Club Drugs

Published on March 6th, 2014

Club drugs are a group of psychoactive drugs that are commonly abused by teens and young adults within bars, nightclubs, parties and even concerts. The most commonly abused club drugs tend to be Ecstasy (MDMA), Methamphetamine, Rohypnol, Ketamine and GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyrate).


How Are Club Drugs Abused?

Club drugs is the name for a group of drugs, each tend to be used and abused in different ways.

Ecstasy is usually swallowed in pill form, but can also be crushed and snorted, injected, or used in suppository form to produce euphoric effects.

Methamphetamine is abused orally, smoked, snorted, or dissolved in water or alcohol and injected. Smoking or injecting the drug delivers it very quickly to the brain, where it produces an immediate, intense euphoria.

GHB and Rohypnol are typically odorless, colorless, and tasteless. When in this form they are typically combined with alcohol and other beverages. When ingested GHB and Rohypnol will sedate the individual. Both of these drugs are known as “date rape” drugs, having been used to commit sexual assaults due to their ability to incapacitate unsuspecting victims, making it nearly impossible for them to resist the sexual assault.

GHB and Rohypnol are also used for other intoxicating purposes. GHB is usually ingested orally, either in liquid or powder form, when used for recreational purposes. Rohypnol is typically taken orally in pill form, however, it can also be ground up and snorted. Both drugs have similar intoxicating effects similar to other CNS depressants.

Ketamine is usually snorted or injected intramuscularly for its sedative effects.


How Do Club Drugs Affect the Brain?

While each drug is used for recreational purposes, they each affects the brain different.

Ecstasy affters the activity of at least three neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers of brain cells): serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. It can cause individuals to experience enhanced sensory perception, mental stimulation, emotional warmth, empathy toward others, a general sense of well being, and decreased anxiety.

Methamphetamine increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine, leading to high levels of that chemical in the brain. The taken it causes the brain produces the euphoric “rush” or “flash”.

Rohypnol affects the GABAA receptor, just as many other benzodiazepines do. It can cause individuals to not remember events they experienced while under the influence of the drug, this is known anterograde amnesia.

Ketamine affects the glutamate receptor (NMDA receptor) in a similar way to those of the drug PCP. It is a dissociative anesthetic. It works by distorting perceptions of sight and sound and produces feelings of detachment from the environment and self. When Ketamine is taken in low-doses the intoxication results cause impaired attention, learning ability, and memory. When it is taken in higher doses, the affects can cause dreamlike states and hallucinations, as well as delirium and amnesia.

GHB affects at least two sites in the brain; the GABAB receptor and a specific GHB binding site. When taken at high doses, GHB’s sedative effects may result in sleep, coma, or death.

Addictive Potential

Ecstasy is normally used as a binge drug. Each dose taken of Ectasy will increase as the individual develops a tolerance. Many individuals will experience symptoms of  withdrawal when coming down from ecstasy, quickly taking another dose for comfort. Prolonged use of this drug can result in physical dependency and addiction.

Methamphetamine users develop a tolerance at its first use, requiring increased doses each time it is used to achieve the desired effects. As the regularity of methamphetamine use increases the individual is at great risk of developing a physical dependency and addiction.

Chronic use of Rohypnol can result in the individual developing a tolerance, requiring larger doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects. As the repetitive use of Rohypnol continues the individual is at risk of developing a physical dependency and addiction.

Many individuals will binge on ketamine, similar to that with cocaine or amphetamine dependent individuals. Quickly users will develop tolerance and strong cravings to continue the drugs use, often resulting in a physical dependency and addiction.

The repetitive use of GHB can  lead to the individual experience a wide array of withdrawal effects, including insomnia, anxiety, tremors, and sweating. Some individual may even experience severe withdrawal reactions due to overdose of GHB or other related compounds, alcohol increases this risk.


What Other Adverse Effects Do Club Drugs Have on Health?

There are many uncertainties about the sources, chemicals and possible contaminants used to manufactures these club drugs. This makes it extremely difficult in determining the toxicity and effects club drugs have on the individuals health. However, we do know that;

GHB use puts the user at great risk of coma and seizures following its use. When used in combination with other drugs, such as alcohol, the individual can experience nausea and breathing difficulties. GHB its known for poisonings, overdoses, date rapes, and deaths.

The use of rohypnol may be lethal when mixed with alcohol and/or other CNS depressants.

When ketamine is used in high doses it can cause impaired motor function, high blood pressure, and potentially fatal respiratory problems.

What Treatment Options Exist?

Unfortunately many clinicians are unfamiliar with GHB and there are no detection tests available so many GHB incidents are likely go undetected. However, patients who abuse GHB often present severe problems upon admission and often have a good response to residential treatment services.

Treatment services for patients suffering from an Rohypnol abuse problem will follow accepted protocols for any benzodiazepine. These treatment services may consist of a 3- to 5-day inpatient detoxification program with 24-hour intensive medical monitoring and management of withdrawal symptoms.

Patients whom have overdosed on ketamine are managed through supportive care for acute symptoms, with special attention to cardiac and respiratory functions.

Statistics and Trends

Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs for 8th-Graders, 10th-Graders, and 12th-Graders; 2013 (in percent)*
Drug Time Period 8th-Graders 10th-Graders 12th-Graders
GHB Past Year 1.00
Ketamine Past Year 1.40
Rohypnol Lifetime 0.70 1.10
Past Year 0.40 0.60 0.90
Past Month 0.10 0.10
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