning that those under its influence often don’t remember anything that happened while they were high. This makes it an effective date rape drug. It is also known by the street name roofies.
Besides possible respiratory depression and its unfortunate use to assault people, Rohypnol is also known to cause vomiting and gastrointestinal distress for 12 hours or more.
More Drug Categories
Not all club drugs are directly addictive, but they may result in psychological addiction, especially because they are often associated with pleasure and good times. Addiction to any drug (particularly meth) can be very dangerous, as abuse of the drug and concurrent health issues only get worse over time. If an addiction is suspected, the best thing to do is consult a medical professional for advice. The sooner treatment is sought, the easier it will be to get on the road to recovery.