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Club Drugs: Party Drugs List, Effects, & Abuse Treatment

Last Updated: June 30, 2021

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Club drugs and raves have a long and worldwide history of going hand-in-hand. Some would argue that recreational drugs have long since become a key component of the club partying culture. It creates numerous misconceptions and delusions about the safety of party drugs, making many people more inclined to try them when they get a chance. The culture of using club drugs poses invisible at first but nevertheless, significant health, social, and legal risks.

Club Drugs: Origins And Usage

What Are Club Drugs?

Party drugs is an umbrella term for many recreational substances that are commonly used at clubs, raves, and parties. As a separate group, club drugs first gained popularity in the 1970s. At that time, stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines were frequently used to help the users stay up and dance all night. In the 1980s, people began actively using psychoactive substances to enhance the emotional experience at concerts and raves.

How Are They Used And How Do People Obtain Them?

While nightclub drugs don’t always share drug classes and properties, the main two types of substances used at parties are stimulants and CNS depressants. Ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines lift the mood, make a person feel more energetic and sociable. These substances are used because they produce pleasant feelings of high and euphoria that add up to the emotional uplifting from dancing or listening to music. Benzodiazepines and other depressants are favored for their sedating properties. They are most often used to facilitate sexual assault since a person who ingests them is less capable of resisting and remembering the assault.

Prices And Where To Buy

Many popular club drugs are sold on the street, in bars, and at various party venues. Obtaining them usually doesn’t require much effort. Substances like Ecstasy, GHB, and Phencyclidine (PCP) cost from $5 to $25 per dose, depending on the strength. The availability and low prices of the substances frequently become the determining factors for those who are initially hesitant to use.

examples of club drugs

Types Of Club Drugs

The most popular club drugs are Ecstasy, GHB, Ketamine, Rohypnol, LSD, and methamphetamine. Commonly used club drugs usually refer to synthesized substances rather than those derived from plants. It means that while marijuana and opioids such as heroin are sometimes encountered at parties, they can hardly be classified as common club drugs.

  • Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a popular psychoactive substance with psychedelic qualities that people use recreationally. It can increase energy and alter the sensations from the music and lighting at a party, as well as produce high and euphoria.
  • GHB, also known as gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid, is a CNS depressant that is used to treat narcolepsy and alcohol use disorders. It is used recreationally for its psychoactive properties. GHB can cause euphoria, significantly increase sociability, and enhance libido.
  • Ketamine is well-known for its propensity to causing a dissociative state. It is still one of the most widely used club drugs. Ketamine produces a sense of detachment from one’s body or identity, as well as from the external world. It also causes changes in perception of time and sometimes produces hallucinations.
  • Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine medication with powerful sedating properties. This club drug’s street names are Roofies, Mexican Valium, and Forget-me pill. At parties, the substance is most frequently used as a “date rape” drug to commit sexual assault and prevent the victim from remembering it and pressing charges.
  • LSD is one of the most common party drugs. It is a hallucinogenic substance that results in altered thoughts and feelings, hallucinations, increased body temperature and potential out of body experiences. The use of LSD can lead to the development of paranoia, persistent flashbacks, and other psychiatric disorders.
  • Methamphetamine is a potent stimulant that is frequently used at parties. It causes hyperactivity, increases alertness and energy, and improves sociability and confidence. At clubs, it is also used as an aphrodisiac.

Club Drugs Medical Uses

Although all club drugs are selected for their recreational potential and specific psychoactive properties, some of the substances also have medical applications.

club drugs medical uses

ADHD. As a stimulant, methamphetamine is often used in the treatment of various psychiatric and neurological disorders. In the US, this club drug is approved for the treatment of ADHD and binge eating disorders in adults.

Narcolepsy. GHB is mainly used to treat conditions associated with muscle weakness and sleep irregularities. It is prescribed for narcolepsy and cataplexy. This club drug is sometimes used to supplement treatment of various alcohol use disorders, however, there is little evidence to support its effectiveness.

