Facts about Club Drugs
Odorless, tasteless, and colorless, some club drugs can be slipped into drinks and are known as “date rape” drugs.
What are club drugs?
Club drugs describe a number of extremely dangerous stimulants, sedatives, and hallucinogens. They are odorless, tasteless, and colorless, and are often used by young people at dance clubs, bars, and all-night dance parties. Here are a few of the most common:
- GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) is a sedative, also known as liquid ecstasy, G, and Georgia homeboy. At lower doses it can relax. Higher doses can be potentially fatal.
- Ketamine is a fast-acting anesthetic and painkiller that was designed for veterinary use. Known as Special K or K, it is most often used in liquid form but can also be a white pill or powder.
- Rohypnol is the brand name for flunitrazepam. A very small dose can lead to profound temporary amnesia, which explains its link to sexual assault and being called the “date rape drug.” Slang names include roofie and roach.
- MDMA, also known as ecstasy, X, or Adam, has both stimulant and psychedelic effects. Chronic abuse appears to damage the brain’s ability to think and to regulate emotion, memory, sleep, and pain. This is only a partial list. New designer drugs, or new formulations of old drugs, make their way into the market regularly.
Can club drugs be abused?
The category of club drugs covers a wide variety of substances. Some are illegal to use in any setting, and therefore any use is considered abuse. Others are commonly prescribed for legitimate uses. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that the abuse of prescription drugs occurs when “they are taken without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience or feelings the drugs give.” In other words, taking a prescription medication that you were not prescribed, in a way that it wasn’t prescribed (such as overuse, taking it with alcohol, or crushing and snorting pills), or strictly in order to get high is considered abuse. Certain club drugs can also lead to addiction.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) uses the term “substance use disorder” to define a pattern of use that leads to significant physical, inter- personal, medical, or work problems. Substance use disorder is further broken down into drug-specific use disorders, such as “stimulant use disorder” or “sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder,” depending on the specific drug and its qualities. Substance use disorder is rated as mild, moderate, or severe based on how many criteria are met. A person diagnosed with a substance use disorder can also be classified as in remission, or what is commonly referred to as “in recovery.” Those with substance use disorder should receive treatment, and those who identify themselves as addicts often find the skills and support to stay sober through peer support groups like Narcotics Anonymous.
Addiction is considered a brain-based disease characterized by abnormal drug- seeking behavior that leads to impaired control over one’s drug use. Addiction means a person will continue using alcohol or other drugs despite the harm it does to their health, family, work or school, and relationships. An addict may experience withdrawal symptoms (physical pain, fatigue, depression, trouble sleeping, irritability) if he or she stops using, and may need to keep using just to feel normal. “Curing” addiction is not a matter of willpower or moral strength any more than is curing diabetes or cancer. Like diabetes and cancer, addic- tion is considered a chronic disease which is beyond one’s control and fatal if left untreated.
How do club drugs affect a co-occurring mental health disorder?
Co-occurring disorders, or dual disorders, occur when a mental health disorder, like depression or schizophrenia, is present along with addiction, alcoholism, or other substance use disorders. Screening for co-occurring disorders should be part of any good assessment or treatment plan.
Symptoms of drug addiction can mask and mimic signs of mental illness. It can be even more problematic to diagnose a mental illness with a co-occurring addiction to club drugs. This is due to uncertainties about the sources, chemicals, and possible contaminants used to manufacture club drugs.
How do club drugs affect the brain?
The role of brain chemistry in substance use disorders is a relatively new finding in the treatment field, but a rapidly growing body of evidence supports it. Club drugs as a category includes many different types of drugs, and each drug affects the brain in a different way.
GHB acts on at least two sites in the brain which create sedative effects. At high doses, GHB’s sedative effects may result in sleep, coma, or death.
Rohypnol can produce anterograde amnesia, or a blackout state, in which individuals may not remember events they experienced while under the influence of the drug.
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, so called because it distorts perceptions of sight and sound and produces feelings of detachment from the environment and self.
Is addiction to club drugs treatable?
Yes. Because club drugs cover a wide spectrum of drugs—amphetamines, opioids, and hallucinogens—treatment approaches for each drug are different but all are available. Patients who are open and candid with their counselor about their drug use will give the counselor optimum tools for isolating, and treating, co- occurring symptoms. Withdrawal from some of these drugs can be painful and medically dangerous, so it is recommended that users who want to quit consult a medical professional.
There are many resources out there. The websites for the following organizations were chosen for their usefulness and user friendliness.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
This government organization is dedicated to addiction research and education. Through its website you can access up-to-date publications about many different drugs of abuse as well as emerging trends.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mis- sion is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities. Its website offers information and resources about preventing and treating addiction and mental illness.