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What Are Club Drugs?

Raves often expose individuals to certain drugs, which are appropriately named club drugs. Not only are individuals offered – or even sometimes given without consent, as some are colorless, odorless, and tasteless – these drugs, but there are often overdoses that occur. Club drugs, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, include:

  • GHB
  • Ketamine
  • LSD
  • MDMA
  • Methamphetamine
  • Rohypnol


GHB is an abbreviation for gamma-hydroxybutyrate. It is also known by other names, such as G and grievous bodily harm. A form of GHB, called Xyrem, is used for treating narcolepsy. It is taken orally, and it can be found in liquid, tablet, powder, and capsule forms.

GHB is a depressant, meaning that it slows down the central nervous system, which is dangerous because it can slow breathing and heart rate. GHB is used for its euphoric effect, which can begin as soon as 15-30 minutes after ingestion, but there are also negative effects that can occur with its use. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, such negative effects include:

  • Aggression
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Death
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures

GHB has the potential to cause withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Insomnia
  • Psychotic thoughts
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

Overdose is fairly common, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, as the strength of each dose is often unknown. Also, when used with alcohol, the odds of overdose, and possibly death, increase.

Unfortunately, since GHB can often be found as a colorless liquid (although it does have a salty taste), it is sometimes used as a date rape drug. If individuals unknowingly ingest GHB, they may quickly lose consciousness. A good form of prevention is for individuals to refuse drinks that they did not obtain themselves and also not to leave drinks unattended – if a drink is left unattended, it should be discarded.

If an individual has overdosed on GHB, signs like those listed above may occur. Emergency services should be contacted, as urgent medical care is needed.

Benzodiazepines can be used to treat GHB addiction in some instances, but behavioral therapy is generally the primary form of treatment.


This drug, which may be referred to as special K, K, vitamin K, and cat valium, is meant for use as an injectable veterinary anesthetic. Recreationally, it can be injected in its liquid form, or smoked or snorted in its powdered form. The powdered form can resemble cocaine.

The effects of ketamine are similar to those of psychoactive drugs, such as PCP, and can last up to 60 minutes, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency. AAFP describes some of the effects individuals may experience as:

  • Agitation
  • Amnesia (memory loss)
  • Delirium
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Hypertension
  • Immobility
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Pain relief
  • Rapid heart rate

AAFP also warns that some individuals may, in fact, become addicted to ketamine. A tolerance may develop, meaning these individuals will need to increase the dose of ketamine ingested in order to achieve the same effects. Injecting ketamine will put individuals at a higher risk for infectious blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Ketamine is also commonly used as a date rape drug, according to NIDA.

It is possible to overdose on ketamine. Some of the signs that an individual may have overdosed include hallucinations, loss of consciousness, and slowed breathing. In the event of a ketamine overdose, emergency help should be sought immediately. Medical professionals will treat life-threatening symptoms, such as respiratory depression, first.


Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is known for its hallucinogenic properties. It may be referred to as acid, yellow sunshine, and microdot. It is classified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA, as it has a high potential for abuse.

LSD’s effects are extremely unpredictable and depend mostly on the amount of the drug used and the individual’s mood. Effects can be seen approximately 30-60 minutes after ingestion and include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Hallucinations
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperthermia
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Weakness

Some individuals experience what is known as a bad trip, meaning they experience frightening hallucinations as well as terrifying thoughts. Unfortunately, some adverse reactions are associated with injuries and fatal accidents.

LSD overdose is usually not fatal. Signs are often similar to those of a bad trip, but they may last longer and be more pronounced. Treatment may include monitoring the individual in a safe, comfortable environment and provide relief for symptoms like agitation.

NIDA states that LSD is not considered to be addictive, due to the lack of drug-seeking behaviors that accompany use. This does not mean that individuals cannot develop tolerance to the drug. Currently, there are no approved medications to treat LSD addiction.


MDMA, which is the abbreviation for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is better known as ecstasy, or even X, E, and XTC. Ecstasy differs from other club drugs due to the fact that it is an amphetamine with hallucinogenic properties. The drug is most often taken in tablet form, but it is also available as a powder.

The effects of ecstasy can last anywhere from 3-6 hours, according to NIDA. Some individuals who use ecstasy may “piggyback,” meaning that they will take a second dose of ecstasy as they begin to feel the effects from the first dose wearing off. Some users may combine ecstasy with other drugs, such as cocaine.