Anesthesia. Ketamine is mainly used to start and maintain anesthesia. This club drug also possesses powerful analgesic qualities. It makes it suitable for pain management in emergencies and treatment of patients in traumatic shock. Ketamine is suitable for patients with low blood pressure.

Severe insomnia. Rohypnol is not approved for medical use in the US due to its high potential for abuse and the immense popularity as a date rape substance. In many other countries, however, flunitrazepam is used to treat insomnia.

Club Drugs Statistics

Although it may be intuitive to some that this category of substances is mainly used by a younger demographic, club drugs statistics reveals truly disturbing tendencies.

According to a survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most widely abused substances among adults are psychotherapeutic medications. Ecstasy follows with 12% of people ages 18 to 25 to have ever tried it. The least used substance is methamphetamine. 6.4% of adults older than 26 and 3% of people ages 18-25 have tried it.

While the increasing rates of abuse are troubling, there is an even more alarming fact about club drugs. Since most of the substances are illegal in the majority of countries, rave drugs are frequently sold in forms that are not approved for human use. For instance, inhaled alkyl nitrites can be encountered as “room deodorizer” and “leather polish.” For this reason, it is impossible to ensure that a person receives the drug they expect.

Risks Associated With Club Drugs

Due to the popular belief about the innocence of these substances, many people don’t understand why club drugs are dangerous. As it is with any psychoactive substance, there are legal, social, and health outcomes of nightclub drugs use.

Legal Consequences

The distribution and possession of the majority of common rave drugs can lead to severe penalties and incarceration if a person is caught. Ecstasy and LSD are classified as Schedule I substances. Methamphetamine and Ketamine are Schedule II and III substances, respectively. Offenders can face from one year to life imprisonment and up to $75 million in fines. Penalties vary greatly depending on the type and amount of the substance, as well as whether the offender kept it for personal use or sale.

Social Effects

Popular party drugs tend to alter a person’s perception of time and physical space, making them more empathetic, sociable, and open. It can lead to engaging in various risky behaviors and injuring oneself or others. People who take illegal substances at nightclubs are also at an increased risk of suffering a drug-assisted sexual assault, as there are few reliable ways of testing what substance they are about to take. Popular date rape drugs include Rohypnol and Ketamine.

Health Hazards

Substances consumed at parties have numerous side effects that can have severe manifestations. However, there are other aspects of abuse that are no less dangerous. For instance, the use of club drugs, particularly methamphetamine, significantly increases the possibility of engaging in unsafe sex. There is also an increased risk of suffering from the effects of various dangerous interactions.

Club Drugs Effects

High And Euphoria

The most popular club drugs effects include their ability to induce high. A vast majority of substances that are distributed at parties alter and enhance a person’s perception of the world and people around them. These substances frequently increase the person’s sensitivity to the music and lights, making the experience overall more enjoyable. Ecstasy and methamphetamine also exhibit stimulating properties that make it easier to interact with other people and help stay up all night. Some of the less popular yet still desirable effects of club drugs include hallucinations and euphoria.

Negative Side Effects

The most frequently encountered club drugs short-term effects are: 

  • severe intoxication
  • hypersomnia or insomnia
  • increased heart rate and body temperature
  • dehydration
  • spasms
  • nausea
  • confusion and drowsiness.

A person may also feel anxious or panicked, depending on the dose of the drug and whether it was mixed with other substances. More serious club drugs side effects include respiratory and cardiac issues.

Long-term effects of club drugs vary by the type of ingested substance. LSD is best known for its propensity to causing lasting psychosis. Several substances in this category are also addictive and can cause emergence of withdrawal effects and cravings.

