Club Drugs

August 7, 2011

Also known as designer drugs, club drugs are a group of manufactured, psychoactive substances. While club drugs can differ substantially in their effects and pharmacologic classifications, they are subsumed under the category of club drugs because they are often abused in the context of dance clubs or raves (all-night parties). There is some disagreement as to which drugs are club drugs; however, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) classifies the following as club drugs: methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, also known as Ecstasy), ketamine (Special K), methamphetamine (speed, ice, or glass), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB, Liquid G), and flunitrazepam (Rohypnol or Roofies). It is important to note that, while these drugs can be used recreationally, GHB and Rohypnol are also commonly called date-rape drugs because they are known to be used as a means of incapacitating a victim with the intention of sexual assault.

Perhaps the most widely used and quintessential club drug, MDMA is a synthetic drug with both hallucinogenic and stimulant properties. It is also referred to as an entactogen, which means that it can have the effect of making a person feel interconnected with, and empathic toward, others. First developed in 1914 as a weight-loss aid, MDMA was never marketed for that purpose. However, in the United States in the 1970s, the drug gained some popularity among clinical psychologists as an aid to psychotherapy and marriage counseling. In 1985, the use of MDMA was banned and placed on the list of scheduled drugs by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. However, the popularity of the drug remained unchecked, and its use has since been associated in the United States mainly with youth subcultures. It is generally packaged in a tablet or capsule form, often with imprints of cartoon characters or popular corporate logos. While there is some disagreement in the scientific community regarding the long-term effects of MDMA, current research suggests that MDMA use results in the overproduction and then the depletion of serotonin which may result in depression. Other potential adverse effects can include dehydration, overheating (hyperthermia), tooth damage caused by jaw-clenching (bruxism), and possible effects on memory.

While MDMA has been associated with a number of deaths worldwide, tablets sold as MDMA often contain other substances which are harmful and even deadly, such as paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA).

Another club drug is GHB, a sedative-hypnotic which was formerly sold as a nutritional supplement in the United States before becoming a controlled substance. GHB is distributed as highly potent, colorless liquid with a salty taste. Doses are calibrated by water-bottle capfuls, and the difference between a recreational and a deadly dose can be very small. Taken alone or in conjunction with alcohol, GHB can be the cause of death. Deaths have occurred from the aspiration of vomitus during a GHB-induced coma or from the depression of the respiratory center in the brain stem. The reputation of GHB as a date-rape drug has been substantiated by numerous cases in which individuals, particularly women, were surreptitiously drugged and then sexually assaulted. Its effectiveness as a date-rape drug is compounded by its effect on memory; victims often cannot recall what has occurred during a GHBinduced coma.

A third popular club drug, used primarily by adolescents and young adults, is ketamine, which is sold in either a powder (white or yellow) or liquid form. It is generally snorted in small amounts, although it can be injected or smoked. This drug, which is primarily used in the United States for veterinary purposes, is a dissociative anesthetic, and it is related to phencyclidine (PCP). Users of ketamine often describe an out-of-body experience which they call a k-hole. While in this state, users often experience visual and tactile hallucinations, are unable to move, and are insensitive to pain. The adverse effects of recreational ketamine use can include depression, delirium, amnesia, respiratory problems, and death. There is also the danger of seriously injuring oneself due to the lack of pain sensation and an impaired ability to react quickly. There have also been reports of ketamine being used as a date-rape drug.

A final club drug, flunitrazepam (Rohypnol, Roofies), is also considered a date-rape drug, and its popularity as a recreational drug has waned considerably in some areas. Regular users can become addicted to Rohypnol. This powerful tranquilizer comes in the form of a tablet which is not produced in the United States. Rohypnol has a sedative-hypnotic effect in sufficient doses, and it can cause temporary amnesia. When mixed with alcohol or other depressant drugs, Rohypnol can render an unsuspecting victim powerless to defend herself; such a mixture can also cause death.

While the popularity of club drugs has increased, many users of Ecstasy, ketamine, GHB, and Rohypnol are unaware of the shortand long-term dangers associated with these drugs. When mixed with alcohol or other drugs, these dangers multiply. Most importantly, neither alcohol nor club drugs should ever be used by pregnant or nursing woman, as these substances can result in an assortment of severe problems for all concerned.

SEE ALSO: Depression, Sexual abuse, Substance use


  • rohypnol as a recreational drug in marriage


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