Effects of ecstasy include:

  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Chills or sweating
  • Clenching of the jaw
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Hypertension
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle cramps and tension
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate

Hyperthermia, which may cause liver, kidney, and heart failure, and in rare cases, death

The DEA warns that ecstasy can cause permanent damage involving memory and learning. Some effects, such as paranoia, confusion, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and cravings, may last weeks or even months after ecstasy was used. AAFP agrees, stating that individuals may experience severe depression due to ecstasy’s depletion of serotonin in the brain.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal states that ecstasy does not carry an addiction risk, but this does not mean that psychological dependence cannot occur. NIDA states that in animal studies, animals exhibited some self-administration of the drug; however, the rate of self-administration was not as high as with other illicit drugs, such as cocaine. Some individuals have reportedly experienced signs of physical dependence: the development of a tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and continued use of ecstasy even when they know harm has been done.


Often called speed, crystal meth, or crank, methamphetamine is a stimulant that is often ingested as a pill or powder. The DEA states that crystal meth is an altered version of methamphetamine that is manufactured by individuals using over-the-counter medications. Oftentimes, crystal meth looks similar to pieces of glass, hence its name.

Methamphetamine can be ingested in several ways: orally, by smoking, via snorting, and by injection. A form of methamphetamine is the active ingredient in the medication Desoxyn, which is used to treat obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The onset of effects differs with each route of administration. NIDA states that injecting or smoking the drug causes immediate onset of effects. Some of the effects that methamphetamine can cause include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Decreased appetite
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations
  • Hypertension
  • Increased energy
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid and/or irregular heart rate

Injecting methamphetamine puts individuals at a higher risk for infectious blood-borne diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Also, methamphetamine can worsen the effects of HIV.

Addiction is a very real possibility with chronic methamphetamine use. Individuals who have become addicted to methamphetamine will develop tolerance to the drug, as well as the inability to feel pleasure from things other than drug use, such as former hobbies. NIDA states that long-term users may also show other symptoms, such as insomnia, weight loss, confusion, and anxiety. Crystal meth use is known to cause rapid physical deterioration and drastically alter users’ appearance with long-term use.

Medical detox is generally needed for those addicted to crystal meth. Treatment for methamphetamine usually involves one or more of the following plans: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Contingency Management, the Matrix Model, and 12-Steps programs. There are, however, no medications approved to encourage sobriety from meth use.


Rohypnol, which is the brand name for the drug flunitrazepam, is the drug most synonymous with date rape. It is classified as a benzodiazepine but has no medical use in the United States and is illegal. A publication by Oregon State University states that Rohypnol is similar to Valium but about 10 times stronger. It is sometimes referred to as roofiesand most commonly ingested orally, either in pill form, or famously, dissolved in a drink.

Rohypnol is famous for its effects, which AAFP states can begin approximately 30 minutes after ingestion and last 8-12 hours. Per the DEA, effects may include:

  • Amnesia
  • Confusion
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Sedation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)

Since Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine, it does have a risk of addiction if used regularly. Rohypnol can cause withdrawal symptoms in those who have become dependent on the drug, which can include headaches, muscle pain, anxiety, seizures, hallucinations, and shock.

When Rohypnol is combined with alcohol, its effects are increased. Oregon State University offers several tips to avoid unknowingly ingesting Rohypnol:

  • Never leave a drink unattended, as Rohypnol may be slipped into it. If you must leave a drink unattended, it should be discarded.
  • If a mixed drink is ordered, observe the individual mixing the drink.
  • Never take drinks from those you know and trust, and do not drink from a common punch bowl.
  • Drinks that are in sealed cans or bottles are safer than mixed drinks.
  • If someone offers you a drink, accompany the person ordering the drink to the bar to watch the drink being made.
  • Use the buddy system. Pair up with a friend to monitor each other’s behavior.

Treatment for Club Drug Abuse

As with all substances of abuse, club drugs can cause serious negative effects if abused. For those who find themselves addicted to club drugs, comprehensive treatment will likely be needed to achieve recovery. Care that begins with medical detox and progresses to therapy and aftercare will be most effective in helping individuals to maintain long-term sobriety and achieve healthy lives.

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