Club Drugs: Effects, Examples, and Definitions of Party Drugs

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On November 11, 2023

What you will learn

  • Club drugs are psychoactive drugs that are used in social environments.
  • Many of these drugs gained popularity during the rise of rave culture in the 1980s.
  • Club drugs have stimulant effects that compound the sensory experience of a music event or dance party.
  • Date rape drugs like Rohypnol (roofies) and GHB are grouped in with club drugs.
  • Despite their popularity, club drugs can carry serious risks and addiction potential.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Often associated with raves, nightclubs, and electronic dance music (EDM) parties, club drugs are psychoactive stimulant drugs that are used by young people to enhance the sensory experience, reduce inhibitions, and party for hours.

Though common, club drugs can lead to serious side effects, either directly or indirectly, that may occur after a single use, ongoing use, or use with other substances.

Find out more about the common club drugs and the risks associated with them.

What Are Club Drugs?

Club drugs are drugs that are popular among adolescents and young adults in social situations, such as ecstasy or ketamine.[1] The term arose from the rave phenomenon in the 1980s, which included large dance parties in warehouses, clubs, or other venues with loud electronic or techno dance music and light shows.

Club drugs often refer to designer drugs that are synthetic, rather than derived from natural substances. Going along with the stimulation of a rave, which features a combination of loud, repetitive music, dizzying laser light shows, and other sensory experiences, club drugs are often mind-altering drugs to further overload the senses.

Though these drugs arose with rave culture, they’re not limited to raves. People use club drugs in nightclubs, parties, or other social events. They may be derived from parental compounds with more “traditional” drugs like LSD and amphetamines.

Types of Club Drugs: Party Drug List

What drugs are included in the term “club drugs?” Here’s a list of the most common party drugs:

Amphetamines

Methamphetamine, also known as meth, crystal meth, crystal, speed, and ice, is an amphetamine derivative with stimulant properties.[2] Meth has been around since the 1980s, but it’s become one of the most problematic illicit drugs in the US.

A synthetic drug, methamphetamine often comes in powder form to be inhaled, smoked, ingested, or injected. When inhaled or ingested, it lasts longer and has no odor, color, or taste. It can also be injected for a more intense high.

After the initial stimulation, people using meth often become agitated, even violent. The slang term “tweaking” is used to describe this behavior. They may experience hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia, which can lead to violent or dangerous behaviors that affect themselves or others.

After consuming meth, the effects can last for up to 20 hours. In severe cases, people who use meth regularly may be awake for several days. Over time, meth can damage nerve cells and cause mental impairment, an increased risk of heart attack or stroke, malnutrition, poor dental health, and fluid buildup in the lungs.

Methamphetamine is highly addictive and may include symptoms like:

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Suspiciousness
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Unhealthy sleep patterns
  • Withdrawal from family
  • Nasal congestion
  • Problems at school, work, or home

Once addicted, meth can be near impossible to stop. It comes with severe withdrawal that may include symptoms like difficulty breathing, insatiable appetite, lethargy, headache, gastroenteritis, digestive issues, and depression.

Ecstasy

Ecstasy is the street name for hallucinogenic methamphetamine derivative methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).[3] It also goes by the street names X, E, Adam, M&M, roll, clarity, XTC, and essence. Though ecstasy originated as a drug for psychiatric patients, it became favored for recreational use for its hallucinogenic effects.

Ecstasy is often taken in tablet or capsule form, though it may be powdered and inhaled, smoked, or injected. These usually have brand logos like Gucci or Mercedes.

Ecstasy is popular in club settings for its stimulant properties, which constrict blood flow in the veins and arteries within 15 to 60 minutes after ingestion and last for up to six hours. When the effects begin, the pupils dilate, the heart rate and blood pressure increase, allowing people to dance and party for hours. It also increases the feelings of emotional closeness and reduces inhibitions.

With short-term use, ecstasy increases catecholamines, which cause blood vessel constriction and an elevated heart rate. This can lead to high blood pressure, dehydration, and a spike in body temperature. In some cases, this can cause heart failure, heart attacks, and kidney failure. With chronic use, seizures or death may occur.

Ecstasy elevates the serotonin levels in the brain, leading to hallucinations and a low appetite. It can damage the neurons that release serotonin and lead to chronic mood instability, impulsivity, psychosis, or cognitive impairment.

PCP

Phencyclidine (PCP) is a dissociative anesthetic that arose in the 1950s as a general anesthetic.[4] It was discontinued in the 1960s because of side effects like depression and delusions, but it gained popularity among clubgoers.

PCP goes by the street names love boat, elephant tranquilizer, crystal, crystal joints, TAC, and angel dust. In San Francisco, where recreational use began in the 1970s, it was known as the Peace Pill.

Often combined with other drugs like cocaine and amphetamine, PCP comes in liquid, powder, tablet, and rock crystal forms. It’s easily absorbed by water and alcohol and can be smoked, ingested, injected, or inhaled. PCP may be added to menthol cigarettes – known as “supercools” – to be smoked.

The dissociative state that made PCP a useful anesthetic is what gives it recreational value. It causes people to have an “out-of-body” experience that can last for hours, especially when injected. People also experience amnesia, delirium, intrusive thoughts, paranoia, apathy, and depersonalization.

