Club Drugs

  • Published1 Apr 2012
  • Reviewed1 Apr 2012
  • Author
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN

Ecstasy, herbal ecstasy, rohypnol (“roofies”), GHB (gamma hydroxy-butyrate), and ketamine are among the drugs used by some teens and young adults as part of raves and trances. Recent research, however, is uncovering the serious damage that can occur in several parts of the brain from use of some of these drugs.

MDMA, called “adam,” “ecstasy,” or “XTC” on the street, is a synthetic psychoactive drug with hallucinogenic and amphetamine-like properties. Users encounter problems similar to those found with the use of amphetamines and cocaine. Recent research also links chronic ecstasy use to long-term changes in those parts of the brain critical for thought, memory, and pleasure.

Rohypnol, GHB, and ketamine are predominantly central nervous system depressants. Because they are often colorless, tasteless, and odorless, they can be added easily to beverages and unknowingly ingested. These drugs have emerged as the so-called date-rape drugs. When mixed with alcohol, rohypnol can incapacitate victims and prevent them from resisting sexual assault. Rohypnol may be lethal when mixed with alcohol and other depressants.

Since about 1990 in the United States, GHB has been abused for its euphoric, sedative, and anabolic (body-building) effects. It, too, has been associated with sexual assault. Ketamine is another central nervous system depressant abused as a date-rape drug. Ketamine, or “Special K,” is a fast-acting general anesthetic. It has sedative, hypnotic, analgesic, and hallucinogenic properties. It is marketed in the United States and a number of foreign countries as a general anesthetic — a drug that brings about a reversible loss of consciousness — in both human and veterinary medical practice.

Many users tend to experiment with a variety of club drugs in combination. This practice creates a larger problem, because combinations of any of these drugs, particularly with alcohol, can lead to unexpected adverse reactions and even death after high doses. Physical exhaustion also can enhance some toxicities and problems.

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