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Rave Drugs and Club Drugs

Club drugs are a group of drugs commonly used by older adolescents and young adults to enhance dance parties like raves or going clubbing.1 Club drug intoxication and side effects can be harmful or dangerous, particularly when using different drugs together, leading to injury or overdose, and may even lead to long-term consequences.1

This page will help you understand:

  • What club drugs are.
  • Effects of club drugs
  • Different types of club drugs.
  • Risks associated with club and rave party drugs.
  • How addictive club drugs are.
  • Addiction treatment for club drugs.

What Are Club Drugs?

Club drugs are a group of drugs that are most often used by adolescents and young adults at dance parties, raves, bars, and clubs to help maintain energy levels for dancing, alter how they sense the environment around them, and reduce inhibitions.1, 3 Club drugs can include several types of substances including: 1, 3, 10

  • Stimulants.
  • Depressants.
  • Inhalants.
  • Hallucinogens.

Some of these drugs are relatively easy to access and inexpensive. Although they may be viewed as less harmful than other drugs, particularly those that are injected like heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, they can still be very dangerous.1, 4

Club drugs often come in the form of pills, powders, or liquid found in small vials, which are taken orally. It’s common for these substances to be mixed or cut with other substances, or even be a completely different drug than what the user thinks, which can increase the risks of using club drugs.3, 4

People often take club drugs together or combine them with alcohol, which can enhance their effects and raise the likelihood of overdose or experiencing other harmful unanticipated effects.4, 18

What Are the Effects of Club Drugs?

Club drugs can be unpredictable and may contain different ingredients than what a person thinks. Their pharmacological, psychological, and physiological effects can vary widely.1, 3, 4 Common effects of club drugs can include:3

  • Altered sensory perception, including seeing and hearing things that aren’t real or are distortions of reality.
  • Impaired judgment.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Loss of muscle control.
  • Euphoria.
  • Dizziness.
  • Changes in energy level (drowsiness or alertness).
  • Changes in blood pressure, heart rate, or body temperature.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Loss of consciousness (including coma).

However, everyone reacts differently and the specific effects that you feel depend on the person, the substance taken, substances they are combined with or ingredients that were added, and the dose.4

Types of Club Drugs

There are several substances grouped under the general term “club drugs,” but those discussed in this article include:1, 2, 3, 4, 7

  • MDMA, which is often called ecstasy, Molly, or X, has both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties.
  • GHB, also known as liquid ecstasy, Georgia homeboy, and grievous bodily harm, is a type of depressant known as a sedative/hypnotic.
  • Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), known as roofies, forget-me pills, and Mexican valium, is another depressant and sedative/hypnotic known as benzodiazepines.
  • Ketamine, called special K or vitamin K, is an anesthetic drug with dissociative properties (experiencing a disconnection or lack of continuity in thoughts, memories, and personal identity).

Methamphetamine, a stimulant, and LSD (“acid”), a hallucinogen, are also sometimes used as club drugs.1, 3 You can find more information about meth and LSD in separate articles on these drugs.

MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly)

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is one of the most common club drugs. It is a derivative of amphetamine with both hallucinogenic and stimulant properties.

It is taken for its energizing effect and to distort perception or enhance enjoyment from the highly sensory club or rave experience.8 MDMA also can increase self-awareness and empathy.8

Most pills sold on the street as ecstasy or molly are not pure MDMA but are combined with substances such as caffeine, dextromethorphan (cough medicine), pseudoephedrine (decongestant), or amphetamines, and potent synthetic hallucinogens such as LSD.4 Short-term effects of taking ecstasy can also include:6, 8

  • Blurred vision.
  • Clenching of the jaw or grinding teeth.
  • Sweating or chills.
  • Muscle stiffness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Dizziness or feeling faint.
  • Increases heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Higher body temperature, which may lead to dehydration and serious heart, liver, or kidney problems.

