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The Dangers of Club Drugs

People in a club doing drugs

Club drugs are psychoactive drugs often used by teens and young adults at parties, bars, nightclubs, and concerts. They cause changes in mood and awareness, enabling users to feel less inhibited and more social. The most commonly used club drugs include GHB, Rohypnol, Ketamine, MDMA (Ecstasy), Methamphetamine and LSD (Acid). Most forms of these drugs are illegal and can cause serious, even fatal, injury or side effects.

Psychoactive drugs are those that affect the mind and behavior and include depressants, stimulants, opioids, and hallucinogens. Opioids are not considered club drugs, but club drugs do fall into the other three categories.

  • Stimulants trigger the brain and central nervous system to increase alertness, elevate mood, increase speech and motor activity and decrease fear and inhibitions.
  • Depressants slow down the central nervous system, reducing arousal and reaction time.
  • Hallucinogens may cause users to see, hear or feel things that are not real. They impair judgement and often cause memory impairment.

Stimulant Club Drugs

  • Methamphetamine: Slang names for this drug include Meth, Speed, Ice, Chalk, Crystal, Crank, Batu, Bikers Coffee, Black Beauties, Tweak, Uppers, Poor Man’s Cocaine, and Glass. An extremely addictive stimulant drug, the DEA warns that even small amounts of meth can cause increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, rapid breathing and heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure and hyperthermia (overheating).

Regular or long time users of meth “can exhibit violent behavior…and psychotic features including paranoia, aggression, visual and auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances, and delusions — such as the sensation of insects creeping on or under the skin,” according to the DEA, who also reports that “such paranoia can result in homicidal or suicidal thoughts.” Chronic meth users often have severe anorexia, memory loss and advanced dental problems.

Overdose of meth can be lethal, as dangerously high body temperatures may cause convulsions, cardiovascular collapse and death.

Depressant Club Drugs

  • Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB): Slang names for this drug include G, Easy Lay, Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid X, Grievous Bodily Harm, Georgia Home Boy, Goop and Scoop. The drug is a central nervous system depressant legitimately prescribed to treat narcolepsy (daytime sleepiness).

When misused, GHB causes euphoria, loss of inhibition, increased sex drive, increased suggestibility, and body sedation. It may also cause amnesia. Because of these effects, GHB may be used as a “date rape” drug. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the effects produced by GHB make users “vulnerable to sexual assault and other criminal acts.” When combined with alcohol, the depressant effects of GHB are intensified, which can cause serious problems with breathing.

The DEA reports that high doses of GHB can produce unconsciousness, seizures, slowed heart rate, greatly slowed breathing, lower body temperature, vomiting, nausea, coma and death. The drug has also been known to produce hallucinations and aggressive behavior.

If users regularly use the drug and then suddenly stop, withdrawal symptoms can include insomnia, anxiety, tremors, increased heart rate and blood pressure and occasional psychotic thoughts. The DEA fact sheet also warns that GHB overdose can result in “seizures, slowed heart rate, greatly slowed breathing, lower body temperature, vomiting, nausea, coma, and death.”

  • Rohypnol: The most common slang name for this drug is Roofies. Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine, producing strong hypnotic and sedative effects (similar to Valium® and Xanax®). These sedating, incapacitating effects have led Rohypnol to be well-known as a “date rape” drug.

Additional effects of Rohypnol may include decreased anxiety, confusion, muscle relaxation, loss of control, drowsiness, blackout, memory impairment and the possibility of seizures. It has been frequently linked to sexual assault as it can cause increased susceptibility to suggestion and incapacitation.

Hallucinogenic Club Drugs

  • Ketamine: Slang names for this drug include Special K, K, Vitamin K, Cat Valiums and Jet. A hallucinogen legitimately used as an anesthetic, when misused, ketamine causes users to feel detached from reality.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says the effects of ketamine may include extreme energy, hallucinations, and a disconnection with reality. Overuse can also lead to adverse effects on the body, including amnesia, high blood pressure, poor motor function and depressed respiratory function. Psychotic breaks, including those of extended duration, are a risk when using ketamine improperly.

  • 3, 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA): Slang names for this drug include Ecstasy, XTC, X, E, Adam, Beans, Molly, Hug Drug, Clarity, Disco Biscuit and Love Drug. MDMA is a synthetic, psychoactive drug with characteristics of both a stimulant and a hallucinogen. The drug can cause euphoria, empathy, an increased sex drive, heightened enjoyment of touch, decreased inhibition, impaired judgement, time distortion, and impaired motor skills.

With prolonged use, MDMA harms brain neurons that regulate serotonin, a chemical that affects memory, mood, aggression, sleep, libido, and pain sensitivity. In 2012, Fox News reported the results of a study on the effects of MDMA on the brain published in the journal Addiction that found “a deterioration in a memory task called paired associates learning, in which people memorize pairs of words or objects so that the presentation of one triggers the recall of the other.” Memory impairment may be permanent.

Other adverse physical and mental effects caused by MDMA may include anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep problems, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure. Another dangerous effect of MDMA is the impaired ability of the body to regulate temperature, which can lead to dehydration, liver, kidney, and cardiovascular failure. These effects can be fatal.

  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD): Slang names for this drug include Acid, Boomers, Blotter Acid, Dots, Mellow Yellow and Windowpane. This hallucinogenic drug can cause intense mood swings and a “distorted perception of the shape and size of objects, movements, colors, sound, touch, and the user’s own body image,” according to the DEA. Users may also find their judgement and ability to identify danger are impaired when on LSD.

LSD commonly causes dilated pupils, dizziness, loss of appetite, insomnia, tremors, and increased blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. The DEA warns overdoses can lead to psychosis and possibly death.

“Date rape” drugs

GHB and Rohypnol are commonly used as “date rape” drugs. They can be odorless, colorless and virtually tasteless, so are difficult to detect in a drink or food. To lessen the chances of becoming a victim of “date rape”, exercise caution:

  • Never accept food or a drink from someone you don’t know well and trust.
  • Only eat or drink something you opened or prepared yourself.
  • Never leave your drink, or a friend’s drink, unattended.

Educate yourself, and think long and hard about the possible consequences before using a club drug or any illegal, unprescribed drug. Illegal drugs affect your physical and mental well-being, with the potential for injury, serious harm, and possible death. They can cause you to behave out of character and to make choices you wouldn’t normally make, sometimes with heartbreaking results.

Total abstinence from drug use is foremost the safest practice legally, financially, emotionally and physically!

Turning Point of Tampa’s goal is to always provide a safe environment and a solid foundation in 12-Step recovery, in tandem with quality individual therapy and groups. We have been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-882-3003, 800-397-3006 or admissions@tpoftampa.com.