Finding yourself or a loved one battling club drug abuse is clearly a moment filled with heartache, fear, and emotion. The questions flood your brain. How could this happen? What help is available? Club drug abuse is frighteningly available and waiting for any willing participant.
In 2012, thousands of dance music fans attended Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, a popular annual music festival. Emily McCaughin, a 22-year-old pre-medical student, attended the festival with some friends. All of them took ecstasy to enhance their enjoyment of the performances. Emily soon became agitated and paranoid, believing that someone was following her. Her friends sent her back to their hotel room, thinking she would sleep it off. While they were gone, Emily became increasingly agitated and delusional before jumping to her death from the hotel room balcony.
Despite its reputation as a fun party drug, ecstasy causes serious physical and psychological effects. These side effects make ecstasy and other club drugs extremely dangerous to users. It is important to know the symptoms of club drug abuse so you can encourage addicted friends or family members to seek treatment before it is too late.
What Are Club Drugs?
Club drugs are a class of drugs that cause similar psychoactive effects. They are not related in chemical formula; rather, they are classed together because they are all taken in a similar social scene. These substances are called club drugs because they are commonly taken at parties, music festivals, raves, bars, and other club scenes. The prevalence of club drugs in these party scenes means that use of these compounds is most common among teens and young adults. Although club drug abuse is typically a youth-oriented problem, individuals of any age are at risk for abuse of these substances.
The most commonly used club drugs are gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, and ecstasy, also known as MDMA. GHB is an FDA-approved substance for the treatment of narcolepsy, making it easy for individuals to get access to the compound. Rohypnol is chemically similar to Valium and Xanax, while ketamine is most often used as an anesthetic in veterinary practice. Ecstasy is perhaps the most widely used club drug, with the United Nations estimating that up to 25 million people around the globe used ecstasy at least once last year.
What Are the Effects of Club Drugs?
Because club drugs do not share a chemical formula, they act very differently in the brain. Each drug produces slightly different physical and psychological effects. GHB and Rohypnol are central nervous system depressants, meaning that they have sedating effects that are especially potent — and potentially deadly — when mixed with alcohol. Ketamine induces feelings of detachment from the surrounding environment, perceptual distortions such as hallucinations, and delirium. One of the reasons that ecstasy is a popular club drug is that it takes effect less than an hour after use. The main effects of ecstasy are feelings of emotional warmth, empathy, connectedness with others, decreased anxiety, mental stimulation, and enhanced sensation.
How do Club Drugs Affect the Brain?
Each club drug has a slightly different mode of action in the brain. For example, GHB and Rohypnol increase the production of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, causing drowsiness, sedation, and amnesia. Ketamine has similar effects to the drug PCP, acting on glutamate receptors to change the ability to experience sights and sounds. Ecstasy works on several brain chemicals at once, including norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. These brain changes induce positive mood and feelings of social connectedness.
Why Are Club Drugs so Dangerous?
One of the largest reasons that club drugs are so dangerous is that young adults who are most likely to abuse them remain unaware of their potentially lethal side effects. Because these drugs are often manufactured on the street, they often contain contaminants that increase their toxicity. Club drug users also may take more than one drug at a time, or mix the drugs with alcohol. This dramatically increases the dangerous side effects of club drugs.
Common dangers of club drug abuse include the following:
- Breathing difficulty and respiratory failure
- Impaired ability to move
- High blood pressure
- Sudden mood swings or feelings of sadness
- Decreased appetite and increased feelings of thirst
- Sleep problems
- Impaired decision-making abilities
- Muscle cramping
- Blurred vision
- Panic attacks
In the most serious cases, club drugs lead to seizures, strokes, psychotic symptoms, comas, heart failure, kidney failure, and death. Even a single dose of a club drug can be fatal in an otherwise healthy young adult. Club drug use is also associated with risky behaviors, rape and sexual abuse, delusional thinking, and poor decision making.
Let Best Drug Rehabilitation Help Today
Because club drugs are most frequently used by young adults whose brains may still be developing, it is essential to educate young children about the dangers of these substances. If you suspect that your child, friend, or family member may be using club drugs recreationally, immediately seek professional help. Rehabilitation facilities such as Best Drug Rehabilitation employ skilled professionals who treat club drug abuse in individuals of all ages.