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The Truth About Club Drugs

Ecstasy, GHB, Rohypnol, and Ketamine are some of the so-called club drugs used by teens and young adults at nightclubs and raves, or all-night dances.

Many people who party at clubs and these dances don't use any of these drugs, but those who do say they like the increased stamina and intoxicating highs they provide.

Research indicates, however, that these drugs can, sometimes permanently, change critical parts of the brain. Also, in high doses, most can cause muscle breakdown and kidney and cardiovascular system failure that can be fatal.

The following guide to club drugs can help you learn about them and get help if someone you love abuses them.

Ecstasy (MDMA)

MDMA is a synthetic, amphetamine-like psychoactive drug with both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. Its street names include Ecstasy, Adam, XTC, hug, beans, and the love drug. MDMA usually is taken in pill form, but some users snort or inject it. MDMA is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. This means that it is not available legally to anyone except specially designated researchers.

Among the psychological difficulties associated with this drug are confusion, depression, sleep problems, severe anxiety, and paranoia.

MDMA also can lead to symptoms of severe depression several days after its use. Depression may occur because of the drug's effects on the brain chemical serotonin, which is important in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain.

Physical problems can include muscle tension, nausea, blurred vision, fainting, and chills. MDMA carries the same, sometimes fatal, risks as other stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines. It can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure leading to loss of consciousness. In high doses, MDMA can interfere with the body's ability to regulate temperature. This can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), resulting in liver, kidney and cardiovascular system failure, and ultimately death.


GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is abused for its euphoric, sedative and bodybuilding effects. Its street names include liquid Ecstasy, soap, easy lay, and Georgia Home Boy.

Coma and seizures can occur following use of GHB. Combining it with alcohol and other drugs can result in nausea and difficulty breathing. GHB may produce withdrawal effects, including anxiety and tremors.

GHB has been used in date rapes and can be fatal. GHB is commonly mixed with alcohol, which may lead to loss of consciousness and amnesia. It is broken down quickly in the body and isn't detected by most drug tests.

GHB is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, and, like MDMA, possession carries a long prison sentence and a large fine. Despite this, instructions for making GHB and kits for its production are available over the Internet and it is sometimes illegally sold in health food stores, gyms, raves, and nightclubs.


Rohypnol is a trade name for flunitrazepam. Its street names include rophies, roofies, roach, and rope.

When mixed with alcohol, Rohypnol can incapacitate victims and prevent them from resisting sexual assault. It has been used in date rapes and subsequently has been outlawed in the United States. It can produce amnesia, so individuals frequently don't remember events they experienced while under its influence. Rohypnol can be fatal when mixed with alcohol and/or other depressants.


Ketamine, an anesthetic, can be injected or snorted. Also known as special K or vitamin K, it has become common in the club and rave scenes and has been used for date rapes.

It creates a dreamlike states and hallucinations. High doses can cause delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, and death.


OxyContin is the trade name for an opioid painkiller containing oxycodone. The drug comes in tablet form, which abusers crush and either eat or snort, or dilute with water and inject. Its street names include o.c., oxy and oxycotton.

Although other painkillers contain oxycodone, OxyContin contains a high dose of this ingredient in a time-release form. Crushing or dissolving the tablet disarms the time-release action. In 2010, the pharmaceutical company changed the way the tablets are made to prevent abuse. As a result, many users have changed to other forms of oxycodone which are easier to abuse. When abused, the drug causes a quick, powerful high that has been compared to that of heroin. It also can cause sleepiness, calmness, and constipation. OxyContin is highly addictive when abused.


Methamphetamine is related to amphetamine, but with stronger stimulant effects. It is taken in pill form, or snorted or injected in powdered form. Crystallized methamphetamine, a more powerful form of the drug, is smoked. The drug causes an intense feeling of euphoria. People also take methamphetamine for the heightened alertness it produces, as well as to boost physical performance. Its street names include speed, meth, crystal, crank, tweak, go-fast, ice, glass, uppers, and black beauties.

People who regularly use methamphetamine become addicted and also develop a tolerance for the drug, meaning they need more and more of the drug to produce the same high. Methamphetamine also causes increased heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure; insomnia; increased physical activity; decreased appetite; respiratory problems; paranoia; anxiety; and tremors. In addition, it can cause cardiovascular problems, convulsions and irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, all of which can lead to death. People who inject methamphetamine and share needles are at risk for HIV. Another danger is that methamphetamine is made in illegal laboratories and may vary considerably in potency and chemical makeup, depending on what materials are used to create it.