Substance Abuse Ecstasy Club Drugs

Club drugs are a mixed bag of illegal drugs most often abused during all-night dance parties, at raves and in bars or clubs. Examples of common club drugs include ecstasy, LSD (acid), methamphetamine, GHB and Rohypnol.

Although club drugs are most often associated with teen and young adult nightlife, club drugs are becoming increasingly mainstream and appearing in other locations. Several club drugs, most notably GHB and Rohypnol, have been implicated in drug-facilitated sexual assaults.

Although ecstasy has a reputation as a “soft” drug, all club drugs are associated with serious health complications. Methamphetamine, or ice, is reaching epidemic status in some geographic areas, and is one of the most dangerous club drugs.

Ecstasy

Ecstasy is one of the club drugs most often associated with rave parties. The scientific name for ecstasy is methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). On the street, ecstasy is called:

  • XTC
  • X
  • Adam
  • Clarity
  • lover’s speed
  • hug drug.

Ecstasy is chemically similar to both amphetamine, a stimulant, and mescaline, a hallucinogen. Usually taken orally, ecstasy causes mild sensory distortions coupled with stimulation. Taken at a dance or rave, ecstasy’s sensory altering properties can be heightened by the high degree of sensory stimulation (lights, music and crowded dance floors).

Once ingested, the stimulating and sensory distorting properties of ecstasy last three to six hours, enough for the drug’s effect to last through most raves. As ecstasy wears off, the user may experience anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances. These symptoms have been known to last for weeks after taking ecstasy.

Although often considered one of the safest club drugs, ecstasy can produce serious, and sometimes fatal, health complications.

Physically, ecstasy raises heart rate and blood pressure. Ecstasy takes some time to metabolize, and repeated ecstasy use can quickly lead to dangerous levels of the drug in the body.

In the long-term, ecstasy can impair memory recall and lower overall cognitive function. Acute, life-threatening complications include:

  • Hyperthermia: Ecstasy causes a marked increase in body temperature (hyperthermia). Exacerbated by the hot crowded environment of a dance or rave, hyperthermia can lead to heart, liver or kidney failure.
  • Hyponatremia: When ecstasy users dehydrate, they consume large amounts of water in short periods of time, which can cause water intoxication (hyponatremia). Water intoxication can cause sudden and life-threatening drops in the concentration of the body’s electrolytes.

Methamphetamine Club Drugs

Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive of the club drugs. Methamphetamine is a stimulant with dangerous neurotoxic properties. Methamphetamine is easy to produce: “meth labs” concoct the drug from common nonprescription medications. Methamphetamine is a white, crystalline powder known on the street as:

  • speed
  • chalk
  • meth
  • ice
  • crystal
  • fire
  • glass
  • crank.

Of all the club drugs, methamphetamine lends itself to the widest variety of abuse. The drug can be smoked, inhaled, injected or taken orally. Methamphetamine’s stimulating effects cause agitation, loss of appetite, excited speech patterns, a reduced need for sleep and heightened physical activity.

Long-term methamphetamine abuse causes permanent damage to the heart and brain. Chronic users often have numerous skin lesions from compulsively picking at the skin. Loss of memory, heightened aggression, violence and psychotic behavior are all earmarks of chronic methamphetamine use.

LSD (Acid)

The hallucinogen of the 1960s, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is still in use today, and is considered one of the club drugs. LSD causes unpredictable sensory distortions and hallucinations. Among numerous others, LSD also goes by the following street name:

  • boomer
  • yellow sunshine
  • blotter
  • acid
  • tab.

LSD is usually taken orally as a pill or capsule, but acid may also come in liquid form. Acid is both odorless and tasteless. LSD can also be soaked onto blotter paper, usually divided into colored squares so that one square equals one LSD dose.

Once ingested, acid’s effects are not felt for thirty to ninety minutes. Once LSD takes effect, sensory perceptions shift dramatically. The pupils dilate and the LSD user experiences an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Other symptoms of acid use include:

  • sweating
  • loss of appetite
  • insomnia
  • dry mouth
  • muscle tremors
  • numbness
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • trembling.

Whether an LSD experience is pleasurable or terrifying is somewhat random. The personality of the user, the location and numerous other factors can determine whether acid causes a good or bad “trip.”

Long-term mental disorders are associated with LSD. Serious, recurrent psychosis (the inability to distinguish fantasy from reality) affects some acid users. Other LSD users may suffer from hallucinogen persisting perception disorder, better known as LSD “flashbacks,” long after discontinuing acid use.

The Date Rape Drugs

Two club drugs in particular have gained media notoriety: GHB ( gamma-hydroxybutyrate) and Rohypnol ( flunitrazepam). Both are linked to drug-assisted sexual assaults, earning them the nickname “date rape” drugs.

The Date Rape Drug GBH

Throughout the 1980s GHB was readily available as an over-the-counter fat reducer and muscle builder. The drug was pulled from the market after research indicated that GHB abuse caused seizures and comas. When mixed with alcohol, GHB results in nausea and breathing difficulties.

GHB is still abused as a muscle-builder, but its popularity as a club drug stems from its sedating effects. A central nervous system depressant, GHB produces intoxication, sedation and euphoria within twenty minutes. GHB is available as a clear liquid, in tablet form and as a white powder.

GHB dissolves easily, and is one of the club drugs often mixed with alcohol, which intensifies the drug’s sedating effects and can produce dangerously impaired breathing patterns. Effects of GHB last as long as four hours and high doses can result in sleep, coma and death.

GHB’s sedating effects and the ease with which it dissolves make it one of the club drugs most often used to commit sexual assault. Many date rapes have been linked to victims ingesting drinks spiked with GHB.

GHB is known in slang as:

  • G
  • liquid ecstasy
  • easy lay
  • Georgia home boy
  • Grievous Bodily Harm.

The Date Rape Drug Rohypnol

Rohypnol is another of the so called date rape drugs. Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine, the same family of sedating drugs that includes Valium. While not FDA approved for medical use in the US, Rohypnol is prescribed in some countries as a sedative and insomnia treatment.

Rohypnol is known in club drug slang as:

  • roofies
  • rophies
  • roche
  • roach
  • rope
  • forget-me drug.

Of all the club drugs, Rohypnol is perhaps best suited to drug-assisted date rape. Rohypnol is colorless, odorless and tasteless. The drug dissolves with ease, especially in carbonated drinks. Rohypnol alone can produce incapacitating sedative effects that last between eight to twelve hours. Mixing alcohol or other depressants with Rohypnol intensifies the drug’s sedative effect, and it can be lethal.

Adding to Rohypnol’s “popularity” as a date rape tool is its amnesia-causing properties. When the sedative properties of Rohypnol wear off, some people experience anterograde amnesia — they have no clear memory of events that occurred during the drug’s acute effects. Rohypnol’s reputation as a date rape drug has made it one of the most notorious of the club drugs.

Resources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2005, March). Club drugs. NIDA InfoFacts.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (updated 2004). NIDA community drug alert bulletin: Club drugs.

Office of National Drug Control Policy. (updated 2002). Street terms: Drugs and the drug trade.