The term “club drugs” is a reference to a number of different drugs that are frequently used in nightclubs, bars, parties, and raves (private dance parties). Many of these drugs, but not all of them, belong to the class of drugs known as the hallucinogens which are very powerful mind altering drugs that induce feelings of euphoria, hallucinations, increased energy, and increased sociability.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has identified several drugs that are commonly grouped under the term rave or club drugs. Many of these drugs were extremely popular in the 1990’s and early 2000’s and their use has declined; however, their use remains problematic and several of them are extremely dangerous. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists these drugs as controlled substances and possession of them is considered to be illegal. According to NIDA the age group that most commonly is associated with using most of these drugs is the 18 to 25-year-old age group; however, these drugs are also popular with adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. This article will discuss several of the major club drugs used in Florida.
Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that is similar to amphetamine. Some of the more common street names for methamphetamine include Meth, Crystal Meth, Crystal, Crank, Glass, Fire, Ice, and Chalk. The DEA classifies methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance indicating that it does have some medicinal uses, but also has a significant potential to be abused and for the development of physical dependence. This drug is often produced in private “laboratories” both domestically and in foreign countries like Mexico. The production of methamphetamine is a hazardous process in itself as the ingredients are highly flammable and its production can often result in very dangerous explosions. It can be produced from a number of over-the-counter medications designed to treat the common cold or flu and other products and Florida law now requires that the purchase of many of these products is regulated.
The drug is often smoked, injected, snorted, or taken orally. Methamphetamine is toxic in large doses and chronic users develop a number of significant health problems and serious psychological problems including memory loss, cardiovascular issues (e.g., heart problems, the potential for stroke, etc.), pulmonary issues due to inhaling it, issues with dentition (meth mouth which is often rotting and degenerating teeth), aggression, violence, and psychotic behavior. Many local sources report that abuse of methamphetamine is a growing problem in Florida.
MDMA (3, 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) goes by a number of Street names including Ecstasy, X, XTC, Clarity, and Lover’s Speed. The DEA classifies MDMA as a Schedule I controlled substance. It is similar to both hallucinogenic drugs such as mescaline and amphetamine and therefore has hallucinogenic and stimulant effects on individuals who take it.
Individuals who take MDMA get a sense of euphoria, well-being, increased sociability, and a rush of energy. The drug is often taken orally in pill form or in capsule form and at high doses can be very dangerous as it can lead to a significant increase in body temperature, heart failure, kidney failure, and even death. The drug has been linked to the development of seizures, strokes, and heart attacks in users. In addition, individuals that use MDMA in crowded environment such as clubs are at risk to become dehydrated. Chronic use of MDMA is associated with permanent brain damage that results in memory impairment. The drug is also been reported to produce confusion, anxiety, depression, issues with sleeping, and even paranoia when chronically used. MDMA abuse is still a problem of concern in Florida.
Gamma – hyroxybutyrate (GHB) is a central nervous system depressant drug that currently is approved by the FDA for the treatment of narcolepsy (a severe sleep disorder) under the brand name Xyrem. Its use in prescriptions and its purchase is strongly controlled and the DEA classifies it as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it has no significant medical uses and cannot be legally acquired except under very extreme circumstances. GHB is a metabolite of the brain neurotransmitter gamma – amino butyric acid (GABA) and exists naturally in the central nervous system of individuals at far lower concentrations as are found in the drug.
Street names for GHB include Liquid Ecstasy, Georgia Homeboy, G, and Grievous Body Harm. It can be produced in liquid, powder, tablet, and capsule form and is often used in combination with alcohol. This drug can be produced in private homes from information provided on the internet and has very euphoric, sedative, and intoxicating effects that lead to its abuse. GHB also has a reputation as a muscle building drug (although it is not a steroid) and as an aphrodisiac and therefore has been used as a date rape drug. In high doses it significantly slows one’s breathing and heart rate to dangerous levels and is easily used in amounts that lead to overdose which can be fatal. This drug is metabolized quickly due to its being a metabolite of an endogenous neurotransmitter and can be hard to detect in individuals who abuse it. Chronic use may lead to physical dependence particularly when the drug is used in combination with alcohol or other drugs. It appears the recorded reports of GHB abuse in Florida is declining.
Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) is a benzodiazepine, a drug that is a central nervous system depressant and used in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and as an anesthetic. Street names for the drug include Roofies, Rophies, Roofinol, and Forget Me Pill. This drug is not approved for medical use in this country and its importation is illegal (although it is classified as a Schedule IV substance by the DEA). Chronic use of the drug can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal can lead to seizures. It is typically taken orally in pill form but in some cases the drug may be crushed and snorted. The effects of taking the drug include sedation, euphoria, drowsiness, decreased blood pressure, hallucinations, and antereograde amnesia (being unable to recall information or events that occurred while one was under the influence of the drug).
The drug has received quite a bit of reputation as a date rape drug (e.g., thus the street name Forget Me Pill). The drug originally was a tasteless odor list liquid but new reforms of the drug produced in Europe are in pill form and when dissolved in water produce a bluish color to warn potential rape victims. While the abuse of this drug is on the decline a 2011 bulletin from the University of Florida continued to warn of its effects of its abuse and use as a date rape drug.
Ketamine is an anesthetic drug that is more commonly used by veterinarians but still has uses in hospitals for humans since it does produce mild anesthesia. It also produces hallucinogenic effects similar to the drug PCP and thus has dissociative hallucinogenic effects as well as central nervous system depressant effects. Street names for ketamine include Vitamin K, Special K, K, and Cat Valiums. The drug is made is a liquid or a white powder and can be injected, snorted, or smoked. The drug produces euphoria, hallucinations, impairments in memory and attention, high blood pressure, impaired motor coordination, delirium, and potentially fatal respiratory problems.
Individuals who use large amounts of ketamine or binge on ketamine are more likely to experience the hallucinogenic effects of the drug and may experience a phenomenon known as dissociation where they have feel that they are detached from their body or that things are not real. The drug is currently under investigation as a potential treatment for clinical depression and it is being used as a potential treatment for individuals abusing the designer drug flakka in Florida. It is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance by the DEA.
LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is classified as a hallucinogen, a class of drugs that includes PCP, mescaline, and Psilocybin. LSD produces very vivid hallucinations, alterations of mood, euphoria, and other sensory and perceptual distortions. It is often taken in very small amounts (termed micro-doses) in tablet, capsule, or liquid form that is added to edible paper.
The effects of LSD are typically very long even at very small doses and can last as long as 12 hours. Its initial effects include increased body temperature, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils, sweating, loss of appetite, dry mouth, and sometimes shakiness or tremors in addition to the euphoria and perceptual alterations that the drug produces. These perceptual alterations are considered by some individuals to be mind expanding alterations and individuals have a number of experiences that are not typical with other classes of drugs such as synesthesia (a mixing of the senses such that one believes that they can hear color or see sound), depersonalization (feeling as if one is detached from one’s body), derealization (feeling as if reality is altered as if things are not real), and as if one is merging with other objects.
Although there are recorded cases of overdose there are no fatalities associated with overdose on LSD alone and the drug is not believed to be a drug that has a high potential for abuse or the development of physical dependence; however, there are detrimental effects associated with his use that include the potential for poor judgment or accidents while under its influence, the potential for bad trips, and the potential to develop flashbacks or what is termed hallucinogen induced persistent perception disorder. This disorder occurs when individuals have not taken the drug but yet experience many of the symptoms of taking the drug. This disorder is quite rare, but can be very distressing for individuals who develop it.
Club drugs are a diverse group of drugs that are used by younger individuals who frequent nightclubs, bars, and private parties. Most of these drugs have hallucinogenic properties although several of them have mixed effects. According to the NIDA methamphetamine is the drug in this class that appears to have the most users. Other drugs mentioned in this article have been steadily declining in their use since the late 1900s and early 2000s; however, these drugs are still available and are problematic. For instance according to the results of the NIDA’s Monitoring The Future Survey published in 2014 emergency room visits in the United States in 2013 for these drugs were as follows:
- 102,961 visits involved methamphetamine
- 22,498 visits involved MDMA
- 2,406 visits involved GHB
- 1,550 visits involved ketamine.
These figures are significantly lower than figures for emergency room visits associated with drugs like alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and prescription drugs; however, they indicate that these drugs are still available and are being dangerously abused by individuals in the United States. Since the primary group associated with abuse of these drugs is adolescents and young adults the first step in treatment for the abuse of these drugs is the continued implementation of education programs that are designed to inform potential abusers of the dangers of these drugs.