The desired effects of a dose of MDMA typically wear off after 3 to 6 hours, and users typically take additional doses. Over the course of a week or so following moderate use, a person may be irritable, feel depressed, experience anxiety, have trouble sleeping, have a decreased appetite, and experience memory and attention problems.6

Research is inconclusive when it comes to the long-term effects of MDMA, or if these changes are reversible when someone stops using the drug. Studies of MDMA users suggest that longer-lasting problems may include sleep problems, depression, problems with memory and attention, impulsivity, and decreased cognitive function.8

GHB

Although there is one form of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) that can be prescribed to treat narcolepsy (Xyram), GHB and similar drugs, are often used illicitly.2, 4 Although GHB is a schedule I narcotic per the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, similar drugs to GHB, including GBL and BD, can be legally obtained and have similar effects because they turn into GHB in the body.4 People typically take GHB for its euphoric and calming effects.1

GHB is taken orally. It has an unpleasant taste so it is usually mixed with flavored or alcoholic beverages. Effects of euphoria appear within 15 to 30 minutes and peak at 20 to 60 minutes (depending on if it was taken with food). Mixing GHB with alcohol or other CNS depressants will potentiate respiratory effects and can increase the risk of overdose.4

Users may also experience:4

  • Dizziness.
  • Increased saliva production.
  • Decreased muscle tone (muscles are easy to move without their normal resistance).
  • Memory loss or lapses.
  • Decreased heart rate.
  • Lowered body temperature.

Overdose is indicated by breathing that gradually decreases until it stops then returns to normal, loss of consciousness or coma, and seizures. A loss of consciousness may be accompanied by periods of flailing activity, sometimes described as that of a swimmer gasping for air.4

Chronic use of GHB may produce physiological dependence, with withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, sleep problems, shakiness, and even psychosis.4

Rohypnol

Rohypnol is in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines and is commonly used to treat insomnia in other countries, but it has never been FDA-approved in the U.S.10 It is most well-known in the U.S. as “the date-rape drug,” as it produces potent sedative and muscle relaxation effects. It may also be used recreationally to feel euphoric and relaxed or to reduce anxiety and inhibition.4, 10 Other short-term effects include:1, 2, 4, 10

  • Impaired coordination and muscle control.
  • Dizziness.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Blackouts (anteretrograde amnesia).
  • Confusion.
  • Depressed breathing.
  • Difficulty seeing clearly.
  • Headache.
  • Low blood pressure, body temperature, and pulse.
  • Memory loss.
  • Slurring.
  • Urinary retention.

When taken regularly over a period of time, long-term effects of Rohypnol can include dependence, which means a person will experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation or upon significantly reducing dose.4, 10

Ketamine

Ketamine is another prescription drug that often gets used illicitly.4 It can make people feel like they are floating outside of their body and in a dreamy state, but the use of this drug also causes other effects.1, 2 Short-term effects include:1, 2, 4

  • Feeling disconnected from one’s body.
  • Altered visual perceptions and hallucinations.
  • Memory loss.
  • Nausea.
  • Confusion.
  • Impaired coordination.
  • Uncontrollable eye movements.
  • Increased blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate.
  • Depressed breathing.
  • Loss of consciousness.

Long-term effects of ketamine can include flashbacks that are accompanied by visual disturbances and some chronic users have reported withdrawal symptoms upon cessation after chronic administration.4

Risks of Club Drugs

Taking club drugs comes with significant risks. Effects of some of these drugs can be especially pronounced when they are taken together or mixed with alcohol.12 Since some club drugs, specifically GHB, Rohypnol, and ketamine, can cause sedation, confusion, and memory loss, they have been known to be used to facilitate sexual assaults.1, 12

In some users, club drugs may simultaneously increase libido and reduce inhibitions, which can prompt people to engage in risky sexual behavior, which can result in greater risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.7, 9

Club drugs can lead to overdose, coma, and death when taken at high enough doses. The risk of overdose is increased when the drugs are combined or taken together with alcohol or other CNS depressants.1, 10, 2, 11

One of the major risks of taking club drugs is that these drugs are often misrepresented, adulterated, or totally substituted for a different drug, which means you may not be taking what you think you are taking.