Club Drugs Abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Abuse is characterized by the non-medical use of substances with a goal of experiencing pleasure or other effects of the substance. Considering how club drugs are taken, it may be difficult for a medical professional to diagnose the abuse. Substances at parties and raves are frequently consumed impulsively rather than on a regular basis, and patients may be hesitant to admit to using if they do it rarely.

club drugs abuse symptoms

Club drugs signs of abuse vary but typically include:

  • fatigue during the day
  • shaking
  • insomnia and increased alertness
  • difficulties at school or work
  • spending more money than usual or borrowing money
  • negligence of one’s basic needs and appearance

Preventive Measures To Stop Club Drug Abuse

When a person gains access to drugs but is yet to use them, certain measures might prevent them from slipping into abuse:

  • Make the information about abuse readily available to the population. A person who understands how these substances affect their health and social relationships are less likely to use than those who are not educated on the matter.
  • People should learn to recognize the most common club drugs symptoms and prepare themselves to react calmly if they notice the signs in their family member or friend. Users who receive support from their loved ones have better chances of achieving recovery and staying clean.

Club Drug Addiction

Many people don’t realize how easy it is to get addicted to club drugs. While it is often viewed as safe, casual party use can lead to the development of physical and psychological dependence. A person may stop feeling satisfaction from partying sober and begin using recreational substances constantly. The abuse then spreads beyond nightclubs and infests the individual’s daily life as well.

To understand how drug clubs cause addiction, it is necessary to consider the physical aspect as well. Substances like LSD and other hallucinogens are generally considered non-addictive since they don’t cause impulsive drug-seeking behaviors. However, a user’s body quickly builds tolerance for LSD, forcing the person to take larger doses and put themselves at risk of suffering dangerous side effects. Ecstasy and Ketamine are reported to cause physical dependence by some users.

Party Drugs Withdrawal

Substance Withdrawal Timeline & Symptoms
GHB Acute withdrawal in 1-24 hours. During the first 24 hours, this club drug may induce severe insomnia, intermittent tachycardia, anxiety, shaking, and hypertension. Within the next 6 days, anxiety may worsen, while other symptoms remain without change or improve.
LSD The effects of LSD wear off within 16 hours after the ingestion. Subsequently, hallucinations, altered sensations, flashbacks, and emotional instability may last for days, weeks, or even months.
Ketamine WIthdrawal from Ketamine normally begins between 24 and 72 hours after the last dose. The withdrawal symptoms of this party drug may include insomnia, tremors, fatigue, irritability, depression, and nausea.
Ecstasy Ecstasy withdrawal can begin as soon as 3-6 hours after the drug was ingested. The effects include some common club drugs withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, anxiety, aggression, depression, impulsivity, and sleep disturbances. These symptoms peak within several days after the last dose was taken and last for up to a week.
Methamphetamine First symptoms appear in 24 hours and peak within 4-10 days. Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms include intense cravings for the substance, fatigue, hypersomnia, increased appetite, and nervousness. In severe cases, this club drug may cause hallucinations and paranoia.
Rohypnol Acute withdrawal in 3-4 days. Rohypnol withdrawal is marked by anxiety, cravings, insomnia, increased heart rate, and weight loss.

Addiction Treatment And Recovery

The most effective treatment for club drugs addiction can be found at various rehab centers. Although each facility may offer different treatments for club drugs abuse, they share the basic steps of recovery. Treatment always begins with detoxification. When a person is clean, medications may be administered to relieve the unpleasant symptoms and treat potentially dangerous conditions associated with withdrawal. Substance abuse treatment includes pharmaceutical approach supplemented with various types of therapy to tackle the underlying causes of the patient’s addiction and prevent relapsing.

Don’t Underestimate The Risks

These days, popular club drugs include Ecstasy, GHB, Ketamine, LSD, methamphetamine, and Rohypnol. These substances are mainly used to enhance the sensory feelings from music and lighting, better socialize, and stay active for a long period of time. Although many people tend to overlook it, rave drugs have a high addiction potential and frequently lead to physical dependence. When a person discontinues the use of these substances, they are likely to feel cravings and withdrawal effects that require treatment.

Page Sources

  1. Club Drugs. National Institute of Drug Abuse.
  2. Chakraborty K., Neogi R., Basu D. Club drugs: review of the 'rave' with a note of concern for the Indian scenario. Indian Journal of Medical Research. 2011; 133(6): 594–604.
  3. Club Drugs (GHB, Ketamine, and Rohypnol). Center for Integrated Healthcare. 2013.

Published on: July 23rd, 2019

Updated on: June 30th, 2021

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.


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