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Club Drugs

What Are Club Drugs?

A wave of new drugs has become increasingly popular with today's adolescents and young adults. These drugs are commonly known as club drugs, a term originating from the rave phenomenon. Many club drugs are also called designer drugs, referring to the fact that many of the drugs are manmade (for example, Ecstasy or ketamine) rather than found in or derived from nature (for example, marijuana or opium derivatives). Raves are all-night dance parties with loud, pounding music and flashing lights stimulating vigorous dancing.

  • History: Initially popular in England in the 1980s, raves are now very popular in the United States. They are often held in inconspicuous places such as warehouses and are frequently announced with short notice. Unique to the rave experience, a stimulatory barrage -- frequently augmented by mind-altering drugs -- overloads the senses.
  • Trends in drug use: The rave phenomenon in the United States has increased the frequency of use of club drugs. In a study of ecstasy (a popular club drug) use in raves, 89% of rave attendees reported using ecstasy at least once, and nearly 50% reported use within the past month. This study also found that current ecstasy users were more likely than nonusers and past users to have smoked marijuana and snorted powder cocaine within the past 12 months.
  • Emerging recreational drug use: Club drugs have reflected changing trends in the recreational use of drugs in teens and young adults. These new types of drugs are often related to parental compounds of "traditional" drugs such as amphetamines and LSD. In other cases, they reflect the availability of cheap products creatively made from common items. As new recreational drugs emerge, potential users must be well informed of their associated risks. Unfortunately, many young people are obtaining this critical information from Internet sites that often provide incorrect and misleading information. In order to provide accurate information about commonly abused club drugs, professionally written summaries should be available to caregivers, adolescents, and young adults.
  • Frequency of use: Club drugs are not only popular in raves but are often used in other social settings frequented by adolescents and young adults. In a hearing before the Senate Caucus on International Drug Control, the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse reported an increase in the use of club drugs, especially ecstasy, among those older than 12 years. This is reflected in statistics like those reporting use of club drugs increasing from 5.1 million in 1999 to 6.5 million in 2000. While the rate of Ecstasy use has decreased somewhat since 2001, its potentially devastating medical complications continue to make its use a significant health risk. Emergency department visits related to the drug gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), also known as the "date-rape" drug, also increased dramatically from 1994 to 2000 (from 56 cases in 1994 to 4,969 cases in 2000); however, there has been somewhat of a decline in the use of GHB in the past decade.
  • Importance of education: As the use of these new drugs increases, it becomes increasingly important to educate young people and their parents and guardians about the risks associated with club drug use.
    • Internet sites can be misleading, and some people are using these sites for information. One site (DanceSafe) tries to educate nonaddicted users to the risks of club drugs. It offers free testing of tablets submitted by mail and sells home testing kits to analyze the content of pills. The site even goes so far as to compare the risks of drugs to other activities. It states, for example, that Ecstasy and GHB are less risky than giving birth, motor sports, or water sports. Sites like this imply that club drugs are nonaddicting and not significantly risky. This is simply untrue.
    • The medical literature reports that club drugs can be addictive and put users at risk for long-term consequences, including death.


Methamphetamine, also known as crystal, meth, crystal meth, ice, speed, tina, and crank, is an amphetamine derivative with similar stimulant properties. Ice began as a major drug problem in Japan. It first appeared in Hawaii and California in the mid 1980s and has now become one of the top illicit drugs in the West and Midwest.

  • What it looks like: Methamphetamine powder can be inhaled, smoked, injected, or ingested. The inhaled or ingested powder eliminates the use of a needle, is longer lasting, and is often odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Crystal, also known as crank, meth, or crystal meth on the street, is a white or yellow product easily created in amateur laboratories. Many illicit chemists have used lead acetate as a substrate for its production, which can cause severe lead poisoning. Methamphetamine can be injected for an intense high, or it can be snorted.
  • What it does: After the initial stimulating rush, a state of high agitation typically ensues, which may lead to violent and dangerous behavior. "Tweaking" is the term used to describe this agitated and often psychotic state. During this time, other short term effects may include delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia, and users are at the greatest risk of being a danger to themselves and others. Some of the warning signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction include the following:
    • Irritability, nervousness
    • Wide mood swings, depression
    • Unreasonable fear, suspicion
    • Significant weight loss
    • Irregular sleep pattern
    • Clogged, runny nose
    • Neglect of work and studies
    • Withdrawal from family
    • Change in friends
    • Loss of money
  • Harmful effects: Methamphetamine highs can last up to 20 hours; heavy users may stay awake for several days. Additional health risks include heart attacks, strokes, weight loss, malnutrition, fluid buildup in the lungs, and death. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug. It can damage nerve cells, thus causing mental impairment. Withdrawal results in abdominal cramps, gastroenteritis, headache, lethargy, breathing troubles, increased appetite, and profound depression (occasionally ending in suicide).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017
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