Chemical analyses of DEA-seized drugs sold as MDMA or “molly” revealed that they are often cut with, or completely replaced by synthetic stimulants such as bath salts or methamphetamine. These can have a much higher risk of experiencing unwanted or unknown side effects or overdose.4, 8

American Addiction Centers has helped thousands recover from addiction and we can help you or your loved one too. Check your insurance to find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies. You can also sign up 24/7 text support for addiction questions at your convenience.

Are Club Drugs Addictive?

The category of substances known as “club drugs” can affect each person differently and since the drugs being ingested are often in part or wholly not the drug the user thinks they are taking, it can be difficult to generalize how addictive they are.

However, there have been reports that chronic use of substances sold as MDMA, GHB, Rohypnol, and Ketamine may lead to physiological dependence.4 Dependence means that a user will experience withdrawal symptoms upon stopping or significantly reducing the use of a substance. It is not the same as a substance use disorder (SUD), which can be diagnosed by a medical or mental health professional. Dependence is, however, one of the criteria used when diagnosing a SUD.15

A substance use disorder is a chronic condition involving the inability to control substance use even after experiencing negative effects in one or more life areas.14 If you use club drugs regularly, you are at heightened risk of developing a SUD.2, 6

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with a SUD, the following criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition) may help you identify signs of SUDs. Only a doctor can give a formal diagnosis, but if you experience 2 or more of these symptoms over the past 12 months, you may want to get help:14, 15

  • Continuing to use even after knowing that a substance has caused or worsened a physical or mental health issue.
  • Cutting back or quitting activities or hobbies because of the substance.
  • Going through withdrawal when the substance is stopped.
  • Having strong cravings for the substance.
  • Inability to cut back or stop using the substance despite a strong desire to use it.
  • Needing to use more of the substance to get the intended effect.
  • Not being able to stop taking the substance even after substance use causes or worsens social or relationship issues.
  • Spending a lot of time getting or using the substance, or recovering from using it.
  • Struggling to complete responsibilities at home, school, or work because of substance use.
  • Taking more of the substance or using it for longer than planned.
  • Using the substance in situations that can be physically harmful.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

Addiction is a treatable condition, and treatment programs typically tailor treatment to meet each person’s unique needs.16, 17 Since addiction affects everyone differently, treatment often addresses the whole person including physical and mental health, social issues, work problems, and legal troubles, in addition to the SUD.16

To effectively treat a SUD, it’s important to find a facility that offers the services, therapies, and level of care that is going to best help you on your road to recovery.16 There are different levels of care and treatment interventions that may be used, including:1, 2, 7, 8, 16, 17

  • Detox. This offers a safe setting where you can go through detoxification and withdrawal while being monitored and cared for by medical staff. Staff may be able to provide medication to address specific symptoms associated with any withdrawal that you might experience. Detox alone is unlikely the only treatment a person will need, as research suggests additional treatment is needed to support long-term sobriety.
  • Inpatient treatment. During inpatient treatment, a person stays at the facility for the duration of treatment, where they receive around-the-clock monitoring and support, group and individual behavioral therapy sessions, and other services to support recovery.
  • Outpatient treatment. During outpatient treatment, a person visits the facility to attend group and individual behavioral therapy sessions, drug counseling, medication, and other services while they live at home. Outpatient treatment allows a person to continue to work, attend school, and participate in your responsibilities at home. The level of intensity will vary depending on the person and their needs, so the number of hours per week in treatment will be determined between you and your treatment team.
  • 12-step groups. Mutual support groups like 12-step groups are voluntary, anonymous, and free groups to connect a person with others struggling with addiction. Examples are SMART Recovery as well as 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Attendance is commonly encouraged while in treatment as part of aftercare or continuing care, since mutual-help groups may help strengthen what you have learned in treatment and support more positive outcomes overall. These mutual support groups can also help you to develop a sober social network and are a place to practice and further develop alternative coping skills.

If you are struggling with the use of club drugs or other substances, you may feel alone, but know that help is available. American Addiction Centers has admissions navigators available 24/7 that you can reach by calling our confidential helpline at . They can answer any questions you have, and help you understand treatment options, and check your insurance coverage for AAC facilities. Call today to get a fresh start.