Although experimenting with marijuana has been commonplace among adolescents for the past few decades, today’s teens and young adults are increasingly turning to club drugs. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Healthy, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more the 620,000 individuals over the age of 12 used ecstasy in the past month.
These drugs remain relatively easy for individuals to use, with 35.9% of 12th grade students reporting that ecstasy was “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain. Although ecstasy is perhaps the best known club drug, other drugs are skyrocketing in popularity, particularly among adolescents.
Types of Club Drugs
The most commonly used club drug is MDMA, also known as ecstasy. Other drugs include GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, LSD, and methamphetamine. Of these, methamphetamine and MDMA are stimulants, while GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, and LSD are sedatives or hallucinogens.
Ecstasy is typically taken in tablet or capsule form, resulting in a “high” characterized by lack of fatigue and an “up” feeling in which people may dance for hours. Side effects include dehydration, heart failure, kidney failure, increased body temperature, and high blood pressure.
Gamma-hydoxybutyrate, or GHB, is also known by the street names Grievous Bodily Harm, G, or Liquid Ecstasy. Unlike MDMA, it is a central nervous system depressant. About 10 to 20 minutes after ingesting the drug, individuals experience sedative and euphoric effects. These effects may last four hours or longer. Negative side effects includes a dramatically decreased heart rate and slow breathing, which could lead to death.
Rohypnol is perhaps best known as a date rape drug, because of its odorless and tasteless appearance. Use of “roofies” is associated with memory loss, drowsiness, decreases in blood pressure, and confusion.
Commonly used as an animal anesthetic, ketamine is growing in popularity as a club drug. Sometimes called Special K or Vitamin K, ketamine can be taken in liquid or powder form. It causes hallucinations similar to those induced by PCP. Use of ketamine is also associated with a host of negative side effects, including memory loss, difficulties with attention, delirium, motor impairments, high blood pressure, depression, and delirium.
LSD, or acid, is a hallucinogen that causes powerful auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations. Its effects are variable, given the difficulty of controlling dose and the environment of the person using the drug. Side effects may include higher body temperature, high blood pressure, dry mouth, sweating, numbness, and weakness. Some people experience “flashbacks” for years following the use of LSD.
Methamphetamine, also known as crank, speed, or ice, is a stimulant. Individuals may snort, smoke, or inject meth. It is a potent and highly addictive drug, resulting in a strong high feeling. Use of the drug is associated with agitation, weight loss, violence, psychotic behavior, heart damage, or significant paranoia.
Appeal of Club Drugs among Adolescents
Although individuals of all ages use club drugs, they are particularly popular among adolescents. Part of the appeal of these drugs is their association with rave culture. Individuals who use club drugs say that their effects are enhanced by the presence of bright lights, dancing, and glow sticks. Because these drugs increase sensory perception and trigger hallucinations, the rich sensory environment of raves makes their effects much more potent.
Risks of Club Drugs
Use of club drugs trigger thousands of visits to the emergency room each year, with over 100,000 involving methamphetamine, 22,000 involving MDMA, and several thousand involving GHB or ketamine. Many of these visits to the ER occur because club drugs interfere with circulatory system functioning. Heart attacks, seizures, and other serious events can occur even following a single use of the drug.
Although club drugs are risky on their own, their effects become even more dangerous when combined with other drugs. In particular, drinking alcohol while taking a sedative such as GHB or Rohypnol may cause significant central nervous system depression. Similarly, combining meth or MDMA with other stimulants could send the heart and blood pressure into overdrive, causing cardiac arrest.
Additionally, all club drugs can damage adolescents’ developing brains and lead to addiction, making them particularly dangerous for teens or young adults to take.