Am Fam Physician. 2018;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:
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of muscle control
Changes in heart rate or blood pressure
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?
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration