What Parents Should Know About Club Drugs

Club drugs are a loosely-defined category of drugs that are used by teens and young adults at clubs, bars, raves and other all-night party scenes. Some of the most popular club or party drugs are MDMA (Ecstasy), GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, methamphetamine, and LSD. These drugs are often believed to be harmless, recreational drugs, but they can produce unwanted side effects and harmful health consequences. By learning what parents should know about club drugs, you can keep your child informed about the dangers of these recreational drugs.

What are the different types of club drugs and their effects?

* MDMA, or “Ecstasy,” is a stimulant and a hallucinogen. Young people often use Ecstasy to improve their mood or to have enough energy to keep dancing. Research shows that chronic abuse of Ecstasy can damage the brain’s ability to think and regulate emotion, memory, sleep and pain. Ecstasy is usually sold as a pill or tablet and is taken orally.

* GHB, or “Liquid Ecstasy,” is a depressant that produces sedative/hypnotic-like symptoms. At lower doses, GHB can relax the user, but, as the dose increases, the sedative effects may result in sleep and eventual coma or death. GHB can be sold as a clear liquid, white powder, tablet or capsule form. It is colorless, odorless and has a salty taste that is virtually undetectable if diluted with liquid. For that reason, it is usually mixed with beverages such as water, alcohol and juice. GHB is sometimes referred to as the “date rape drug” because it can be slipped into someoneís drink without detection.

* Rohypnol, or “Roofie” or “Roche,” is a depressant and tranquilizer that produces sedative-hypnotic effects, including muscle relaxation and amnesia. Individuals under the influence of Rohypnol often forget what happened, which is why it is often referred to as the “date rape drug.” Other effects include low blood pressure, drowsiness, dizziness, confusion and nausea. Rohypnol comes in a tablet form that is often dissolved into liquid beverages.

* Ketamine, or “Special K” or “K,” is a powerful hallucinogen that is often used by veterinarians as an animal tranquilizer. Small amounts of ketamine results in loss of attention span, learning ability and memory. At higher doses, ketamine can cause delirium, amnesia, high blood pressure, depression and severe, potentially fatal, breathing problems. Ketamine comes in a powder form that is usually snorted but is sometimes sprinkled on tobacco or marijuana and smoked.

* Methamphetamine, or “Meth,” “Speed,” or “Ice,” is a highly addictive stimulant. Methamphetamine use can cause serious health problems, including memory loss, skin sores, severe dental problems, violence, psychotic behavior and heart problems. Methamphetamine can come in powder form for snorting or in clear chunky crystals that are heated up to inhale the smoke.

* LSD, or “Acid,” is a powerful hallucinogen that is one of the strongest mood-altering drugs available. LSD can cause unpredictable behavior depending on the amount taken, where the drug is used, and on the user’s personality. Some of the effects of LSD are numbness, weakness, nausea, increased heart rate, sweating, lack of appetite, “flashbacks” and sleeplessness. LSD is sold as tablets, capsules, liquid, on sugar cubes, in thin gelatin squares (commonly called “window panes”), or on colorful absorbent paper. LSD is usually taken orally, but gelatin and liquid forms can be put in the eyes.

What are some signs my child is using club drugs?

* Problems remembering things they recently said or did
* Loss of coordination, dizziness, fainting
* Depression
* Confusion
* Sleep problems
* Fixation on sights and sounds
* Chills and sweating
* Euphoria
* Increased inhibition
* Some hallucinations
* After-effects can include anxiety, paranoia and depression
* Changes in sleeping patterns
* Declining grades
* Loss of interest in hobbies or favorite activities
* Paraphernalia that is used to enhance the effects, such as pacifiers, lollipops, menthol vapor rub, surgical-type masks

What are some of the dangers of using club drugs?

People who use club drugs often believe that they are harmless, but research shows that club drugs can cause serious health problems and produce a wide range of unwanted effects, including hallucinations, paranoia, amnesia and sometimes fatal reactions. When combined with alcohol, these drugs can be even more dangerous. In addition, because some club drugs are colorless, tasteless and odorless, they are easily sipped into drinks undetected and are often associated with sexual assaults.

What are some facts and statistics on teens and club drugs?

* In 2008, 6.2 percent of high school seniors said they had tried Ecstasy at least once in their lifetime. (MTF)
* 43 percent of young adults who used MDMA met the diagnostic criteria for dependency. (NIDA)
* Between 2005 and 2008, abuse of MDMA among high school seniors increased from 3.0 percent to 4.3 percent. (MTF)
* More than 22.7 million people aged 12 or older reported using LSD in their lifetime. (NSDUH, 2007)
* Four percent of high school seniors have tried LSD in their lifetime. (NIDA, 2008)
* In 2007, 0.7 percent of 8th graders, 0.6 percent of 10th graders and 0.9 percent of 12th graders abused GHB. (MTF)
* Approximately 34.2 million Americans aged 12 and older (or 13.8% of the population) reported trying hallucinogens at least once. (NSDUH, 2007)
* 9.1 % of Americans over the age of 12 reported using LSD in their lifetime and 2.5% reported using PCP in their lifetime. (NSDUH, 2007)
* 2.8 percent of high school seniors, 2.4 percent of tenth graders, and 2.3 percent of eighth graders have abused methamphetamine at least once. (MTFS, 2008)
* 1.3 million people aged 12 years or older have tried methamphetamine. (MTFS, 2008)

What can I do to prevent my teen from using club drugs?

* Be alert about warning signs.

* Discuss the dangers of club drugs with your child. According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, teens are 50 percent less likely to use drugs if they learn the risks of drug use from their parents.

* Monitor your teen’s whereabouts and get to know their friends and their friends’ parents.

* Take action if you see any signs of abuse or sense that something is wrong. Don’t wait or the abuse could turn into an addiction.

How do I choose a teen rehab for club drugs?

When deciding on a teen rehab for club drug abuse, you should focus on which types of treatment they offer, staff credentials, if they have the proper licensing, what types of aftercare programs they offer to prevent relapse. You’ll want to decide if your teen needs residential or out-patient rehab, assisted detox, or treatment for a dual diagnosis of a co-occurring disorder. Talking to a medical doctor about your teen’s symptoms can help you determine what type of treatment you should seek.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.