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An Introduction to Club Drugs

Club drugs as a category encompasses a wide array of substances that may or may not be similar chemically and may not have the same mental effects. In particular the term club drugs refers to a series of substances that are frequently used at night clubs, all night parties and raves. The main drugs that are classified in the club group are MDMA, Methamphetamine, GHB, Ketamine, and LSD. For the most part these drugs were thought to be safer than other “harder” substances like cocaine and heroin which were themselves former party drugs in the past, but this way of thinking may be incorrect as the so called safety of this newer round of party drugs is being questioned. Unlike a seasoned drug addict, these club drugs appeal mostly to youth who are in it for the excitement, which in itself begins a new cycle of use. It is important to look back into drug history to understand the cycles and trends that drugs have been involved in. In the 60s and 70s it was widely believed that cocaine was a fairly safe substance, but by the 80s a lot more people were becoming aware of it's addictive nature and the toll it can take on the body. It is also interesting to note that both amphetamines and heroin took a similar course, which eventually became obsolete when the “king” of all club drugs emerged, otherwise known as MDMA or Ecstasy.

MDMA And Methamphetamine

MDMA emerged at roughly the same time as rave music in the 1980s. Known by a few names such as X, E and “rolls”, ecstasy is a modified amphetamine with hallucinogenic properties, and is labeled by some as an empathogen because of the way it makes people act towards others in a very warm and loving way. Ecstasy works by flooding the brain with serotonin and dopamine which leads to truly splendid feeling of warmth, worry free, euphoric bliss. On the other hand there are plenty of reports of young ravers being taken to hospital with kidney problems, heart failure and seizures. There have been thousands of emergency room visits by people who have ingested the drug and several hundred reported deaths. Studies in animals is now revealing that even light use of MDMA can result in major brain problems that can affect the centers in the brain responsible for serotonin production as well as dopamine production which can lead to emotional deficits in the future. While similar to MDMA methamphetamine primarily affects dopamine, leaving a longer lasting high that provides a high level of energy and alertness, but long-term use can result in neurotoxicity, psychosis as well as liver damage or failure.

Benzodiazepines, GHB, LSD and Ketamine

Rohypnol (Roofies) are part of the benzodiazepine family and have legitimate medical uses, most commonly for sedation before medical procedures and treating anxiety. They have a much more sinister use in the world of nightclubs and rave parties where they are known as “date-rape” drugs as they can cause serious blackouts as well as memory loss. When combined with alcohol there can be serious side-effects such as respiratory problems and fainting.

GHB falls into a similar class as Rohypnol as it can also be used at nightclubs as a date rape drug. GHB is also used for it's euphoric effects as well as supplement in bodybuilding. If taken on it's own or with alcohol GHB can cause severe sedation and may cause the user to pass out entirely. Statistics tell us that half of GHB users have at one time overdosed and countless people who have tried it for the first time have died. It is extremely simple to become addicted to GHB and those trying to quit will experience similar withdrawal symptoms to alcohol.

Ketamine, also known by it's street name “Special K” is used as a anesthetic in animals and humans. It is very powerful and can cause psychosis like experiences with hallucinations and dissociation from bodily sensations which can result in the user ignoring pain or danger. Being “Stuck in a K-Hole” is a common description given by users of the drug and they equate it to a sort of near death experience which comes along with a few physical side-effects that are troubling like vomiting, rapid heart rate and amnesia. Flashbacks are also a common side-effect, and are more present in Ketamine users than other hallucinogens. The long-term effects on humans are not yet known.

Possibly the most commonly known hallucinogenic substance is LSD, also known as Acid. Unfortunately this drug has not been studied as much as it should have been due to the restrictions place upon it by many governments around the world. It's popularity exploded in the 1960s and it has been shown that less than 0.1 milligrams is enough to produce the perceptual effects as well as it's signature mood alteration. The term “bad trips” is a common one among people who have used LCD as sometimes the “high” can be frightening which can in turn cause panic and accidental harm to the user. It is believed that more research is needed to uncover the mysteries of this substance.

The Future of Club Drugs

With more and more scientific research being performed the care-free attitude towards casual nighttime club drug use may in fact be fading away. However, there is no doubt that these drugs will continue to be used for quite some time, and in worrying combinations of each other as well as alcohol and tobacco. It is believed that many people abusing club drugs may in fact wind up needing medical and psychiatric help down the line, which is a big warning sign to the young people who are now beginning to experiment with these and other substances.