What Are Club Drugs?
The 1970’s were known as the era of disco and social freedoms not experienced prior to that decade. With those social freedoms came widely accepted experimentation in recreational substances now known as “club drugs.” These drugs have continued to thrive on the social scene, experiencing some surges in popularity in each decade since the disco era.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, club drugs are now most commonly ingested through raves, all-night dance parties for teens and young adults. While the heaviest exposure may be in those venues of entertainment, club drugs are also frequently used in nightclubs, bars and outside of public realm, even by career-driven adults. Unfortunately, acceptance of some illicit substances in the club drug family is becoming more mainstream, even into plot lines of major motion pictures, such as The Hangover.
Within the club drug genre are six primary and well known substances. Those are:
- Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)
- Gamma-hydoxybutyrate (GHB)
- Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
These are all often distributed in social settings and crowded party environments, but use is not limited to the party scene.
MDMA is widely consider a fun, chic drug by those inclined to indulge in controlled substances. One of its street names conveys that image: Ecstasy. It is also widely referred to as “E,” “X,” “XTC,” “Adam,” “Clarity” and “Lover’s Speed.” As the names “Ecstacy” and “Lover’s Speed” imply, the drug is believed by many who use to create a certain loving and sexual euphoria. Because of this reputation, the drug holds even more physical risk than its own side effects, creating also risk of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and other problems associated with careless sexual relations. A hallucinogen, Ecstasy is taken in tablet or capsule form. It is particularly popular in club and dance settings, as its effects enable the user to dance for extended periods of time without feeling exhaustion. Ecstasy’s high is experienced for between three and six hours, during which time the user may experience dehydration, increased body temperature, hypertension, heart failure, kidney failure and even death. If used for long periods of time, the user will likely suffer confusion, depression, memory loss, anxiety, paranoia and sleeplessness.
GHB has a reputation as a “date rape” drug, as it acts as a sedative within as little as 10 to 20 minutes following ingestion. Because it is a portable drug of liquid, powder, tablet and capsule forms, GHB has been known to be mixed into victims’ alcoholic beverages by perpetrators at even very public venues, preceding sexual assault. A very public trial of Jeffrey Marsalis of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania reported over two dozen instances of sexual assault wherein GHB or a similar sedative was said to have been placed by Marsalis in victims’ cocktails. Called the “most prolific serial rapist in American history,” Marsalis was acquitted on all but one of the charges. Pennsylvania cases failed to find him guilty because there were no toxicology tests conducted on victims, but a singular case in Idaho resulted in a life prison sentence.
At least one of the street names of GHB ironically portray the negative nature of the substance: “Greivous Bodily Harm,” “G,” “Liquid Ecstasy” and “Georgia Home Boy.” The rapidity of its effects makes GHB particularly dangerous. As a sedative, it is highly powerful and exacts unconsciousness or physical and verbal submission within mere minutes of ingestion. When combined with alcohol, GHB is particularly dangerous and its power intensifies. GHB is also sometimes used for its growth hormone-inducing effects, by those wishing to build a muscular physique or even enhance sexual performance.
Effects last up to four hours, including slowing of breathing and heart rates to even deadly paces. Overdose can occur very quickly. Common signs of GHB overdose are: nausea, vomiting, headache, loss of consciousness, drowsiness, impaired reflexes, impaired breathing, and ultimately death.
Meth, also known as “Ice,” “Speed,” “Crystal,” “Fire,” “Glass,” “Crank” and “Chalk,” is a stimulant comprised of over-the-counter and widely available ingredients, so it is primarily developed in illegal home laboratories. Primarily available in pill, powder or capsule form, Meth is smoked, injected or snorted. Methamphetamine is known through recent public service campaigns to quickly diminish the appearance and cognitive ability of its users. Users are said to “age” quickly, often transforming from attractive and healthy individuals into shells of their former selves. Teeth are often lost as part of Meth use, adding to the horrific aging of the face. Other side effects are memory loss, aggressive and violent behavior, psychosis, and cardiac and neurological damage. Known for their characteristic “tweaking” behaviors, as they are called, Meth abusers exhibit agitation, excitability, rapid and compulsive speech, diminished appetite and increased physical activity. They are also known to develop many sores throughout their body, compulsively picking at the scabs as one of the earmark behaviors. Higher transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and other infections are seen among Meth users, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
Generally intended for veterinary sedation in the United States, Ketamine became popular as a recreational drug in the 1980’s, when it was purported to cause PCP-like hallucinations and dream-like states in users. Available primarily as an injectible liquid or powder form that is snorted or laced on other illicit drugs like marijuana or even legal tobacco for smoking, Ketamine causes impaired motor function, delirium, amnesia, depression, high blood pressure and sometimes fatal respiratory problems. Even low dose use can cause memory problems, attention disorders and learning defects. On the street, Ketamine is referred to as “Special K,” “Vitamin K,” “K” and “Cat Valium.”
Also known as “Roofies,” “Forget-Me Pill,” “Rophies” and “Roche,” Rohypnol is very similar to GHB in its widespread use as a “date rape” drug. Also easily slipped into drinks and quick-acting in as little as 30 minutes, this sedative’s effects become more intense when mixed with alcohol. Rohypnol causes anterograde amnesia, along with low blood pressure, drowsiness, confusion, visual problems and dizziness.
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
Often connected to the 1960’s, the hippie movement and “free love,” LSD is still on the club drug scene today. Also known as “Yellow Sunshine,” “Boomers” and most popularly “Acid,” LSD causes colorfully hallucinogenic effects greatly influenced by the environment, mood and situation of use. Immediate and short term effects are typically dilation of the pupils, hyperthermia, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, sweating, dry mouth, and tremors. Users may also experience nausea, numbness and weakness. Persistent psychosis and hallucinogenic flashbacks are frequent side effects of long term abuse.