In large doses, PCP symptoms can last up to 48 hours. The effects of dissociation can appear as schizophrenia. Other symptoms include the inability to balance, uncontrolled eye movements, speech impairment, and a loss of consciousness. Delusions and dissociation can cause people to become violent or hostile, sometimes leading to reckless behaviors like jumping from dangerous heights.

Ketamine

Ketamine is a derivative of PCP that’s also a veterinary tranquilizer.[5] It’s becoming more popular for recreational use, as it’s effective, inexpensive, and relatively easy to source from medical or veterinary facilities. There are several street names for ketamine, including fort dodge, vitamin K, special K, and simply K.

Often found in club environments, ketamine is often inhaled in powder form. It may be injected into the muscle or placed in the rectum. Some people use ketamine to “come down” from other drugs.

Upon ingestion, ketamine increases heart rate and blood pressure, salivation, and muscle tone, which can last up to an hour. With high doses, also known as “K hole,” people experience severe dissociation, vomiting, fatigue, restlessness, and an inability to interpret reality. Ketamine may cause emergence reactions, which mimic schizophrenia and include vivid dreams, out-of-body experiences, floating sensations, and confusion.

Date Rape Drugs

Date rape drugs are often used in club environments to facilitate sexual assault.[6] Though other club drugs, such as ecstasy or ketamine, may be used, the commonly known date rape drugs include:

GHB

Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) is a hypnotic depressant that’s a well-known date rape drug. It goes by many street names, including liquid X, Georgia home boy, easy lay, grievous bodily harm, Gib, G-riffic, liquid E, cherry meth, soap, salty water, organic Quaalude, fantasy, and somatomax.

Typically, GHB is in a liquid form that can be mixed into other liquids. Once ingested, GHB is a nervous system depressant that causes loss of muscle tone, forgetfulness, and drowsiness. In high doses, it may cause seizures, slowed breathing and heart rate, and coma. This may last one to two hours, but the person usually recovers fully in eight hours.

When used as a party drug, GHB can cause tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal. If the respiratory depression is severe enough, it could require support from a ventilator until its effects wear off.

Rohypnol

Rohypnol is the brand name for another well-known date rape drug, flunitrazepam, that’s in the benzodiazepine class.

There are many street names for Rohypnol, including roche, la rocha, roofies, Mexican Valium, rope, forget-me pill, R2, and circles. It’s widely available in many countries but not in North America.

Rohypnol typically comes in pills with a single score, the Roche imprint, and a number denoting strength. It’s ten times more potent than Valium, inexpensive, odorless, and colorless, making it a popular choice to spike drinks.

In low doses, Rohypnol relaxes the muscles and has a sedative effect. In high doses, it can lead to amnesia, lowered inhibitions, and a lack of muscle control. The effects are compounded with alcohol and occur about 30 minutes after ingestion. The person may be impaired for eight to 12 hours.

Rohypnol is associated with side effects like confusion, dizziness, low blood pressure, and visual disturbances. Some people may have aggressive reactions. With regular use, Rohypnol can cause tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal.

Frequently Asked Questions About Club Drugs

What Are Some Other Club Drugs?

These are the most common club drugs, but the list is not exhaustive. Chloral hydrate is another popular club drug that is often slipped into alcoholic drinks, otherwise known as a Mickey Finn or “slipping a Mickey.” It has sedative effects that mimic alcohol intoxication.

Dextromethorphan is another club drug that mimics the effects of PCP and morphine derivatives. It’s an over-the-counter cough suppressant and widely available.

Can You Be Addicted to Club Drugs?

Club drugs can be highly addictive, especially when they contain amphetamines like methamphetamine. Regular use can lead to dependence and withdrawal, problems at work or school, financial problems, and the inability to control or stop using drugs, which fall into the criteria for a substance use disorder.

How Are Club Drug Addictions Treated?

Substance abuse treatment for use of club drugs is similar to other substances. Depending on the severity of the addiction and the symptoms, the integrative treatment plan may involve detox, behavioral therapies, group therapy, hospitalization, and medication. Because club drugs are often tied to social environments, sober living facilities can be beneficial to learn coping skills for everyday life.

Seek Help for Club Drug Addiction

Though they may begin as a way to enhance the experience at a club or dance party, club drugs can be highly addictive. Over time, people become dependent on club drugs for daily life – not just in social events – and experience the adverse effects of regular use.

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Sources

[1] Club drugs: Effective Health Care (EHC) program. Club Drugs | Effective Health Care (EHC) Program. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/health-topics/club-drugs on May 3, 2023.

[2] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, March 3). Methamphetamine drugfacts. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/overview on May 3, 2023.

[3] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, February 3). MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) DrugFacts. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/Introduction on May 3, 2023.

[4] Phencyclidine December (street names: PCP, Angel Dust, supergrass, boat … (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/pcp.pdf on May 3, 2023.

[5] Ketamine. DEA. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/ketamine on May 3, 2023.

[6] Date rape drugs. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cham.org/HealthwiseArticle.aspx?id=uq2448 on May 3, 2023.