Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Club Drugs: What You Should Know


Am Fam Physician. 2018 Jul 15;98(2):online.

  See related article on stimulant and designer drug use

  See related patient handout on meth: what you should know

What are club drugs?

Club drugs are often found at parties, bars, nightclubs, and concerts, but they can also be used in other settings. Most of the drugs are illegal and can cause serious illness, injury, or even death. The main club drugs are GHB (“liquid ecstasy”), MDMA (“ecstasy”), flunitrazepam (“roofies”), ketamine (“special K”), LSD (“acid”), synthetic cannabinoids (“spice”), methamphetamines (“crystal meth”), and bath salts.

What do they do?

Club drugs can be unpredictable. They may have different ingredients than the user thinks. Many of the ingredients can affect the brain and nervous system. Stimulants can make people excitable. This may make the user feel open, aroused, and unafraid. Depressants slow the nervous system and may reduce the ability to physically and mentally react. Hallucinogens (hal-LOO-sin-oh-genz) affect the ability to think, feel, judge, and act. They make it hard to know what is real. They may cause users to forget periods of time.

Why should I worry about them?

People who use club drugs may believe they are safe because many of the drugs look like prescription medicines. Some people may use a certain drug without knowing that it is combined with other drugs that can be very dangerous or addictive. Some people may not choose to use club drugs, but are given the drugs without knowing it. These drugs are sometimes referred to as “date rape drugs” because they can cause memory loss or knock you out.

What effects do club drugs cause?

Everyone reacts differently to club drugs. Symptoms can vary depending on the person, the drug, other ingredients added to the drug, and the dose. These symptoms and side effects often appear 10 to 20 minutes after the drugs are taken:

  • Drowsiness

  • Dizziness

  • Blurry vision

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Loss of muscle control

  • Changes in heart rate or blood pressure

  • Aggressive behavior

  • Memory problems

  • Impaired judgment

  • Seeing or hearing things that aren't real

  • Extreme heat or thirst

  • Loss of consciousness

Club drugs can also cause seizures, coma, and death.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2018 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions

More in AFP

Editor's Collections


Oct 2021

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue

Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article